Barcode identification plays a key role in enabling efficient barcoding operations. One way to identify barcodes is through visual examination.
Different barcodes have distinct patterns and features that allow them to be identified visually. By visually recognising the barcode type, one can determine the data type encoded in the code, its usage and the most suitable barcode readers to use.
In this article, we will provide you with an overview of the distinct features associated with the most popular barcode types that can be identified with the naked eye. We will start by covering 1D barcodes, followed by 2D barcode types. But first, here is a quick overview of what a barcode is.
Understanding the Basics of Barcode Technology
Barcodes are machine-readable symbols that store data about a product, item or object. This data can be encoded in the form of numbers, letters and special characters. Barcodes are composed of patterns such as lines, dots, rectangles and other shapes with varying widths arranged in a specific sequence.
Barcodes are of two types, namely, 1D and 2D barcodes. 1D barcodes encode data horizontally, from left to right, in a single line, whereas 2D barcodes contain information both horizontally and vertically on a two-dimensional plane.
Check out our detailed guide, Barcode 101, to learn more about barcoding technology. The guide covers topics such as the working of barcodes, the representation of data in a barcode, anatomy, drawbacks and more.
How to Identify 1D Barcode Types Visually
One-dimensional barcodes, also known as linear barcodes, are the traditional types of barcodes.
1D barcodes typically consist of a series of vertical lines with varying widths and spacing between them. They have an additional start and stop character at either end of the code, representing the beginning and end of the code.
1D barcodes have quiet zones, which are empty white areas on all sides of the barcode symbology. The widths of these zones vary between different 1D barcode types. 1D barcodes also have a single check digit, used to verify the accuracy of data encoded in the barcode.
By identifying vertical lines, start/ stop characters, quiet zones and check digit, one can easily visually identify the type of barcode. Here is the list of 1D barcodes that can be identified visually.
- Code 39
- Code 128
- Code 49
- Code 39
- Interleaved 2 of 5
- GS1 DataBar
- MSI Plessey
- Intelligent Mail Barcode
The UPC stands for “Universal Product Code” and is the most common type of 1D barcode. It consists of 12 numeric digits with a 10-digit GS1 company prefix followed by one check digit and a product number.
UPCs are mostly used for retail products, allowing them to be identified upon purchase.
Here’s how you can visually identify a UPC barcode.
- Look for the 1-5-5-1 format: A UPC barcode symbol is made up of 12 individual numbers grouped into four segments. The arrangement follows a pattern of 1-5-5-1. The 1-5-5-1 pattern means that the barcode starts with a single digit, followed by two groups of five digits each, and ends with a single digit.
- Observe the guard bars: They have guard bars, which are two parallel, equal-height bars located at the beginning, middle, and end of the barcode symbol.
- Note the bar and space widths: UPC barcodes use four different bar and space widths to encode each number. These widths vary to represent binary patterns that correspond to the specific digits being encoded. When examining a UPC barcode, you will notice variations in the thickness and spacing of the bars and spaces. The module widths of each bar and space are determined by multiplying the X-dimension by 1, 2, 3, or 4 units.
Types of UPC Codes
There are two types of UPCs – UPC-A and UPC-E.
UPC-A commonly called UPC is the standard version of the UPC code. It can be identified by following the above process.
UPC-E, also called 0-Suppressed UPC, is a shortened version of the UPC-A barcode designed for items with limited packaging space. UPC-E encodes a total of eight digits – six numeric message digits, a number system digit, and a check digit. Therefore, if a UPC barcode has only eight digits, it is a UPC-E barcode.
The EAN stands for “European Article Number.” These barcodes are similar to UPCs in appearance and function, with the only difference in geographical application.
EAN barcodes can store 2 to 13 numeric digits based on the type used.
Here are the visual cues to identify an EAN barcode.
- The start and stop patterns: EAN barcodes always begin and end with two parallel, equal-height thin bars.
- Identify the centre separator: EAN features two parallel, equal-height thin bars located in the centre of the barcode. These bars act as separators, dividing the barcode into left and right halves.
