QR Code scan on mobile device

Five Proven Options for Incorporating Barcodes in FileMaker

In June of 1974, a pack of gum at Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, was the first item ever scanned.


Origins of the Barcode

We’ll begin with a little supermarket trivia. In 1948, at the urging of a supermarket manager who hoped to make stocking shelves more efficient, Norman Woodland conjured up the barcode. Inspired by the dots and dashes of Morse code, Woodland and Bernard Silver refined the idea that an assembly of vertical lines and corresponding numbers and letters could identify and inventory grocery store items. In June of 1974, a pack of gum at Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, was the first item ever scanned.

So then what is the purpose of a barcode? A barcode is an encoded serial number that identifies a product. It facilitates inventory, asset-tracking, creation of shipping labels and many other useful tasks. Barcodes and scanners allow the instantaneous storage and retrieval of data.

Barcodes, of course, have since become ubiquitous and have a multitude of applications and uses inside your Claris FileMaker solutions. Let’s explore a few of those options that can be integrated and optimized within your database.


 1. Claris Barcode Generator Add-On

The first option is Claris’s own Barcode Generator add-on, introduced in FileMaker 19.1 with seven other pre-built add-on options. You can customize the format and line color, and can create up to 18 different types of barcodes, including Code128 and Code39. A previous post covers the add-on, its installation, configuration and use. 

Since 2013, with FileMaker Go, barcodes have been scannable with mobile devices but FMGo lacked the capacity to generate barcodes. Clever developers worked around this limitation by manually using a web viewer to generate a barcode image, which is essentially how this add-on works. It uses a web viewer with JavaScript to create the image, and then places that image into a container field. 

If your solution is hosted, you’ll need to be using at least FileMaker Server 19 in order to use the Barcode Generator add-on.

Click and drag component of the barcode add-on

2. Monkeybread Software Plug-in 

Monkeybread Software has many great plug-ins for FileMaker, one of which is their Barcode Component. The Barcode Component has over 21 functions to utilize and configure barcodes, both standard and QR. Monkeybread offers extensive documentation and resources, and provides good details on each individual function, such as Barcode.Generate, Barcode.WriteFile and several others.

The MBS plug-in stays continually up-to-date, with the most recent version Plugin 13.2 being compatible with FileMaker 2023, and supports over eighty barcode types.

30 of over 80 barcode types supported by MBS Plugin

3. CNS Barcode Plug-in

Like the MBS plug-in, the CNS Barcode plug-in can also be used to generate and scan your barcodes. It creates and saves the image as either PNG, EPS, or SVG, then attaches it to the objects to be tracked. To scan, it utilizes the device’s webcam, a USB webcam/scanner or a Firewire webcam to scan the generated barcodes.

The CNS documentation contains sample databases with demos for generation via scripts, steps and function calls, as well as a demo of scanning barcodes. There is a complete listing of all included script steps and function calls with examples, along with explanations of the required and optional parameters. 

This graphic illustrates the types of barcodes that the CNS plug-in can generate and scan:

Barcodes to generate and scan with CNS plugin

Other types of barcodes that the plugin can generate, but not scan, include Aztec, Data Matrix, GS1 Data Matrix, HIBC Data Matrix, PDF417, Postnet and USPS Intelligent Mail. 

4. QuickChart QR Code API

QuickChart is a free, open-source program for rendering various charts using Chart.js. The QR code API has some customization options for creating colorful QR codes, and the parameters in the URL allow the user to specify the format as PNG, SVG or Base64. The API also has a web-based version of the QR code builder, shown below.

QuickChart QR code web builder

Here is an example of the API URL with some added color customization, along with the QR code it generates.

API URL and generated colored QR code

QuickChart also has the capability to track the performance of your QR codes by integrating with third-party tools like Google Analytics, Mixpanel and Adobe Analytics. To add the analytics, the UTM parameters are added to the URL where the source and type of traffic can be defined. The associated campaign or QR code promotion can also be identified. Review QuickChart’s documentation for all of the possibilities. 

5. Dynamsoft Barcode Reader SDK

The Dynamsoft Barcode Reader is another powerful scanning software that can perform multi-thread barcode processing, supported on multiple platforms, while handling many formats. This article is specific to the step-by-step process for scanning barcodes with FileMaker 19.

This table lists the wide variety of barcode types that Dynamsoft supports.

Dynamsoft supported barcodes

Dynamsoft Barcode Reader also supports scanning from various sources, including multiple file formats (BMP, JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF), single and multi-page PDF’s, Base64 string encoded image and raw image file stream. The documentation for the barcode scanner is split up by platform and language and goes in-depth on each section with samples, demos, function definitions with parameters and release notes on each version. 


Now that we’ve covered various plug-ins and APIs that can be used to integrate barcodes into your solution, let’s identify a couple of devices that will turn a solution into a scanner app.

Barcode Scanning with Filemaker Go

In 2013, FileMaker Go made it possible to scan barcodes with an iOS mobile device using the Insert From Device script step. A device’s camera can scan up to 17 different barcode types, both standard and QR codes. There’s even an audible beep when the scan is performed!

QR Code scan on mobile device

External USB or Bluetooth Barcode Reader

When integrated correctly, external devices can quickly scan standard barcodes one after another. (Though a limitation is that they do not allow QR code scanning or screen scanning.) These units are interpreted as virtual keyboards through FileMaker, so it’s important that you have a field or custom dialog input active in which to receive your scanned data.

Hand-held barcode scanner device

We’re Ready to Assist with Incorporating Barcodes into Your Workflow

I hope this blog was helpful in your search for a reliable resource for all of your barcode scanning needs! Whether you’re looking for asset and inventory management or the creation of shipping labels, barcodes can improve any FileMaker solution for your staff and your customers. Their application is nearly endless. Schedule a complimentary consultation with Portage Bay to discuss your plans.

About the Author

Russell Heppell is the newest member of the Portage Bay team. A combination of broad educational background and years of retail experience has given Russell a developer’s lens with many shades. He has a terrific knack for making our clients feel both comfortable and understood, while instilling a sense of trust that we at Portage Bay are listening carefully.

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