Extension Barcode

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Extension "Barcode"

Barcode is a simple extension for creating UPC-A, EAN-13, ISBN and JAN barcodes in OpenOffice.org Draw. Barcode started out as an EuroOffice Extension Creator example and evolved into a practically useful tool.

More information:

Alternatives / competitive solutions:

UX Expert Evaluation

There has been some discussion on the Barcode extension to improve in both usability and functional quality. This sub-section discusses the findings and proposals to improve the most simple task to insert a Barcode. You may notice that it mainly contains criticism - simply because the effort for saying that it is already a very useful tool hasn't been invested :-)

Discussion thread on the mailing list ux-discuss: Barcode extension from UX point of view


  • Expert Evaluation: An expert evaluation usually uncovers general usability and consistency issues. It does not guarantee that the functionality works well for the desired use cases - simply because the UX expert might not have enough domain knowledge.
  • Procedure: The extension has been used like a normal user would do it. Therefore it includes, installing the extension, inserting barcodes, accessing help and getting information about the extension. The findings section discusses potentially problematic issues and - if possible - their severity.
  • Version: Barcode 1.3 (downloaded 2009-12-18)

Workflow and Screenshots

Extension Barcode13 InsertBarcode.png

"Insert Barcode" Dialog Window

To be accessed with "Insert -- Barcode"

Extension Barcode13 Barcode ErrorMessage.png

"Barcode" Message (Error)

Error message if the users enters an invalid barcode value and confirms "OK" in the "Insert Barcode" Dialog Window.

Extension Barcode13 AboutBarcode.png

"About Barcode" Dialog Window

To be accessed with "Help -- About Barcode"



Not covered yet (e.g. information text, naming of the downloaded file)


Not covered yet (e.g. the dialog steps to install the extension

Dialog Window "Extension Manager"

How the Barcode extension behaves in the OpenOffice.org Extension Manager.

  • Good: The Barcode name isn't too technical. For example, I have a "mailmergy.py" which doesn't help much with regard to non-technical people. Showing the version number seems okay to me, maybe it could even be moved to the descriptive text.
  • Proposal: But, since there is sufficient space, what about "Barcode Creater for %PRODUCTNAME Draw"?
  • Minor Issue: Is it necessary to mention the "EuroOffice Extension Creator" (in the first place). If the item is disabled, the text is shortened and the important information (for the user) is hidden.
  • Minor issue: Why is there a "EOEC" link which a) is an abbreviation which does not say anything, and b) wouldn't it be better to directly link to the Extension Site?
  • Minor issue: The icon can only be understood correctly, if the user sufficiently "adds" the missing pieces. To me, it looks like January 1997. Rather old :-)
  • Minor issue: The help text doesn't help much, e.g. "Restart required after installation." does not help if people forget to exit the Quickstarter. Or maybe they think they have to restart the computer (which would help, of course) :-) Is a restart required for any Extension to be installed (besides Barcode)?

Workflow "Inserting a Barcode"

This workflow describes the steps to insert a barcode.

  • Workflow Example:
    • The user enters a value (e.g. a wrong value)
    • The user hits "OK" and expects the Barcode to be generated
    • Due to the wrong value, the window disappears and an information is shown
    • By the way, the information window ...
      • ... contains sometimes information that seems a bit inappropriate and short ("Only digital digits please")
      • ... uses the kind "information" although the execution could not be finished. In general, I would recommend "information", but here I think a different approach would be better (see below).
      • ... uses the window title "Barcode" which doesn't cover important information, e.g. that the barcode could not be generated.
    • The "Insert Barcode" window is shown again.
  • What is good:
    • The user is free to decide whether to first enter the barcode value or the barcode type.
    • The last value of barcode type is remembered
    • In combination with the last comment, the user is able to directly start typing (incl. RETURN for OK)
  • What should be improved:
    • Major issue: The user shall enter a value, but doesn't know what might be required
    • Major issue: The user is informed _after_ he entered the wrong kind of number. Instead, he should notice the problem as early as possible
    • Minor issue: Most probably, the user will use only one barcode type. Then, the space currently required for the different barcode types may be better spent.
    • Issue: The barcodes are explained on the Extension site, but not in the window itself (e.g. "the most common barcode in Europe").
    • Flickering / showing different windows should be avoided, if possible.

Menu Item "Barcode"

The menu item in the "Insert" application menu.

  • Issue: The menu naming misses a trailing "...", because it leads to a window to finish an additional step. --> "Barcode..."
  • Issue: The resized icon is a bit small for the use in the menu. It is rather hard to correctly identify the item. It should be correctly simplified - maybe the art team can help here. Or, it may even be removed - which is absolutely okay from UX point-of-view.

Dialog Window "Insert Barcode"

The dialog which appears if the user selects "Insert -- Barcode".

