Barcodes in Illustrator

Using a plugin for barcode generation right in Adobe Illustrator might sound like a good idea. Here at Appsforlife we made several plugins for Adobe products, but for barcode generation we decided to use a different approach. Here’s why:

Pros of Using Barcode Plugins for Illustrator

Plugins are convenient. You get new features as a part of the software you know with the user interface you know.

You get the maximum quality of the artwork, as the plugin talks directly to Illustrator and makes vector barcodes that can be easily resized and rendered at the DPI you need.

Cons of Using Barcode Plugins for Illustrator

There are three main reasons to not have a barcode generator as a plugin:

  • Adobe vendor lock — by investing into Illustrator plugin you lock yourself with Illustrator. If for instance you decide to use Affinity Designer or any other competitive software, you will need another plugin for that software;
  • Plugin vendor lock — most plugins add their own data to the projects, so everyone needs the plugin to see the barcode you added. This might be OK if you work alone, but for more complex projects this could easily become a problem;
  • Software updates — Adobe releases major updates to Illustrator once a year. Old plugins may not work properly with the new version of Illustrator and you will have to wait until the plugin vendor updates it, or keep old Illustrator around to use the plugin.

So with a plugin you lock yourself to a specific version of a specific software. Although this might not be a problem, sometimes it can bite you.

Solution?

A good alternative to barcode Illustrator plugins would be a standalone application with Illustrator integration. This way you don’t depend on a particular version of Illustrator, or Illustrator at all. You make barcodes in a separate application, then use them in the graphics editor of your choice.

That’s what we did in our barcode software. It is a separate standalone application where you edit barcodes the way you need, then you simply drag a barcode into Illustrator or any other software and use it there.

Here’s how our Barcode software answers to the issues mentioned above:

  • Adobe vendor lock — with the standalone barcode generator you are not limited by Illustrator, you can use literally any artwork editor;
  • Plugin vendor lock — standalone barcode generator uses open standards and adds nothing specific to Illustrator projects, so anyone can open them;
  • Software updates — with the standalone barcode generator you are not limited by a particular version of Illustrator, so if Adobe releases an update, your barcode generator is already compatible with it.

As for the barcodes quality, our barcode generator sends barcodes to Illustrator in EPS format, so you get the same vector quality, as with the plugin.

Standalone barcode generator application is an one-off investment that sorts out your barcode needs regardless of the software you will be using in the future.

On Top of That

Being a standalone application adds some other perks. For instance you can do batch generation of barcodes using a list of codes as input. Again, the output is vector, so you get the best possible quality.

Another feature is command line barcode generation. Basically, if you need to automate your barcodes, you can use any automation software to pass the codes as command line parameters to the barcode generator and get the output for further processing. This is impossible with a plugin that is designed to fit the user interface of your vector graphics editor.