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Posted by on Aug 22, 2013 in Mobile Technologies, What's new | 2 comments

Test: Bar Code Scanners

Test: Bar Code Scanners

1. Background

Whilst it is easy to use barcode scanners with ODK, not all codes get easily scanned or can be scanned by all apps. Issue lies with PDF417 scans, most apps only have a beta version of this scanning algorithm included. PDF417 scans are predominantly generated and printed on ID cards and hence play an important role for assistance tracking and registration.

Issue: to find a free barcode scanner for Androids which can read pdf417.

Wikipedia: Generic Article on barcode scanning is not as thorough but has a lot of examples for how the different barcodes look. For German speakers, this article on the German Wikipedia and that one have more information on some aspects. You can also check the English article on PDF417.

2. Test Setting

Free barcode scanners for Androids were tested, all of them claimed that they have pdf417 support, and they all had minimum 3 stars in the user rating.

Tested were 8 different scanners:

  • ZXing Bar Code Scanner supported by ODK1
  • QR Barcode scanner
  • AyCodeScanGen
  • ScanME BarCodescanner
  • BarClone Free
  • Accusoft Bar Code scanner
  • Barcode scanner Manatee Works
  • Inigma BarCode Scanner


1. Easier Wiki Scan, (explains the code) easierwikiscan
2. More condensed Wiki Scan condwikiscan
3. Highly condensed code of a scanned ID card 2 scanidcard

Phones used:

  • Samsung Galaxy GT I9000 (Android 2.1)
  • Samsung Ericsson Xperia Pro (Android 2.3)

3. Matrix

  Bar Code Scanner Wiki 1 Wiki 2 ID Code
xzingbarcode XZing Bar Code Scanner Fails Fails Fails
QRBarcode QR Barcode scanner Yes Yes (for Android 2.1 a lot of patience is needed) Partially (for Android 2.1 a LOOOT of patience is needed and code not correctly read, Android 2.3 breaks down most of the times)
AyCode AyCodeScanGen Fails Fails Fails
scanme ScanME BarCodescanner Fails Fails Fails
barclone BarClone Free Fails Fails Fails
accusoft Accusoft Bar Code scanner (only compatible with Android 2.3) Yes Fails Fails
barcode Barcode scanner Manatee Works Yes Yes (not on 2.1) Yes (not on 2.1)
inigma Inigma BarCode Scanner Fails Fails Fails

4. Results

The only scanner that managed to read the code correctly was Barcode scanner Manatee Works. However, it ONLY works with Android 2.3

There is an app which claims to be specifically designed for ID scan reading, however, it is paid and not available on the European market, e.g. with a European Google Play Account. It might become available for Non US Citizens at a stage.

Note: Google Play has a refund policy of 15 min after download, so if an app is not compatible with a phone, refund can be gotten.

5. Recommendations

Whilst a scanner which can read pdf417 barcodes correctly had been identified, implementing the same seamlessly in ODK Collect would require the tweaking of some code. This has been described in a post on ODK Developer.

It is recommended:

  • A quick fix or workaround to test or set up a pilot could consist in copying the barcode out of the scanner app and pasting it into ODK. For the real ID used in the testing, this would require a second step of pasting the code in Notepad before and only copying out the ID number digits at the front because the code contains column breaks which ODK can’t process3. With the prefabricated ID contained in this manual, a direct copy and paste into ODK is feasible.
  • If applications with pdf417 scans are envisaged, to invest in tweaking ODK Collect to make it workable with the Manatee Bar Code Scanner. However, the Information Manager needs to ensure that enough Android 2.3 phones are available.
  • To keep an eye and check the evolvement of the XZING bar code scanner which is the default supported Third-party application for ODK Collect. Eventually the paid version (@ 3.50 EUR) might support full pdf417.


1: The Paid version Scanner Plus was also tested, but did not perform differently for pdf417.

2: For data confidentiality, the ID in this manual does not correspond to a real person. The real ID used was more complex, however, the apps performed similarly with the fabricated ID which also contains more than 255 characters.

3: It would also require increasing the number of characters a string field can hold, though this can be achieved very easily.


  1. Good artcile.
    Hello, Sandra. Thank you for your post firstly. I want to find a reader to scan pdf 417 on driving license. Your article give me many information about the scanner. Thank you very much.

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