Types of EAN Codes
There are two types of EAN codes EAN-13 and EAN-8.
EAN-13 is the standard version of the EAN barcode. It encodes 12 numeric digits and a check digit. It can be identified by following the above process.
EAN-8 is the shortened version of the EAN-13 barcode designed for items with limited packaging space. It encodes seven numeric digits and a check digit. Hence, if an EAN barcode has only eight digits, it is an EAN-8 barcode.
Code 39 Barcode
Code 39 barcodes, also known as Alpha39, Code 3/9, Type 39, or Code 3 of 9, is a variable length, discrete symbology used to store alphanumeric data. It is the first alphanumeric barcode format widely used and found in non-retail sectors such as aviation, medical and military.
Code 39 is capable of encoding 43 characters and supports the following data types.
- Upper-case letters (A–Z)
- Numeric digits (0–9)
- Special characters, including.
- Slash mark (/)
- Hyphen (-)
- Plus sign (+)
- Dollar sign ($)
- Per cent sign (%)
- Space symbol
Code 39 can be visually identified by.
- Counting the elements: Code 39 barcodes are composed of nine elements, consisting of five bars and four spaces. Among these elements, three are wide bars, and the remaining six are narrow bars.
- Look for the start and stop character patterns: The barcode features identical start and stop patterns, each composed of five bars. These patterns consist of the following sequence: a narrow bar, a wide space, another narrow bar, a small space, a wide bar, a small space, a wide bar, a small space and finally, a narrow space.
Code 128 Barcode
Code 128 is a high-density linear barcode symbology. It is a variable-length barcode, which means there is no limit to the number of characters that can be encoded.
Code 128 can encode all 128 ASCII characters, including lower case and upper case English letters from A to Z, numbers from 0-9, and some special characters. It is widely used in the healthcare and logistics industry.
Here’s how you can visually identify a Code 128 barcode.
- Look for the bar and space pattern: In a Code 128 symbol, each character is represented by a unique pattern of bars and spaces. The encoding of each character starts with a bar and ends with a space, except for the stop character, which has an additional bar.
- Character structure: Each character in the Code 128 barcode is composed of three bars and three spaces. This arrangement results in a total of six elements for each character.
- Observe the widths of the bars and spaces: Code 128 symbols use four different widths for bars and spaces, namely 1, 2, 3, or 4 units. The sum of the bar widths must be even, while the sum of the spaces must be odd, resulting in a total of 11 units per character.
- Quite zone – This barcode symbology contains ‘quiet zones’ of at least ten times the X dimension (width of the narrowest bar) on either side of the code.
Check out our Code 39 VS Code 128 comparison guide.
GS1-128, previously known as UCC/EAN-128, is a subset of the Code 128 barcode symbology designed to encode GS1 System data. The GS1 System is an international standard that assigns unique identifiers to products and services, enabling better traceability across the supply chain.
A GS1-128 barcode can encode 48 alphanumeric characters. They feature an Application Identifier (AI), a two- or three-digit code that indicates the type of data encoded within the symbol.
Here’s how you can visually identify a GS1-128 barcode.
- Application Identifier: A GS1-128 barcode begins with a two- or three-digit Application Identifier (AI) placed inside a special bracket. Visit the GS1 application identifier page for a list of all GS1 application identifiers.
- Look at the variable bar and space widths: GS1-128 barcodes use different widths for bars and spaces. Bars can be one, two, or three modules wide, while spaces can be one, two, three, or four modules wide.
- Observe the six-element structure: Each character is represented by six elements, consisting of three bars and three spaces.
Code 49 Barcode
Code 49 is a continuous, variable-length stacked barcode symbology. This barcode uses a pattern of discrete cells and modules to stack multiple rows of information on top of each other into a single symbol.
A Code 49 barcode can encode up to 49 characters per row. It supports 128 full ASCII characters, including lower case and upper case English letters from A to Z, numbers from 0-9, and some special characters. Code 49 is widely used in the defence sector, logistics and pharmaceutical industries.
