Extract from ' IT.Enquirer - Barcode Toolbox: Barcode for Illustrator'
Barcode Toolbox: Barcode for Illustrator The idea is great: write a plug-in to draw barcodes in Illustrator, a program that is often used for designing package material. But the idea can even be better: why not build a plug-in that will only allow for correct barcodes to be created? ThatŐs what Yin4Yang did with Barcode Toolbox.

For those of us who donŐt know the barcode symbologiesŐ rules with regards to number of characters, type of characters allowed, etc, Barcode Toolbox may seem like an awkward program to use. For the rest of us, this is professional barcoding at its best.

The best thing about Barcode Toolbox is that it enables you to include barcodes in Illustrator designs without the need for an external application. The only thing that's missing in this Toolbox is matrix barcode support such as the popular PDF417 or Aztek formats.

Barcode Toolbox behaves like a regular plug-in. It adds a tool to your Illustrator tools palette with two options: the barcode pencil to create the barcode with a click on the page, and the barcode eyedropper to measure existing barcodes that you scanned in (as an example).

The palette has everything to produce professional-looking barcodes: a bar width reduction option, a magnification option, bar height option, and along the bottom buttons to set the quiet zone, bearer bars, end bearer bars, the OCR-B font option, and the alignment option for text. All these options stay greyed out for as long as they are irrelevant.

Using Barcode Toolbox is straightforward. You just enter a number in the code field, and if that number is correct for the symbology chosen, you will be able to place the barcode on the page. If not, a yellow triangle will appear next to the code and the barcode will not be generated until you correct the error. Yin4Yang includes a table with the barcode formats in their manual.

Codes and accuracy

Barcodes supported include all types of EAN, UPC, Code 128, Code 39, ISBN, ISSN, Marks & Spencer, UPC Coupon, etc. There is one flaw with this plug-in: it didn't recognize the OCR-B font that I had installed on my machine. At first I thought it wasn't recognizing fonts activated by Suitcase's auto-activation feature, so I tried copying it to the Library/Fonts folder to make sure, but even that didn't help. The program simply doesn't see the font.

Another minor flaw is that human readable characters such as the numbers above an ISBN barcode, were not automatically centered above the code, even although I had checked the option to center text. But these are minor flaws: Illustrator makes it easy to correct them.

For the rest, Barcode Toolbox is an excellent program. It disallows making barcodes that don't comply with the rules set out for each of them, but if you want it, you can turn this self-check feature off and happily create incorrect barcodes as much as you like. Barcodes are by default created with an erase box behind them. If you don't know what an erase box is, don't worry I didn't either until I read the manual which states that an erase box simply is a white square behind the barcode so no underlying data can interfere with the code itself.

Barcode Toolbox will also convert any used characters in the barcode to outlines, removing the need to have special fonts for the barcodes on each and every workstation. Another great feature for professional users is the "try again" button. Some barcode types are a bit confusing; the same barcode can be generated from 2 different types. EAN13 and UPC/A are examples. The "try again" button will cycle you through all the possible matching barcodes that can be generated from the same code.

Barcode Toolbox comes with a lot of such carefully thought about features. It is therefore worth every penny you pay for it, especially as it integrates with Illustrator CS. In my personal opinion, it is at least as good as Intelli Innovations' Barcode Producer, if not better exactly for being integrated with Illustrator. Yin4Yang should make an identical plug-in for InDesign CS. The addition of some 2D and/or matrix based barcodes such as PDF417 would make this excellent application even better.

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