How do I scan a barcode with a CueCat scanner?

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Last Updated: June 01, 2012
Keywords: cue, cat,

No drivers are required by the CueCat. Both the USB and PS/2 versions should be recognized automatically by your system.  The USB device driver is provided by the operating system, barcode readers are Human Interface Devices or HID. They use the same driver as USB keyboards and mice.

The USB CueCat will start to flash after a period on inactivity. The light must be on solid to scan. Normally this happens automatically when you place the barcode reader on the surface of the item. If not, just hold your finger over the light until it comes on solid.

The USB CueCat does require a power supply from your computer. Most hubs provide this but if the red light does not come on when you plug it in, check to make sure your USB hub is supplying power. Try another hub or plug the CueCat directly into a USB port on your computer.

Watch for windows opening when you scan. The CueCat does use the F10 key and on some systems this is a global hot key that opens another application. If this happens you will need to change the hot key or stop the application from launching when the OS starts.

A wand barcode reader like the CueCat can take a bit of getting used to. Hold it like a pen between your thumb and forefinger.  Put the front of the scanner, (the red light comes out the front of the scanner), down on the surface of the item to the left of the barcode. The paws of CueCat need to rest gently on the packaging. Drag the CueCat to the right through the center of the barcode keeping the scanner in contact with the surface of the item. If the barcode is not read the first time, drag it back right to left. Try scanning at different angles and speeds. Don't go too slow. A common response to scanning problems is to move it slowly through the barcode. This doesn't help.

You can open up any text editor like Windows Notepad or TextEdit on the Mac and scan into it. Try using the CueCat until you can reliably get data to appear in the text editor. Don't worry that the data looks incomprehensible, this is normal. Once you can get data to display in a text editor, you should be able to scan into Readerware.

The CueCat is a barcode reader, some users are trying to scan the ISBN. That will not work. You must scan the barcode. Readerware will then convert the barcode data into an ISBN. A barcode consists of short vertical lines of various thicknesses. A barcode reader works by sensing the reflection of the red light off of these vertical lines. So to scan, the red light emitted by the CueCat must pass through all these vertical lines, either left to right or right to left.  Think of it as drawing a line through the barcode:


In Readerware auto-catalog, just scan the barcode, the ISBN/UPC should appear in the field and in the list. If nothing appears to happen, make sure the ISBN/UPC entry field has the focus, i.e. the text insertion cursor is flashing in the field. Just as you would if you were trying to type into the field. If data appears but is not translated into the ISBN/UPC, make sure the Caps Lock key on your keyboard is OFF. You do need a Qwerty keyboard layout. A user reports the CueCat does not translate data correctly when using a Dvorak keyboard layout.

If you are having trouble scanning CDs, try moving the CD out of the light. A barcode reader works by sensing the reflection of the red light it displays off of the barcode. Bright room lights can reflect off of the thick plastic CD case and cause problems. If you shade the CD, it will scan a lot easier.

Some users are mistakenly clicking on the Upload button to retrieve scans from a CueCat. The Upload button in the Readerware auto-catalog wizard is for use with portable barcode readers only. A conventional barcode reader like the CueCat is always connected to your computer, so no upload is needed. It sends the input as though you had typed it on your keyboard. To catalog books with a CueCat, start the auto-catalog wizard and when you get to the item input page, simply scan the barcode. It will appear in the ISBN/UPC entry field and then added to the list. You can get more information by clicking on the help button in the auto-catalog wizard. There is also more information on using a CueCat with Readerware in the Readerware CueCat manual.