Pay attention to the following cues to distinguish a Code 49 barcode.
- Observe the stacked structure: Code 49 barcodes are easily identifiable by their stacked, multi-row format. Each row contains a pattern of discrete cells and modules arranged in a rectangular grid.
- Count the bars and spaces per row: This barcode typically consists of 18 bars and 17 spaces per row. Each row represents a specific set of encoded data.
- Note the presence of separator bars: Between each row, there is a one-module high separator bar. This separator bar visually separates the individual rows within the Code 49 barcode structure.
- Recognise the row count: Code 49 symbols must have a minimum of two rows and a maximum of eight rows, depending on the amount of data being encoded.
Code 93 Barcode
Code 93 is a continuous, variable-length barcode symbology. It can encode.
- Upper-case letters (A–Z)
- Numeric digits (0–9)
- Special characters, including.
- Slash mark (/)
- Hyphen (-)
- Plus sign (+)
- Dollar sign ($)
- Per cent sign (%)
- Space symbol
Code 93 is widely used in industrial settings and by Canada Post to encode supplementary delivery information.
Here’s how you can visually identify a Code 93 barcode.
- Character structure: Examine the character structure of each Code 93 barcode. Each character in the barcode is composed of nine modules and arranged into three bars and three spaces. This arrangement results in a total of six elements for each character.
- Element widths: Observe the widths of the bars and spaces within each character. Code 93 barcodes use varying widths for bars and spaces, with bars ranging from one to three modules wide and spaces ranging from one to four modules wide.
Interleaved 2 of 5 Barcode
Interleaved 2 of 5, also called ITF-14, I2/5, I/L 2 of 5, 2/5 Interleaved, and ANSI/AIM ITF-5 is a continuous, numeric-only barcode. It is a variable-length barcode, which means there is no limit to the number of characters that can be encoded.
Interleaved 2 of 5 barcode encoding works by interleaving pairs of digits to form a single symbol. As a result, it can only encode an even number of digits. In the case of odd numbers, the system adds a zero to the beginning of the code.
Interleaved 2 of 5 is widely used for product identification and tracking in the distribution, shipping and warehouse industries.
To identify Interleaved 2 of 5 barcodes visually, pay attention to the following cues:
- Observe the interwoven pattern: Interleaved 2 of 5 barcodes have unique patterns made up of interwoven bars and spaces. The bars in the barcode are arranged in two sets, one for odd-numbered digits and the other for even-numbered digits. These sets of bars are intertwined or interleaved with each other to form the complete barcode symbol.
- Identify the presence of pairs of digits: ITF-14 barcodes are composed of pairs of digits and hence always have an even number of digits encoded.
- Note the presence of start and stop characters: The barcode has different start and stop character representations. The start character is represented by a narrow bar, followed by a space and another narrow bar. On the other hand, the stop character is represented by a wide bar, followed by a space and a narrow bar.
GS1 DataBar, previously known as Reduced Space Symbology (RSS), is a versatile barcoding system designed to encode GS1 System data. Compared to other linear barcodes, it offers a smaller size and higher data density.
GS1 DataBar is a family of 1D barcodes and has various types, including.
- GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional barcode
- GS1 DataBar Stacked Omnidirectional barcode
- GS1 DataBar Expanded barcode
- GS1 DataBar Expanded Stacked barcode
- GS1 DataBar Limited barcode
- GS1 DataBar Stacked barcode
- GS1 DataBar Truncated barcode
GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional
GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional is a 14-digit numeric barcode symbol. It encodes Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) and Global Coupon Numbers (GCNs). GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional can be read omnidirectionally and is used for retail point-of-sale applications.
To identify a GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional code, you can follow these key points.
- Overall structure – The barcode is split into two parts, left and right, with a significant space in the middle.
- Look for the total number of modules: The GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional barcode consists of 96 modules in total, represented by 46 bars and spaces.