  • Positioning and grouping of the elements in the "Insert Barcode" window may be improved:
  • Minor issue: The grouping frame isn't used anymore. At the moment, only a horizontal line next to the group name is used.
  • Tooltips: Some of the elements don't have a tooltip (which is okay, if the caption itself is rather self-explaining). Only Code 128 is a bit different here: "&819.Barcode.CODE128.HelpText"...

Help Text

The help text which appears when pressing "Help" in either the dialog window "Insert Barcode" or "About Barcode".

  • What is good: Some help exists!
  • What should be improved:
    • The help seems a bit unstructured
    • Minor issue: The help describes how to update the extension. Isn't that already covered by the Extension Manager? Maybe a hint or a link to the Extension Manager help (if this is possible).
    • Minor issue: How to disable / uninstall it? How is it called in the Extension Manager?
    • Minor issue: The general wording seems a bit techy, e.g. to contact the developers :-)

Dialog Window "About Barcode"

The dialog window which informs about the Barcode extension.

  • What is good: The window provides an easy way out (very often, this is neglected)
  • What should be improved:
    • Issue: Wrong Button Order and wrong spacing (Help, OK)
    • Minor Issue: Why is there a hint to use the help button for help?
    • Minor Issue: Text a bit unreadable, since it is one text block. The important information (what is this extension about) isn't separated from the development information.
    • Issue: The position of the menu entry seems wrong. The dialog is mainly an "About" dialog and should be placed at the end of the menu.
    • The main graphic:
      • Minor Issue: The picture seems a bit large and the graphic elements aren't centered (maybe this is intended).
      • Comment: The brush direction seems to be wrong with regard to LTR languages - it paints "backwards".
      • Comment: The graphical style of brush (reduced like Tango Icon Specification) vs. barcode (detailed, no anti-aliasing)
      • Minor Issue: Usually, a version information is given in the about dialog. At the moment it is only present in the Extension Manager.

Options Page

No options page available within "Tools -- Options...".

Further Issues / Proposals / Comments

  • Question: I've noticed that the Barcode uses "Times New Roman" for e.g. "UPC-A" (instead of e.g. the default font). What happens, if the user doesn't have this font? Is it replaced? And a general question (I don't know much about barcodes), is this font required? Or may the user want to change it? What about adding an own "Style" for the first barcode to be inserted in the document?
  • Proposal: The barcode already has a unique name. Why not not name the object like the barcode, e.g. "Barcode 123456789012 (UPC-A)" to correctly identify it in the Navigator?
  • Question: It does not seem possible to edit barcodes. Might that happen, if e.g. user notice a wrong value?
  • Comment: As you may already know, people might expect the Extension also to work with Writer, ...

Proposed Design

Assumptions and Requirements

  • Most of the current behavior works fine, therefore it won't be discussed here.
  • The barcode extension is tried by users who may not know much about barcodes. --> First focus on ease-of-use, then on efficiency.
  • It is possible to enter a value before selecting/changing the barcode type. --> A preview which is embedded into the document does not seem to make sense. Thus, it is proposed to add a preview in the "Insert Barcode" window.

Structure and Layout

Extension Barcode Proposal Overview.png

Proposed Structure for "Insert Barcode" Dialog Window

  • The barcode example / preview should be rendered in a decent size with sufficient spacing to the preview area borders.
Extension Barcode Proposal Layout.png

Proposed Layout of "Insert Barcode

  • Preview Area: Shows examples in dependence of the barcode type and barcode value (see proposed workflow below).
  • Description 1: Contains a short description of the barcode and its use. (Here, I used a proposal given in the EAN-8 Wikipedia article).
  • Description 2: Describes the barcode value and states an example. The user should be able to simply look up when comparing the example and the entered value.
Extension Barcode Proposal Workflow.png

Proposed Workflow for "Inserting a Barcode"

Please refer to the description in the image.


  • The "built-in" barcode value checking makes the additional dialogs obsolete ("Barcode" Message). The barcode preview, format and example hints, and the activation of the "Insert" button should make clear whether a barcode is correct or not.
  • Unfortunately, the drop-down will cover the description elements (Description 1, Description 2) when the selection is being done. But, experienced users may know that they can use the up/down keyboard buttons to toggle between the settings.

Current State

The current discussion has been sent to the developers of the Barcode Extensions. They know best what and how to improve :-)

Future Development

Extension Barcode13995 InsertBarcode.png

Changes in Barcode

Capability of inserting multiple barcodes has been added. The given picture currently serves as an discussion sample.

Early UX Feedback: It may be better to either re-structure the elements (standard, advanced) or to use a wizard since a) the creation is based on multiple steps, and b) the user might just want to insert one barcode. Otherwise, the dialog complexity might be a bit overwhelming...

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