A Complete Guide to Barcode Types and How to Use Them

By: Syeda Gul-e-Khansha



time to read article7 minutes

article date Jul 06, 2021

If you are in the manufacturing or retail business, then you must have heard of barcode types. That bit of information comes with a lot of questions. For example: What is a barcode? Which one is best suited for your business? How many different barcode language types are there? We are going to answer all of your questions in this article.

A printed series of parallel lines used to enter data into a computer system is called a barcode. Shop items usually come with a label on their packaging. This label contains lines and different numbers that are used to gather information about the product.

These barcodes are scanned at the counter, and the product's price and description are displayed on the computer screen. According to statistics, about 18.8% of consumers agreed to witnessing an increase in use of barcodes like QR codes since Septenber 2020. However, there are many different types of barcodes available which makes it difficult to identify them. Here is a comprehensive breakdown of all barcode types.

What Is the Standard Barcode Type?

A standard format for barcodes does not exist. However, they do come with particular characteristics depending on how they are created. Different types of barcodes differ in the following ways:

• Size

• Capacity

• Material used

• Linearity

• Requirement of checksum

The size of the barcode usually depends on its application and the machine used for scanning it. The capacity of a barcode refers to all the character combinations it comes with. It depends on the character set it supports.

The width of the barcode's narrowest bar can be a measure of its density. The amount of area that can be scanned on the barcode tells its linearity. Some barcode formats come with a standardized portion to check whether the retrieved information is correct. That is called checksum.

It is the number at the far right of the barcode. Scanners perform calculations on the digits of the checksum to ensure the right results. If the results are correct, you hear a beep from the scanner. These factors vary for different barcode types and use, and being aware of them can help you choose the most suitable barcode format for you.

What Is the Most Common Barcode Type?

One of the most commonly used barcode types is UPC (Universal Product Codes). This barcode is used for labeling retail products. It's found on almost every sale item in the market and all grocery stores in the US. It consists of a 12 digit numeric-only number. Every product is assigned its unique number by GS1, making up the first six digits of the barcode. The product's manufacturer assigns the next five digits. Each product has a unique UPC that its manufacturers use for identification.

These barcodes help them digitally scan and track the product. Many excellent management software like PackageX come with the technology to scan these barcodes to track mail and packages. It helps users easily keep an eye on where their item is and when they will receive it. Other commonly used barcode types include:

  1. Code 39

  2. Code 128

  3. GS1-128

  4. Codabar

  5. EAN-13 and EAN-8

  6. ITF-14

1. Code 39

Code 39 allows the use of digits and characters. Its name was derived from the fact that it could only encode around 39 characters. However, that number has now increased to 43. It is most commonly used in the automotive industry and the United States's department of defense.

2. Code128

This barcode was invented more recently. It can encode all the characters of the ASCII 128 character set. It can encode numbers, characters, and pronunciation marks, allowing you to use a broad range of characters. That's why it is a powerful barcode that can store almost any kind of data. Mainly, it is used in logistics, transportation, and order distribution.

3. GS1-128

This barcode is a data carrier created, so the transfer of information between companies was more effortless. It's come with a list of application identifiers that enable it to not only encode the data but also define its meaning,

4. Codabar

Codabar is a symbology that is very easy to print. It is used in photo labs, US blood banks, and FedEx airbills. It encodes up to 16 characters and can be produced without the help of a computer by using consecutive numbers. It is also a self-checking barcode. Instead of scanning incorrect information, it will register inaccurate data as a wrong scan, minimizing scanning errors.

5. EAN-13 and EAN-8

These barcodes are usually used outside of the United States. They are commonly found on consumer products such as groceries, shoes, and clothes and are scanned at the point of sale. EAN-13 covers 13 digits, and EAN-8 consists of 8 digits. The latter is especially useful for scanning objects with small label space like candy.

6. ITF-14

This particular barcode is a mix between the point of sale barcodes and logistic barcodes. It uses a 14 digit number and can deal with high printing tolerances. That can be especially useful when barcodes need to be printed on cardboard. This barcode is usually used for trading products that don't need any POS (point of sale) interaction.