- Finder patterns: The barcode has two finder patterns with different widths depending on their position in the code. Each finder pattern is 15 modules wide and may consist of either three spaces and two bars or two spaces and three bars.
GS1 DataBar Stacked Omnidirectional
GS1 DataBar Stacked Omnidirectional is a type of stacked GS1 DataBar barcode. It has the same features as GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional but is a stacked version. It also has the same 14-digit numeric-only capability and can be read omnidirectionally. It is used for retail point-of-sale applications, just like its un-stacked counterpart.
To identify a GS1 DataBar Stacked Omnidirectional barcode, you can look out for the following features:
- Look for the dual-row structure: The barcode consists of two rows, the top row and the bottom row. The top row contains the left half of the barcode, including the left guard pattern, the first symbol character, the finder pattern, and the second symbol character. The bottom row contains the right half of the code, consisting of the third symbol character, the finder pattern, the fourth symbol character, and the right guard pattern.
- Locate the separator pattern: The two rows of the code are separated by a separator pattern, which consists of small modules and spaces.
- Note the absence of a quiet zone: GS1 DataBar Stacked Omnidirectional barcodes do not require a quiet zone.
GS1 DataBar Expanded
GS1 DataBar Expanded is used to encode supplementary data in addition to GTINs and GCNs. These barcodes can encode numeric digits, alphanumeric characters and special characters such as exclamation points, question marks, colons, hyphens, semi-colons, asterisks, etc.
GS1 DataBar Expanded is a variable-length symbol capable of encoding up to 74 numeric or 41 alphanumeric characters.
You can follow these key points to identify a GS1 DataBar Expanded code.
- Recognise the left and right guard patterns: The left guard pattern is composed of a narrow space followed by a narrow bar, while the right guard pattern consists of a narrow bar followed by a narrow space.
- Observe the triplet sequences: The data in the GS1 DataBar Expanded barcode is organised into triplet sequences, with each sequence containing two data characters and one finder pattern. Each data character occupies 17 modules, which are further divided into four bars and four spaces. The finder pattern in each group is 15 modules wide and consists of five bars and spaces.
GS1 DataBar Expanded Stacked
GS1 DataBar Expanded Stacked barcode is a stacked version of the GS1 Expanded barcode symbology. It has the same data-encoding capabilities as GS1 DataBar Expanded but is arranged in a stacked form.
To identify a GS1 DataBar Expanded Stacked barcode, pay attention to the following aspects:
- Look for the dual-row structure: The GS1 DataBar Expanded Stacked barcode consists of two rows of data.
- Note the separator pattern: The top and bottom rows of the stacked barcode are separated by a separator pattern. The separator pattern is made of small modules and spaces and has a height of three modules.
- Note the potential number of rows: The barcode contains 2 to 11 rows of data, depending on the amount of information encoded.
GS1 DataBar Limited
GS1 DataBar Limited is a compact barcode symbology with a fixed length, specifically designed for applications where space is at a premium. It has a capacity of 14 numeric digits and can encode GTINs that start with either “0” or “1.” GS1 DataBar Limited is primarily used in the healthcare industry.
To identify a GS1 DataBar Limited barcode, follow these points.
- Total number of modules: The barcode is composed of 74 modules, which include 46 bars and spaces.
- Identify data characters: The barcode’s first digit is a flag character, while the remaining 13 digits comprise the data characters. The data characters consist of two parts: two data characters with seven bars and spaces each, each 26 modules wide. Between the data characters lies an 18-module check character, also containing seven bars and spaces.
- Note the absence of a quiet zone: GS1 DataBar Limited barcodes do not require a quiet zone.
GS1 DataBar Stacked
GS1 DataBar Stacked is similar to GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional but has a reduced height of 13 modules or less, preventing it from being omnidirectional. GS1 DataBar Stacked encodes 14-digit numeric digits and is used to store additional data.
To identify a GS1 DataBar Stacked barcode, you can follow these key points.
- Dual-row structure: The stacked barcode comprises two rows of information, which together form a complete barcode symbol.
