10. Check-in guests

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Professional edition only

You can check in guests by printing a barcode on their invitation, ticket or badge and then scanning this barcode into PerfectTablePlan as they arrive. This is much faster and less error prone than trying to find and update guest records by typing into PerfectTablePlan.

This is a step-by-step guide to using barcodes for checking-in guests.

Requirements

1.A barcode scanner that emulates an extra keyboard. Usually this will plug into a USB port in your PC or Mac. You can buy them from around $90/£70/€80 and quite a few different scanners are available. For more information see our USB barcode scanners web page. Note Most USB barcode scanners do not support 2-dimensional/matrix barcodes, such as QR codes.

2.A barcode font installed on the PC or Mac you are going to use to print the barcodes. We recommend using barcodes that conform to the code 39 standard (also known as code 3/9 or code 3 of 9). Free barcode fonts are available. For more information See our barcode fonts web page.

3.A good quality printer for printing the barcodes. Ideally a laser printer. But an inkjet printer might be OK if it has a high quality setting (often called 'Photo' or 'Image' quality).

4.A unique ID for each guest comprised of only barcode compatible characters. If you let PerfectTablePlan generate your guest IDs then you shouldn't have any problems.

Guest IDs

PerfectTablePlan v5 will automatically create unique 15 character IDs comprised only of the hex characters 0-9 and A-F (NB/ upper case only). The ID is based on the time the guest was created (milliseconds since 1-1-1970) and the number of guests previously created on that computer, so it is very unlikely that 2 guests will ever have the same ID, even if they were created on different computers.

If you import your own guest IDs make sure that they contain only the following characters: 0-9, A-Z, $%+-./ and space. Characters not in this set will by converted to - (minus). Characters a-z will be  converted to upper case, so IDs mustn't differ only by case. Also try to keep the ID short (ideally 15 characters or less) to avoid the barcode becoming very large.

You will be warned if you try to print or export non-unique, blank or excessively long barcodes. PerfectTablePlan will give you the option to automatically reassign these IDs.

Note PerfectTablePlan V4 used 32 character IDs, which are too long for barcodes in most cases. If you open a v4 plan and try to print barcodes from it you will be given the option to replace the long IDs with shorter (but still unique) IDs.

Step 1. Install a barcode font

Make sure you have installed a barcode font (see above).

Step 2. Add barcodes to stationery

Create your invitations, badges or tickets as usual then add the substitution text:

{guest_barcode_id} (if you are printing a stationery item per guest); or

{group_members_barcode_ids_multi_line} (if you are printing a stationery item per group)

barcode_1_w

Do not select word_wrap_16Word wrap.

Now set the substitution text to the barcode font you have installed. Set it to 20pt font size to start with. Don't worry if it is very long or mostly blank at this stage in the Design tab.

barcode_2_w

It might also be a good idea to include a human-readable version of the ID under the barcode. To do this just add {guest_barcode_id} again, but choose a normal (non-barcode) font this time. Ideally use a non-proportional font, such as Courier.

barcode_3_w

Make sure you leave some blank space around the barcode so it is easy for the scanner to read.

Now check the size of the barcodes in the Preview tab.

barcode_4_w

If the barcode is too big try increasing the size of the stationery. If that isn't possible, try decreasing the barcode font size.

Font size

The size of the barcode is important as the USB scanner won't be able to read it if it is too small or too big. Code 39 typically requires at least 25 mm (1 inch) per 9 characters to be read reliably by a USB barcode scanner. We have found that a font size between 20pt and 25pt usually works well. The standard PerfectTablePlan barcodes are 17 characters (15 ID characters plus an asterisk either end), which is approximately 45 mm (1.75 inches) for a 20pt code 39 font (depending on the font).

Step 3. Test a sample of your stationery

1.Select File>print_16Print. You will be warned if you have non-unique, blank or excessively long guest barcode IDs and given the opportunity to allow PerfectTablePlan to fix this.

2.Click on the Setup button in the print_16Print window.

3.In the Print setup window:

Change Pages so that only a single page is printed.

Click on Preferences and change the print quality to the highest available.

Click Print.

On the PC/Mac that you intend to use for checking-in guests:

1.Plug-in your USB barcode scanner into a USB port. Note Your PC/Mac might have to install a new device driver the first time you use the scanner.

2.Start PerfectTablePlan.

3.Load your plan file.

4.Select File>barcode_16Check-In Guests.

If the barcode cannot be read from the printouts, try the following:

Increase the amount of white space around the barcode.

Increase or reduce the barcode font size.

Increase the quality of the printer print out.

Change the background of the stationery to white.

Change the colour of the barcode text to black.

Use higher quality stationery.

Test your barcode scanner on a barcode from another source (e.g. a tin of baked beans) to ensure that the scanner isn't defective. Note  It might not be able to read some formats of barcode fonts.

Step 4. Print your stationery

Select File>print_16Print and print all your stationery, making sure you still have the printer set to high quality.

Test a random selection (as in step 3) to ensure you can still scan them.

Step 5. Check-in your guests

1.Set the floor_plan_16Floor plan pane to show RSVP status and/or number of guests arrived/unarrived at each table.

check_in_guests_w

2.Select File>barcode_16Check-In Guests.

3.Set the settings appropriately in the barcode_16Check-In Guests window.

4.Click Start checking-in>>.

5.Scan guest barcodes with your barcode scanner.