By Gabriel Schonzeit, President of IDSecurityOnline.com
Over the last few years, ID card systems have evolved to become widely available to organizations of all sizes. However, most systems available on the market are Windows-based, excluding de facto an ever-growing percentage of potential users.
Does that mean that Mac users cannot operate their own ID system? No, but close attention must be paid to every component of an ID card solution, from the choice of the printer to finding Mac-compatible ID card software.
ID card printers
The market for Mac-compatible card printers is dominated by a select few manufacturers, including Evolis, HID Global/Fargo and Nisca. Finding a card printer with a Mac driver is relatively easy but users need to make sure that the printer is compatible with the exact version of their operating system. Developing a driver for a new operating system typically takes a few months and it is challenging for card printer manufacturers to keep up with Apple.
Also, all Mac printers come with USB connectivity only. Some models include an Ethernet port to connect a printer to a network but as of today, there is no FireWire or Thunderbolt-compatible card printer.
Choosing the right printer starts with a thorough review of key features. Card printers can be single or dual-sided and include a magnetic or smart card encoder to personalize technology cards. For high-volume applications, printers with high-capacity feeders are available to maximize productivity. Finally, highly-secure badges can be produced with laminating card printers, as adding a clear or custom layer of protection to a card significantly reduces the risk of fraud and counterfeiting.
ID card software
When it comes to designing ID cards on a Mac, several options are available. Any design software like Photoshop or even a word processor can be used as long as the document is sized properly. This technique works great if only a few cards need to be printed. However, for card personalization in high volumes, ID card software is the way to go.
The solutions available on the market are not merely design platforms, however. Current solutions can streamline the ID card creation process by managing cardholder data, connecting to an existing database or adding encoding capabilities to badges.
Mac-compatible solutions come in different versions. Entry-level options are great to design professional badges and issue up to a few hundred cards a year. Advanced solutions include an internal database to store cardholder data and simplify reprints. These options also support external database connectivity to print cards in batches. Finally, fully-featured software is network compatible and can encode magnetic and smart cards. In all cases, trial versions should always be downloaded for testing purposes.
Many users choose to use their own digital camera to capture ID photos. Technically, it works but it is far from being time efficient. To streamline a photo ID process, users should look for a proper ID camera with a TWAIN driver. TWAIN drivers handle the communication between computer software and imaging devices.
This functionality enables the user to see a live video feed on a computer screen and capture a picture with a click of a mouse. When integrated with ID card software, the photo is automatically inserted into the desired templates. This feature translates into huge savings in time and energy as users do not have to go through the upload-edit-import process for each card.
Unsurprisingly, all ID cameras do not come with Mac drivers so users need to check the OS compatibility.
Another critical point is the image quality: card printers issue badges with a 300dpi resolution which means that pictures of low definition will definitely look pixilated once printed. Investing in a high-quality ID camera is essential to ensure high-quality photo ID badges.
First-time buyers should consider Mac-compatible ID card systems that come pre-bundled with a printer, camera, supplies, cleaning kit and software. These bundles typically include all the necessary components to design and print professional-grade badges on a Mac.
Before making a final decision, users should check the warranty coverage. Card printers are reliable machines but changing a part like a print head can be very costly.