Barcode Symbologies

Not all barcodes are the same.

There are more than 100 different barcode symbologies. No single barcode can do it all and no barcode has a universal business application. That’s why users must find the symbology that works best for their specific applications.

What is a barcode symbology?

The mapping between messages and barcodes is called a symbology. The specification of a symbology includes the encoding of the single digits/characters of the message, as well as the start and stop markers into bars and space; the size of the “quiet zone” before and after the barcode; and the computation of a checksum. The spaces and bars of a barcode are a simplified language (COBOL, BASIC and FORTRAN) that allow programmers to speak with computers.

Barcode Symbology Specifications

Symbology Uses
Plessey Catalogs, store shelves, inventory
UPC North American retail
EAN-UCC Worldwide retail
Codabar Libraries, blood banks, airbills
Interleaved 2 of 5 Wholesale, libraries
Code 39 Various
Code 93 Various
Code 128 Various
Code 11 Telephones
Pharmacode Pharmaceutical packaging
POSTNET Post office
PostBar Post office
CPC Binary Post office
Telepen Libraries, etc. (U.K.)

Stacked symbologies consist of a given linear symbology repeated vertically in multiple.

Symbology Uses
Codablock Stacked 1D barcodes
Code 16K Based on 1D Code 128
Code 49 Stacked 1D barcodes
PDF417 The most common 2D barcode. Public domain.
Micro PDF417

A matrix code, also known as a2D barcode, is a two-dimensional way of representing information. It is similar to a linear (1-dimensional) barcode, but has more data representation capability.

Symbology Uses
3-DI Developed by Lynn Ltd
Adobe LiveCycle From Adobe Systems
ArrayTag From ArrayTech Systems
Aztec Code Public Domain
Small Aztec Code Space-conscious version of Aztec code
Bull’s Eye This was the barcode tested in a Kroger store in Cincinnati. It used concentric bars.
Codablock Stacked 1D barcodes
Code 1 Public domain
Code 16K Based on 1D Code 128
Code 49 Stacked 1D barcodes
CP Code From CP Tron, Inc.
DataGlyphs From Xerox PARC
Datamatrix From RVSI Acuity CiMatrix (now Siemens)
Datastrip Code From Datastrip, Inc. (Now Vision Database Systems)
Dot Code A Designed for the unique identification of items
HueCode From Robot Design Associates. Uses greyscale or color
 INTACTA.CODE  From INTACTA Technologies, Inc.
 MaxiCode  Used by UPS. Now Public Domain
 MiniCode  From Omniplanar, Inc. (Now Honeywell)
  PDF417 The most common 2D barcode.
 Micro PDF417  Facilitates codes too small to be used in PDF417
 QR Code  Can encode Japanese Kanji and Kana characters. Public domain
 Semacode  Open standard for picture cell phones
  SmartCode From InfoImaging Technologies
 Snowflake Code  From Marconi Data Systems, Inc.
 SpotCode  Circular barcodes for camera phones
 SuperCode  Public domain
UltraCode  Black-and-white and color versions. Public domain. Invented by Jeffrey Kaufman and Clive Hohberger
 VeriCode, VSCode  From Veritec, Inc.

Contact Barcoding, Inc. to learn more about which symbology is right for you.

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