Introduction to barcodes in SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe
Barcodes are a machine readable encoding of information that allows identification of forms and if printed on adhesive labels they allow the identification of items the label is attached to.
To find out which barcodes are supported you can simply go to the Library in Adobe LiveCycle Designer and open the Barcodes section. There you can find every supported barcode. If you cannot find a barcode there it is not supported and there is no possibility to define your own custom barcode. You need to wait for a new SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe release and see if it is supported there.
There is a distinction between 1D and 2D barcodes. This tells you how the barcode is laid out on paper. 1D means the bars of the barcode are arranged on the X-axis (e.g. Code 128 barcode). 2D means that also the Y-axis is used too (e.g. Data Matrix). You can easily check this in Adobe Designer. Just add the mentioned barcodes to a form template and compare the results (see screenshot).
The next interesting question is if a barcode is only supported by a specific printer (currently this means a Zebra label printer). The first indicator is the icon of the barcode field in Designer. If the icon includes a little printer symbol in the bottom right of the icon it is only supported by a printer (and hence called a hardware barcode). For a PDF this means that only a grey rectangle is shown. You can quickly verify this if you open Adobe Designer and a form template and add, for example the Code 93, to the form. On the form template and in the Preview PDF tab in Designer you can see the grey rectangle. Repeat the test with a Code 128 barcode and you will see that it shows in design mode and in Preview PDF mode. A barcode that is also displayed in a PDF is also called a software barcode.
There are three barcodes that are so called read-only barcodes (i.e. PDF 417, QR Code and Data Matrix). “Read-only” means that the encoded value is assigned at design time. If “Tips and Hints” are enabled in Designer you will get a dialog reminding you of this when you add one of these barcodes to a form template.
You can find the list of supported barcodes and the information if a barcode is a hardware barcode in the Designer help under “Supported barcode formats”.
Paper Forms Barcode
There is one special case and that’s the “Paper Forms Barcode”. This barcode is used in interactive offline scenarios. This barcode is capable of encoding assigned values while the interactive form is filled in using Adobe Reader. Sometimes this barcode is also called “dynamic 2d barcode”. Don’t forget the “dynamic” otherwise people might not exactly know what you are talking about! The “dynamic” comes from that every time something is changed on the form (i.e. data modified or entered) the appearance of the barcode changes too.
The use case is that a form containing a paper forms barcode is filled in with Adobe Reader and once finished the form is printed with a printer. At that point in time the barcode encodes all data of the form. Then this form can be signed with a wet signature and send back via standard mail or a fax. After that the form has to be scanned, i.e. the paper forms barcode on the form to be exact. Your scanner has to support one of the three encodings that are offered (PDF 417, Data Matrix and QR code). The data of the paper forms barcode is usually an XML representation of the data of a form that needs to be processed manually by an application.
With LiveCycle Barcoded Forms, Adobe offers a solution that is also capable of decoding a scanned paper forms barcode if provided as an image. This capability is not part of SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe. My recommendation is to work with your SAP rep and probably an Adobe rep to check your set up.
To use the paper forms barcode you need to apply a special Reader usage right, called barcode plain text, to make sure the Adobe Reader does not encrypt the barcode. For this purpose you need a specific ADS credential. Since end of 2008, ADS credentials that include this capability are provided to SAP customers. To check if you already have this ADS cert contact your responsible SAP rep. The evaluation cert for ADS that is available on SDN does not include this usage right.