Working with PDF Forms: Barcodes in PDF Documents

Barcodes are everywhere; a cheap and simple way to store small amounts of data that can be captured with a scanner.  Universal Product Codes first appeared in grocery stores in the mid-1970s. Today, they are also found in books and magazines, are used by hospitals to track medications and samples, help computer systems follow rental cars, auto parts, luggage, and mail, appear on tickets to check in concert goers and baseball fans. QR codes aid advertising; when you use your mobile phone to take a picture of a QR code on a sign or in a magazine article, the web site related to the product, service, or institution opens in a browser. And Data Matrix codes are designed to fit in very small spaces, like product labels and price tags.

Barcode Types

PDF417 codes are two-dimensional barcodes presented as a series of stacked lines.

QR codes, or Quick Response codes, are widely used in marketing and event management.

Data Matrix codes are commonly printed in small spaces and feature error correction codes that make them readable even when damaged.

Using Barcodes in PDFs

You can also add a barcode to a PDF form document and use it to capture and store the information a user enters in the fields on that document. Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader can support a type of 2D barcode known as a Paper form, encoded with industry standard PDF417, QR, and Data Matrix symbols.

You can use Adobe Acrobat to add a barcode to a form document when you create the form, or you can use other software design applications that can generate PDF documents. After you create the form document you can use two products from Datalogics, RE Lite in PDF Java Toolkit or the Adobe Experience Reader Extension (AERE) utility, to assign Reader Enablement rights to that PDF document. These rights take the form of a key value and is offered for a separate license fee.  When Adobe Reader detects this key in a PDF document, the software turns on forms management features that are normally turned off. One of these features allows the Adobe Reader to update the barcode field found on the form document. 

When you send a PDF form with a barcode to a user, that user fills out the fields on that form and saves the file. Adobe Reader (or Acrobat) then executes a JavaScript associated with the barcode field included on the form. The data the user entered in the fields on the form are stored in the barcode field at that point.  The user then returns the form to you, either as an email attachment or as a printed document. When you receive the form back you, can scan the barcode on that form and collect the data entered there.

There are several use cases where barcodes can help different types of businesses and industries, such as education, legal, finance, and many more. For example, a University needed to use PDF forms with QR Codes for a thesis registration in their Business Information Systems department. The thesis registration form is filled by about 200 students per year, so they needed a reliable tool to help create and implement barcode generation in their PDFs to handle all of the students’ data, and was able to do so using our AERE tool.

We can help you create PDF form documents that use barcodes for your specific business needs and guide you in considering AERE and PDF Java Toolkit. Please feel free to contact us to learn more!

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