Creating barcodes

Barcodes are really useful for quickly identifying a stock item during sale and stock take processing. But for Mandala to be able to recognise a stock item, you first need to ensure that the database has a barcode stored for each and every item.

Q: Why is it important that all items have barcodes stored?

You will figure the answer to this as soon as you attempt your first stock take! Particularly if you are using a batch scanner. The reason being, the application halts when it comes across an unknown barcode and requests that you match this new barcode to an item in the database. When you are batch processing stock, you then need to enter Sherlock Holmes mode, as you try to figure out which stock item this mystery number refers to. Not fun.

Best take my advice and ensure all new items are entered into the database as soon as you get them. Now this isn’t hard to do if the item already comes with a barcode attached. But what if they don’t?

Luckily Mandala has barcode creation and printout functionality built-in, for just such occasions. To create a new barcode, you enter the stock dialog via the stock toolbar button:

You then add your stock item to the database if it doesn’t already exist. Look for the barcode field – it is the one at the bottom in the image below:

If your stock item has a barcode on its packaging

Then you are in luck. Just click on the empty barcode field and then scan the new stock item. The field will fill with the correct barcode number.

If the new stock item does NOT have a barcode on its packaging

When you get to the blank barcode field, click in the field and press the ENTER key. This automatically fills the barcode field with the next free barcode number. It might look something like this “100003”.

Printing your new barcode

If your stock item did not come with a barcode, then you’ll need to print and attach a barcode label to it manually. To print your barcode, select the stock item from the stock item list (top window in picture above) and then click on the barcode button.

You will see the following barcode dialog:

This dialog has 4 areas of interest:

1. The topmost area is a picture, displaying a typical barcode printout. Overlain on this picture are a series of dimensions: X, Y, Width etc. These dimensions correspond to the numbers in the lower window. Using these dimensions, you can configure the printout such that the barcodes land precisely on whatever label paper you have inserted into your printer.

2. The centre of the dialog lists the barcode you are about to print and which stock item this barcode belongs to.

3. The lower window is where you input all the dimensions you need to get your printout “just right”. Let’s step through them:

X: The left margin offset in mm

Y: The distance between the header (if the header exists) and the topmost barcode

Width: The width of the barcode. Note that this is a decimal number. Sometimes you need to shrink the barcode to fit on very small items. But there is a lower limit to the size here – depending on how good your printer and scanner are. Go too small and your scanner won’t be able to tell the lines apart, and thus won’t read the number.

Height: The height of the barcode

X Space: The distance between 2 barcodes sitting next to each other in the same row. This is a little tricky to calculate and may require experimentation. It is the distance in mm between the start of one barcode, and the start of the next – except that each barcode starts with a little whitespace, which makes exact judgement difficult. Experiment and you’ll get it right.

Y Space: The distance between 2 barcode rows. To be specific, it is the distance in mm between the top of one barcode and the top of the next.

Per row: The number of barcodes to print in each row

Quantity: The number of barcodes you wish to print. Sometimes you only need 1. My feeling is that it is best to print out whole sheets to save yourself continually printing out a few barcodes at a time.

Show header: Depending on your label paper, you might want to omit the header line. I think it is better it is kept, however, as it is easy to forget which item this barcode sheet belongs to.

4. At the very bottom sits the Create button. Click it to create a pdf sheet filled with your barcode. Just print that sheet and you are done.