Barcode labels are used for a variety of different purposes. Most commonly, barcode labels are used as part of Point-of-Sale, Inventory and Assets Management systems, however, barcode label use extends far beyond this. For example, barcodes are used on boarding passes, tickets, to track employees, to track wildlife and so on.
We've briefly outlined some of the more common barcode symbologies below to help you decide which symbology is right for your application. Please reference our The Complete Barcode Guide (a virtual encyclopedia with regards to barcodes and symbologies) for more in-depth information. In addition, please feel free to use our Free Bar Code Generator to generate scanable and printable bar code images to include in any document.
Code 39 (3-of-9)
Code 39 is the most popular, non-retail, barcode symbology in use today, and is commonly used for ID badges and inventory identification by government and industry. This a discrete, variable length, self-checking, alphanumeric symbology.
Code 39 takes two forms, Regular (or Normal) and Full ASCII when alphanumberic characters are required.
Code 128 is variable in length and will encode between 20 and 30 characters, depending on the data stored. All 128 ASCII chars (the full, US 101 key keyboard and some ASCII functions such as return and tab) are available and numeric data to be encoded at nearly double-density compared to Code 2-of-5. Best choice if 10 or more alphanumeric characters are to be used as this is a more condensed form of barcode.
Code 93 is a continuous, variable-length symbology capable of encoding the full 128 ASCII character set. Very similar to the extended Code 39 format, Code 93 is denser, yielding more characters per inch and can encode messages up to 47 characters long.
The major application for Code 93 is for labeling electronic components.
Code 2-of-5, Interleaved
Interleaved Code 2 of 5 is a variable length, even numbered, numeric-only barcode symbology. While higher density than the Standard Code 2-of-5, its density is still relatively low. Typically used in laboratories, industrial distribution centers and warehouses to label shipping cartons the low density is actually an advantage, being easier to read at a distance and less susceptible to damage.
Codabar is a variable length symbology capable of encoding the numbers 0-9, plus the six symbols - $ : / . + (along with four invisible stop/start characters). Messages may be any size you like. While Codabar is the most dense self-checking symbology it's density is much lower than Interleaved 2-of-5.
Applications for Codabar include air parcel services (FedEx airbills), blood banks, libraries and photolabs.
PDF417 is a 2-dimensional, bi-directional, high density, stacked symbology, with a very large capacity. Essentially a stacked set of smaller bar codes, each PDF417 symbol contains between 3 and 90 rows. PDF417 can encode all 255 characters of the ASCII character set as well as 8-bit binary date in a mixed format.
Seen on every retail item on store shelves in the US and Canada, the Universal Product Code is the premier symbology for retail product labeling. Used by retail stores and distributors internationally to complete transactions, track sales and product orders, the UPC has revolutionized the retail industry.
The standard UPC-A is a fixed length, 1-dimensional, 12-digit, numeric (0 through 9) format.
The European Article Numbering system is the European version of the UPC and is used worldwide for marking retail items. Just as with UPC, EAN numbers are assigned to specific companies and products by a central organization.
EAN-13 is a fixed length, 1-dimensional, 13-digit, numeric (0 through 9) format. Based on the UPC-A symbology, EAN-13 is nearly identical except for an additional 13th digit added to the front of the barcode message. Taken along with the existing parity bit, this extra number represents a two-digit country code.
NOTE: The UCC Council has decided that, as of January 1, 2005, all barcode systems in the U.S. and Canada must be able to handle EAN-13.
If you require further technical information concerning formats, please reference our Complete Barcode Guide. For additional information and questions please contact us here or call our offices direct at (519) 743-3422 Eastern Time.