Printing labels with KDE (!)

Today Cristian blogged about a (good) article on dealing with label printing on Linux.

But despite all the good info contained in that piece, there is an extremely disappointing aspect to it:
that article misses to even mention in passing the leading application for printing labels on Linux. It is a KDE application. Its name is kbarcode. Their homepage has some enlightinging screenshots. It comes with a good documentation.

Why, oh, why is it that some of the most shining gems that were grown in the KDE ecosystem do not enjoy any good visibility in the wider software world? And what's even worse: why do some not even have any visibility in the somewhat "inbreed" Open Source / Free Software szene??

Does our general PR really suck so badly? Can we fix that with KDE4? What does need to be done? What needs to be done now?

Or is it just that in this specific case the application developers picked a bad, misleading name with "KBarcode"?

In any case: I don't blame the author for not mentioning KBarcode, or his lack of familiarity with it. (He seems to have a preference of commandline tools anyway...). I blame ourselves for being rather bad in getting the word out about some of our excellent applications. Is it because these are not too useful for the typical Linux or KDE Geek? (They all use email, web browsers, news readers, music players, instant messengers, code editors, blog software, HTML editors on a daily basis. But printing software? Label printing software?? What's a label again, Dude?!

OK, let's at least get the word out here, on this website. Let at least the 200 readers of KDE developer blogs know the following points:

  • KBarcode is an excellent, world-class barcode and label printing application for KDE. (I do not even know of a thingie that comes anywhere close to it on the Windows platform. DISCLAIMER: I am not familiar with proprietary software that costs more than 1000.- EUR per license; so there may in fact something available for lots of $$$).
  • KBarcode can be used to print a lot more things that are *not* barcodes, and do not include anything like a barcode! Everything from simple business cards, adress labels, price labels, postcards, up to very complex labels with several barcodes (e.g. article descriptions).
  • KBarcode ships with an easy to use WYSIWYG label designer. It includes a setup wizard. It supports batch import of data for batch printing labels (directly from the delivery note). It bundles *thousands* of predefined labels. It sports database management tools. It is translated into many languages.
  • KBarcode can even print more than 10.000 labels in one go with no problem at all.
  • KBarcode can import data for printing can be imported from several different data sources, including SQL databases, CSV files and the KDE address book.
  • Last, but not least, KBarcode includes a (simple) barcode generator (similar to the old xbarcode some of you may know). *All* major types of barcodes like EAN, UPC, CODE39 and ISBN are supported! Even complex 2D barcodes are handled well (this one is using third party tools). The generated barcodes can be directly printed or you can export them to images for use in another application.

Yes, and KBarcode is Free Software licensed under the terms of the GNU GPL.


Ok, I've got to admit, I thought of KBarCode as some application that does just labels that contain barcodes.
Why? First because of the name. Then because if you go to the website the whole site centers around barcodes so that you get the impression that the whole application is mostly meant to create barcodes.
And then: Screenshots - It's rather hard to find the screenshot page. The screenshot page is the most important advertiser of an application. It should never ever take more than 1 click to reach the screenshot page.
I really feel that this application should rather be two applications working closely together. Because both tasks -- creating a label and creating a barcode are tasks that are so different that it doesn't really make sense to have both of them in one application.
Even more so as the common non-industry user who wants labels for parties, events, for the office or at home almost _never_ deals with barcodes and will immediately assume this application to be a very specialized tool.
The whole thing imho suffers from the squeeze-everything-that-could-theoretically-fit-into-a-category-into-an-application
disease. The application has two very different target groups in mind, that are hard to reach at the same time. One of them is the industry user who owns the appropriate devices and creates actual products and wants to stick ID's onto them. The other one is the person who just wants to create some vivid sexy or branded labels for small offices or home usage.
This conflict makes it hard to name it appropriately: If you name it "whatever-barcode" then people will miss its broader capabilities for label creation. If you name it "bla-labels" people will miss the barcode feature that is another very important task in a completely different working area.
To me this conflict is very typical for KDE applications. Because of the very capable framework many KDE applications get pumped up with functionality until they lack focus and an immediately recognizable purpose. The best coding and the best marketing will never be able to help you to fix that situation.

By Torsten Rahn at Fri, 08/11/2006 - 19:11

"Screenshots of KBarcode in action are available in our gallery."
Is on the startpage (gallery is a link). ;)

By Mathias Panzenböck at Fri, 08/11/2006 - 20:19

Yeah, as the app evolved into something more than a barcode designer... it would be sane to invent a new cool name, and even split the stuff to a logically separated projects, e.g.:

"KBarcode is a barcode and label printing application for KDE." sentence could become "KLabelDesigner is a label printing application for KDE. KBarcode is a component for KLabelDesigner and other KDE applications allowing to print barcodes."

Clear? But I am not the one who can propose this.

For me, KBarcode has allways been on my TODO list as a nice _component_ that can be reused as a Form/Report widget in Kexi, and in KOffice in general. MS Access users probably cannot dream about having such complete thing out of the box.

By Jarosław Staniek at Fri, 08/11/2006 - 21:55

I searched for bar codes and Drupal and ended up here... (-;

I know Drupal but not KDE or really any desktop application programming... My question, posted here on pure hope, is whether there's any open source way to print bar codes directly from a web site or if you think it would be possible to tightly integrate Drupal with KBarcode?

benjamin, Agaric Design Collective

By benjamin melançon at Fri, 06/08/2007 - 17:10