There are many different types of barcode, often referred to as barcode symbologies. These have evolved in different places for different uses, but all have the common purpose of encoding a string of characters as a set of bars and spaces.
How can I recognise different barcode types?
You can deduce which symbology is being used from a barcode's general appearance and by looking at the pattern of bars and spaces. Download our free Barcode Identifier program for Mac OS X.
What data should I encode?
You should encode data which will be scanned by an end user. The data may be of immediate use to the user, or be a reference to be reported back to the supplier. For some barcodes, you will require a unique number to be encoded - these are allocated by the appropriate governing body.
Which type of barcode should I use?
The type you want will depend on what it is you need to encode and where the barcode is to be put. Often the end user will stipulate a particular symbology; in other cases you can make your own choice. If you don't know which type of barcode to use, the following may help:
Areas of use for barcodes
The type of barcode you need depends on the use it is being put to.
Barcodes to Identify a Product for Sale in Shops
Barcodes used on coupons
Barcodes used for packaging
Barcodes used for a published item
Barcodes for Non-Retail Labels
Barcodes used for a pharmaceutical item
Barcodes for Encoding Web-Site URLs
EAN 13, EAN 8, UPC A, UPC E
There are four barcode types commonly used for retail items. The data encoded is a number which canbe used to uniquely identify the item.
UPC A and UPC E are mostly used in North America, but are also found throughout the world.
EAN 13 and EAN 8 are more popular in the rest of the world, but are also found in North America. In Japan, EAN 13 and EAN 8 are known as JAN 13 and JAN 8.
Some retailers use their own proprietary barcode types which are usually based on either EAN or UPC barcodes.
DataBar Expanded, DataBar 14
As well as identifying the product, barcodes will soon be expected to supply production details, such as batch number and use by date. DataBar Expanded is a new symbology which can do this.
DataBar 14 will encode the same number as EAN 13 or UPC A but using less space.
EAN 13, UPC Coupon, GS1 Coupon
EAN 13 can be used to encode a simple code number, which must begin 99.
UPC Coupon uses a combination of UPC A and GS1 128 which allows extra information to be encoded.
GS1 Coupon is a new structure, which uses DataBar Expanded, and encodes even more information than the UPC Coupon.
ITF, GS1 128, DataBar Expanded, GS1 DataMatrix
Packaging barcodes are those usually used on the shipping cartons that contain many items. The shipping barcodes are used for to give information about the contents.
ITF barcodes (known as UPC Shipping in North America) identify the product in the box.
GS1 128 barcodes (formerly known as EAN 128) are capable of supplying much more detail about the product, including dates, batch numbers, weight, quantity and dimensions.
DataBar Expanded (formerly known as RSS Expanded) and GS1 DataMatrix barcodes can encode the same information as GS1 128, but in less space.
ISBN, ISSN, ISMN
Books require a variation of EAN 13 barcode which encodes the ISBN number, plus optional pricing information.
Newspapers and Magazines require a variation of EAN 13 which encodes the ISSN number as well as the issue number and optional pricing information.
Sheet music should use a variation of EAN 13 which encodes the ISMN number.
Barcodes for non-retail labels
There are many different symbologies used for representing alphanumeric codes. Among the most popular are:
Code 25 (also known as Interleaved 2 of 5) used for digits only
Code 39 used for digits, letters and a subset of other characters
Codabar used for digits plus a few other characters
Code 128 used for the full ASCII character set
Code 93 used for the full ASCII character set
Telepen used for the full ASCII character set
Two Dimensional Codes
2D barcodes, which can encode significantly more data, are increasingly being used. Among the most popular are DataMatrix, PDF417 and Micro PDF417.
Pharma Code, 2d Pharma
Pharma Code is used for quality control and product identification for most pharmaceutical products. Often one or more of the bars have different colour.
A specialised form of DataMatrix, also known as 2D Pharma Code, additionally encodes colour information.
HIBC barcodes are commonly used in North America to hold production details, though these are variations of Code 39, Code 128 and EAN 128 barcode types.
Other variations of established barcode symbologies are also used in specific European countries, including: PZN (Germany); IMH (Italy); MSI (Belgium); IKS (Switzerland).
Barcodes for endcoding a web-site address
Quick Response (QR Code)
QR is a two dimensional barcode. It can be used to encode a web-site address which can then be scanned by a mobile phone.
QR barcodes can be seen on printed advertisements, promotional material or product packaging.
Zip+4/Postnet and FIM
Supported barcode types
You can use Agamik BarCoder to produce any of the barcode types listed below.
You can save your barcode as EPSF, TIFF, PDF or Illustrator file.
If you want us to to add an additional barcode type, or save format, we are always pleased to hear from you.
General barcode types
- both USS and Traditional format supported
Code 128 - full ASCII character set supported
Code 25 - also known as Interleaved 2 or 5, supported with and without check digit
Code 39 - supported with and without check code
Code 93 - full ASCII character set supported
DataBar Limited - including composite component, smaller than DataBar 14
EAN 13 - including addon and composite component
EAN 8 - including composite component
GS1 128 - all application identifiers supported, plus composite component; formerly known as EAN 128
ITF - including ITF-14
JAN 13 - variation of EAN 13 used in Japan
JAN 8 - variation of EAN 8 used in Japan
MSI - including option to display data
Plessey - hexadecimal character set
Telepen - including compressed numeric mode
UPC A - including addon and composite component
UPC E - including addon and composite component
UPC Shipping - variety of ITF-14 used in North America
Stacked and 2-D barcode types
- including Stacked and Omni-Directional variations, plus composite component; formerly known as RSS 14
DataBar Expanded - all application identifiers supported, plus composite component; formerly known as RSS Expanded
Data Matrix - two dimensional barcode; you can specify size and shape; hex input option
GS1 Coupon - variation of DataBar Expanded
GS1 Data Matrix - variation of Data Matrix, using GS1 Application Identifiers
Micro PDF 417 - two dimensional barcode; more space efficient than PDF 417, but smaller data set; hex input option
PDF 417 - two dimensional barcode; you can specify rows and columns; hex input option
QR Code - two dimensional barcode; you can specify size and shape
Samsung PDF 417 - two dimensional barcode; you can specify rows and columns, data can be input in hexadecimal
UID Data Matrix - variety of Data Matrix used to encode Unique ID for military hardware
Publishing barcode types
- for audiovisual works
ISBN - including EAN Bookland, UPC Price Point, Item Specific; 10-digit numbers supported for reprints
ISMN - for sheet music
ISSN - for newspapers and magazines
SISAC - for serial publications
Pharmaceutical barcode types
2D Pharma Code
- based on Data Matrix with colour fields
Binary Code - can colour bars individually
GlaxoSmithKline - variations of Pharma Code, EAN 13, EAN 8, Code 39 and MSI used by GSK
HIBC - specific applications using Code 39, Code 128 and EAN 128
IKS - variation of EAN 13 used in Switzerland
IMH - variation of Code 39 used in Italy
Kurandt - you can specify number of bars
Novartis Pharma - variation of Pharma Code used by Novartis
Pharma Code - can colour bars individually
PZN - variation of Code 39 used in Germany
Postal barcode types
- used in UK and some other countries
PostNet + Zip - used in USA; includes FIM code
Proprietary retail barcodes
- based on EAN 13, used by ASDA in UK
ASDA 8 - based on EAN 8, used by ASDA in UK
MS7 - based on EAN 8, used by Marks and Spencer in UK
Wickes 8 - based on EAN 8, used by Wickes in UK
Woolworth 8 - based on EAN 8, used by Woolworth in South Africa