Different Combinations of Barcodes

Barcodes use lines of different widths to represent a 12 or 13 digit number. That is why the possible combinations it can represent can be up to 10^13 different combinations. Barcodes are available in two different types: Linear barcodes and two-dimensional matrix barcodes.

1. Linear barcodes

These consist of lines and spaces of various widths that generate specific patterns. One example of a linear barcode are UPC barcodes.

2. Matrix barcodes

On the other hand, Matrix barcodes are a two-dimensional way of representing data. They are similar to linear barcodes but are capable of representing more data per unit area. They look like squares or rectangles that may contain numerous tiny dots. Examples of 2D barcode types are QR codes, EZcode, Nexcode, and more.

There are countless ways to encode data for barcodes, and each encoding consists of different combinations. It means that barcodes will never run out!

What Is the Difference Between a QR Code and a Barcode?

QR Code vs Barcode

For manufacturing businesses, tracking inventory is vital. That is why they use labels on their products so their customers can know where it is in the assembly line and when it will be in their hands. Customers can also use this tracking data to solve a multitude of problems.

However, companies need to decide which barcode types to use. The primary choice is between a one-dimensional barcode system or 2D barcode types like QR codes. The main differences between barcodes and QR codes are as following:

Barcodes QR Codes
Barcodes can be scanned in a single line. QR codes can be read both horizontally and vertically.
Data placed on stripes is limited. QR codes have another dimension that can hold information.
Information limited to the product number and its location. Provides additional information like where the product was made, repairs, and the product's condition.
Scanning 1D barcodes are cheaper. Previously, equipment for scanning 2D barcodes was more expensive

In the past, scanning 2D barcodes wasn't as cheap as scanning linear barcodes. That is because of the need to cover two dimensions instead of one. The price difference of the scanning equipment was one of the significant drawbacks of QR codes. However, that's not a problem anymore.

That's because now QR codes can quickly be scanned through mobile devices. New package tracking and mail management apps come with OCR technology that efficiently scans QR codes and helps users track their package. According to statistics, around 25 to 30% of the population in developed nations use QR codes.

How Can You Identify a Barcode Type?

Since there are so many different barcode types available, readers might get confused about which is which. If you do not identify barcodes correctly, you will never decide which barcode type best suits your business.

The best way to identify linear barcodes is by their start and stop patterns. They tell barcode readers where to start and stop, and comparing them can help identify different barcode types.

Types of Code

2D barcodes, on the other hand, can be identified by comparing shapes and finder patterns. A unique mark that exists in all barcodes of the same format is referred to as finder patterns. They can be used to identify different 2D barcodes.

An example of finder patterns is the unique square pattern in the center of every Aztec code.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let us go through some frequently asked questions about barcodes.

Q. What do numbers on a barcode mean?

The numbers on the barcode are unique to the product you are buying. There are 12 numbers on a standard UPC-A barcode. Here is what the digits mean:

• The first digit is the system identifier that helps classify the type of product.

• Examples of standard Universal Product Codes are the digits zero, one, six, seven, and eight.

• Weighted items such as meat are identified by the number 2.

• Health-related products are identified by the number 3.

• Four is the number reserved for non-food-related items.

• Numbers five and nine are used to identify coupons.

After the first digit, there are two sets of five numbers in the middle. The first set corresponds to the manufacturer number and the second set refers to the product number. The final digit is used to scan errors and is used as a control digit.

Q. Why you should use barcodes?

Scanning barcodes has now become easy with the right technology. Designing and printing a barcode is exceptionally cheap. Barcodes reduce the chance of human error and help users make informed decisions.

In the case of delivery tracking, order information can quickly be sent out to customers so they can schedule their day around when they need to pick up their package. Both expensive and easy to use, barcodes are an excellent option to track a variety of data. That's why delivery management apps like PackageX Mailroom ensure safe package delivery, without any hassle.

Related Blog Posts: