Barcodes and Microsoft SharePoint
Barcodes and SharePoint can be a great combination, and can provide some really slick automation when working with all types of documents are even images. Asking yourself how the heck you would use a barcode in MS SharePoint, here are some ideas from past projects:
- Scanning cover sheet that contains information on how to route the document to the repository
- A web part that generates taxonomy-based barcoding to automatically set managed metadata criteria
- User built barcodes that auto-build the term store
- Reading barcodes from within photos for asset management and control
- THe list goes on and on
Below are some great tips when evaluating barcodes fr use with SharePoint:
What barcode should I utilize with SharePoint?
Hmmm, so where to start. So, at the basic level, you need to decide which type of barcode to utilize. There are a ton of different fonts, some basic and free, some complex and costly. For those who like to delve into way too much technical detail, Wikipedia has a great overview: Barcode Primer. In a nutshell, 1D barcodes are old school, but very capable. There are several free ones, and the most commonly used one is the 3of9. You can get the font free here: 3 of 9 Barcode Font. This installs simply as a font, and can be utilized in any type of document to present barcodes. Make sure you use the stop/start sequence characters of “*” at the beginning and end or you will pull your hair out (I did). For the brave souls, there are 2D barcodes. They are appropriate for data packing, and some can hold a 1000 characters in a thumbnail size plot on the document. Here is a generator you can play with: 2D Datamatrix Barcode Generator 2Ds also come in handy to ensure readability, or when they might be scanned or faxed back to you.
Why should I use barcodes with SharePoint?
There are several reasons to go down the barcoded path, mostly if you are concerned with automation. The barcode is the ultimate identity for a document, and can make life easy for end users. The other big key here is standardization. We have all see the syndrome I call “End Users Gone Wild”, where there is no governance in SharePoint, and it becomes an absolute digital mess. So lets take an example: Contracts. Lets say you are a large timeshare company utilizing SharePoint for producing and receiving contracts, along with process workflow. Contracts are built and printed for signature, with each page being “tagged” with a PDF 417 barcode. The barcode is “packed” with all the contract data, and when signed, is scanned from the sales persons desk, the barcode read, and it is routed to SharePoint with all the columns set, taxonomy assigned, file custom named, folder created, etc, etc. Just one of many examples, but the barcode has become the catalyst for a repeatable, automated, standardized process.
How do I implement barcodes with SharePoint?
So what are the next steps? Obviously, the barcode is just a font, and you need to wrap a solution around them and deploy. Scanning with SharePoint seems to be the low hanging fruit that most organizations are trying to deploy. Paper is painful, and scanning documents to SharePoint is a great way to Bridge the Gap and create a digital file cabinet. PSIGEN has a great overview on scanning to MS SharePoint: Scan Documents to SharePoint – FAQ Microsoft also has put quite a bit of effort into utilizing barcodes as a method for Records Management in SharePoint. More on that here: Records Management, Barcodes and SharePoint.
Here is a video overview of a barcoding implementation: