Barcode Types

Barcodes have been around for a long time

The first barcode patent was issued 60 years ago in 1952, but they didn’t get used commercially until the 1970’s; going on to become the defacto method of stock control for retailers the world over and transforming the retail shopping experience in the process.

Barcodes contain information

Barcode Types

Barcodes contain information which has been generated using a barcode font to provide a symbolic and encoded representation of a number, text, or a series of numbers and words/text which can be decoded by – depending on the type of barcode – computers, optical scanning devices and apps on smartphones/tablets.

There are lots of different barcodes – Two-Dimensional for large volumes, printer based, numeric only, alpha numeric, postal, OCR fonts, etc.

Universal barcode types

Numeric-only barcodes

Codabar: Older code often used in library systems, sometimes in blood banks
Code 11: Used primarily for labelling telecommunications equipment
EAN-13: European Article Numbering international retail product code
EAN-8: Compressed version of EAN code for use on small products
Industrial 2 of 5: Older code not in common use
Interleaved 2 of 5: Compact numeric code, widely used in industry, air cargo
MSI: Variation of the Plessey code commonly used in USA
Plessey: Older code commonly used for retail shelf marking
PostNet: Used by U.S. Postal Service for automated mail sorting
UPC-A: Universal product code seen on almost all retail products in the USA and Canada
Standard 2 of 5: Older code not in common use
UPC-E: Compressed version of UPC code for use on small products

Alpha-numeric barcodes

Code 128: Very capable code, excellent density, high reliability; in very wide use world-wide
Code 39: General-purpose code in very wide use world-wide
Code 93: Compact code similar to Code 39
LOGMARS: Same as Code 39, this is the U.S. Government specification

2-Dimensional barcodes

PDF417: Excellent for encoding large amounts of data
DataMatrix: Can hold large amounts of data, especially suited for making very small codes
Maxicode: Fixed length, used by United Parcel Service for automated package sorting
QR Code: Used for material control, order confirmation and for marketing – see below
Code 49 Developed 1987 at the Intermec Corporation to fill a need to pack a lot of information into a very small symbol
16K Stacked barcodes which encode characters using a reverse video version of Code 128

QR codes

QR codes are growing in popularity and are frequently found on consumer advertising/packaging and business cards. Their popularity as a consumer marketing tool is rapidly increasing, thanks to smart phones – a scanner in your pocket

QR codes are 2-dimensional codes, so have a large storage capacity when compared with the numeric only UPC barcodes. They were developed by the car industry to track vehicles during the manufacturing process and ensure that data could be decoded very quickly.

These codes are very resilient. They permit a high degree of image corruption and retain the integrity of the data better. Somewhere in the region of 30% of a QR code can be damaged without the data being lost.

This leniency is an advantage for marketing organisations; they are able to place their logo, brand and website in a QR code without rendering it useless. As a result, the QR code has become a focus in advertising strategy. They are convenient for the consumer to scan and directly connect potential customers with the advertiser’s website.

More information

For more information, please call us on +44 (0) 1962 835053, or email

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