One of the new features of FileMaker Go 13 was the addition of the ability to scan bar codes directly into the database. It is a nice new feature but probably won’t replace a dedicated scanner in many situations — here is why.
Bar Code Test database
Setup is simple. Create a layout with a field and a ‘Scan Barcode’ button.
Insert from Device script step
Note that the script step is selectable but greyed out in the Macintosh and Windows compatibility views. You can still use the step and set it up, but FileMaker is warning you that it won’t work on desktop platforms.
Show Compatibility iOS
Switching to ‘iOS’ in the Show Compatibility popup will display the step in not-grey.
In the lower right area, Specify the field to insert the bar code scan into and set the Insert From to ‘Bar Code’ from the popup menu.
1) Select the front or back camera.
2) Full toggle offers Small, Medium, Large and Full, which seems to be related to the size of QR Bar Codes.
3) If you select the Field, it looks like you can even scan images that have been imported from the Camera Roll. (CNS Bar Code Plugin also offers this feature). This could be useful for offline processing, but it could also be problematic if the photos do not have a clear and focused image of the bar code. More testing is required.
4) Toggle the bar code types you want to scan from.
Test Database running on an iPad
With the FileMaker Go implementation, the user needs to push the ‘Scan Barcode’ button to have a bar code scanned, in contrast to a dedicated bar code scanner — all the user needs to do is waive the bar code under the scanner’s beam and it will scan automatically.
Getting the bar code to scan requires more work
Although the camera does give the user some feedback as to where to place the bar code, in practice it took some care and time to line up and get the bar code scanner to focus. A dedicated scanner that displays a red laser line can be much quicker to scan bar codes with.
Other approaches on iOS
Unlike the free (read: ad supported) Pic2Shop or the $9.99 CNS Bar Code Plug-in, FileMaker Go 13’s bar code scanner lacks a good feedback mechanism to help users line up their scans. In the screenshot above taken from Pic2Shop, you can see the red/green line indicating where to line up the bar code in the camera. These two plug-ins take more programming effort, but may be better solutions in some situations. CNS Bar Code also lets you process bar codes from photos in the Camera Roll.
Real World scanning
While it is useful that FileMaker has brought bar code scanning capabilities into FileMaker Go 13, I would not rush out and replace an actual bar code scanner with FileMaker Go on iOS. All that a dedicated bar code scanner requires the user to do is walk up and wave a bar code under its beam. My experience with units like the Metrologic Voyager is that they are very robust at scanning codes at various distances and even with a card in motion. People who have never used a bar code scanner before can usually figure them out quickly, based on the feedback of the red laser. Using FileMaker Go requires the user to push a button, then hold the scan card steady and at just the right distance to get the focus happening. No doubt the FileMaker Go bar code scanning feature will be useful to some, but a dedicated scanner will win on speed and convenience any day.
2014-01-18 Update: Skeleton Key has a good article on why you might select one bar code font over another.