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Find The Right Barcode Solution For Your Business

Andrew Kunesh // worldlabel.com


Whether you own a grocery store or run a large industrial supply company, barcodes are critical to the job of anyone who manages physical assets. Barcodes can store an incredibly high amount of information about a product in a small space and are easily readable by handheld devices including modern smartphones.


However, not all barcodes are created equal: there are many different types of barcodes and each can store different amounts and types of information all while varying in size. And since most of these barcodes look similar, it can cause confusion when trying to pick the best barcode for your businesses’ asset management.


In this article, I will be walking you through different types of barcodes, comparing what each type does differently, and discussing their main applications. By the end of this article you’ll have a solid understanding of the different types of articles on the market and be able to make a decision on what barcode is best for your business’ asset management.


This article will discuss the following type of barcodes:


One Dimensional Barcodes:


  • UPC

  • EAN

  • Code 39

  • Code 128

  • ITF-14

  • GS1 DataBar

  • MSI

  • Bookland EAN

Two Dimensional Barcodes:


  • Aztec

  • PDF417

  • QR Code

  • DataMatrix


One Dimensional Barcodes:


One dimensional — or linear — barcodes are the original and most common type of barcode. They are limited as they can hold up to 84 characters but require very little equipment to scan and create; there are numerous free iPhone and Android apps that can scan 1D barcodes on the fly. You can create 1D barcodes using a number of free resources online.





UPC, or Universal Product Code, barcodes are by far the most common type of barcode. These are most commonly used in a retail setting. UPC codes can record up to twelve digits of data a

are commonly used in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and across Europe as ways of recording product information in a retail setting.


There are two types of UPC codes: UPC-A and UPC-E. UPC a can store up to twelve numerical digits while UPC-E cans store six. However, note that UPC-E codes are smaller in size.






Like UPC, EAN codes are used for tracking consumer goods and are often used for scanning at point of sales systems. There are five different types of EAN: EAN-13, EAN-8, ISSN, ISBN, and JAN-13. EAN-13 and EAN-8 are the most common, and can store thirteen and eight digits respectively. ISSN and ISBN are used for logging books and are often used in libraries andf bookstores.


Finally, JAN-13 is a EAN variant found almost solely in Japan. It can store up to thirteen digits of data and is used in retail environments for scanning at point of sale systems.



Code39 and Code128:









Code39 and Code128 barcodes are high density linear barcodes that are often used in supply chain, on name badges, and by the US Department of Defense. This is because these barcode types can store tons of information, in fact, Code39 can now store up to 43 digits, characters, and some special characters while Code128 can store ASCII characters.





ITF-14 can store fourteen digits of data and is distinguished by the thick black border that surrounds the barcode. This black border is called a Bearer Bar and is used to increase readability by the scanner. ITF-14 codes are often used on wholesale items, for example, you would see an ITF-14 code on a bulk 24 package of cereal boxes.



GS1 DataBar:



GS1 DataBar barcodes are retail barcodes that are usually found on fresh produce, meats, and occasionally on coupons. They are used to store data like weight, expiration date, and other important information and can be read at point of sales systems.


There are currently four different types of DataBar barcodes: Omnidirectional, Stacked Omnidirectional, Expanded Stacked, and Expanded. These can store between fourteen and 74 numeric or alphanumeric characters depending on the variant used.



MSI is a simple barcode that’s used for inventory control and container labeling in warehouses. The barcode can hold numeric digits 0-9 — symbols and other alphanumeric characters are not supported by MSI. The good news, however, is that MSI barcodes can technically store as many numbers as needed.


Bookland EAN:



Bookland EAN barcodes are used on book covers and can store a book’s thirteen digit ISBN number and price. These barcodes do not currently have any use outside of cataloging books.


Two Dimensional Barcodes:


Two dimensional barcodes are a newer phenomenon in the barcode world. These barcodes are smaller than their one dimensional counterparts and can store nearly endless amounts of information. Two dimensional barcodes have become increasingly popular over the years as they can be scanned by smartphones.




Aztec are most often used in the transportation industry on train and bus tickets. They are useful because they can encode any 8-bit character including numbers and letters from ASCII, ISO 8859, and the Latin alphabet. Additionally, Aztec barcodes increase in size as more info is added, so you can store a nearly unlimited amount of characters.





Like Aztec, PDF417 barcodes are often used in transportation. PDF417 is found primarily on plane tickets, driver’s licenses, and printable US postage stamps. They’re popular because of their relatively small and rectangular form and can hold upper and lower case text, numbers, and many special characters that are used in formatting.


One other PDF417 feature worth noting is its built-in error correcting. This means that a barcode can still read even if parts of it are damaged or slightly misprinted. PDF417 supports up to nine levels of error correction, with higher levels giving more data redundancy. However, the higher the level of redundancy, the less amount of data you can store.


QR Code:



Chances are you’ve seen a QR code today. These codes can store a variety of characters and are generally consumer-facing; you can find them in magazines, stores, restaurants, and advertisements. When scanned, they will generally take the scanner to a website making them extremely effective for marketing. There are hundreds of free QR code readers available for nearly any mobile phone or tablet.




DataMatrix barcodes are high density, super small 2D barcodes. They can store tons of data and are often used to label small electronic parts due to its small size. The number of data able to be stored by a DataMatrix barcode depends on its size — jpgraph.net has a great size-to-capacity chart on their site.


DataMatrix barcodes have great error correction too. In fact, a DataMatrix code can be up to 60% damaged and still be able to be read. On top of this, studies from the The Center for Automatic Identification at Ohio University show that DataMatrix barcodes only misread one in every 10.5 million scans, making them one of the most dependable barcode technologies available.


In Conclusion


And there you have it: the most popular 1D and 2D barcode types. These barcodes can help your company become more organized and productive. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding printing or using barcodes to our labels.