- Separator pattern: The top and bottom rows are separated by a separator pattern consisting of wide and narrow bars and spaces.
- Total height: These barcodes have a total height of 13 modules, with the top row of 5 modules and the bottom row of 7 modules.
- No quiet zone: GS1 DataBar Stacked barcodes do not require a quiet zone.
GS1 DataBar Truncated
GS1 DataBar Truncated barcode is a numeric-only barcode symbology with a capacity of 14 digits. It encodes four types of Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs): GTIN-8, GTIN-12, GTIN-13, and GTIN-14.
To identify a GS1 DataBar Truncated barcode, you can look out for the following features:
- Total modules: The GS1 DataBar Truncated barcode consists of 46 bars and spaces arranged into 96 modules, with each module representing a binary unit, either a “bar” or a “space.”
- Check the finder patterns: The barcode has two finder patterns interspersed between the symbol characters. Each pattern is 15 modules wide, with one having three spaces and two bars while the other has two spaces and three bars.
- Absence of a quiet zone: GS1 DataBar Truncated barcodes do not require a quiet zone.
MSI Plessey barcode
MSI Plessey barcode, often referred to simply as MSI, is a modified version of Plessey codes. It is a variable-length numeric-only barcode symbology primarily used in warehouse operations, libraries, and inventory control systems.
To visually identify an MSI Plessey barcode, look for the following elements.
- Look for the start and stop patterns: MSI Plessey barcodes always begin with a start pattern that consists of a bar-space-bar sequence and end with a stop pattern that consists of a bar-space-bar-bar sequence.
- Observe the bar and space widths: MSI uses two different bar and space widths to encode data. When examining an MSI Plessey barcode, you will notice variations in the thickness and spacing of the bars and spaces.
The Telepen barcode is a continuous, variable-length barcode symbology primarily used in universities and other academic libraries in the United Kingdom. This barcode can encode all lower full ASCII character sets.
To identify a Telepen barcode, pay attention to the following details:
- Start character: The barcode always begins with a start character, which is represented by the ASCII underscore (_) symbol. In the barcode image, this start character appears as a series of five narrow bars and narrow space pairs, followed by one wide bar and wide space pair.
- Stop character: The barcode ends with a stop character, represented by the ASCII “z” character. In the barcode image, the stop character appears as one wide bar and wide space pair, followed by five narrow bars and narrow space pairs.
Types of Telepen Codes
Telepen barcode has a variant known as the Telepen Numeric barcode, capable of encoding only numeric digits from 0 to 9.
The difference between the regular and numeric is that the numeric version can encode double-density numerical values, meaning that it can store twice as many numerical characters in the same space. This leads to more information being stored with less space used.
To identify a Telepen Numeric barcode, look at the encoded data type. If the barcode holds numeric data only, then you are likely looking at a Telepen Numeric barcode.
POSTNET, short for Postal Numeric Encoding Technique, is a fixed-length barcode symbology used by the United States Postal Service to assist in directing mail. It is capable of encoding numeric digits (0-9). POSTNET is a fixed-length barcode symbology representing five, nine or eleven digits.
To recognise a POSTNET code visually, follow these steps.
- Observe the barcode structure: The barcode contains two types of equal-height bars, which are referred to as “full” and “half” bars. These bars are arranged in a vertical pattern, forming the barcode symbology.
- Count the number of bars: POSTNET barcodes contain different numbers of total bars depending on the number of digits encoded. A barcode with five digits will contain 32 bars, a barcode with nine digits will contain 52 bars, and a barcode with eleven digits will contain 62 bars.
Types of POSTNET Barcodes
The POSTNET barcode can be in any of three ZIP formats: 5-digit ZIP code, 9-digit ZIP+4 code, or 11-digit Delivery Point Code.
5-Digit POSTNET barcodes encode the 5-digit ZIP Code. If a POSTNET barcode contains six digits (including the check digit) and has 32 bars, it is a 5-digit POSTNET barcode.
ZIP+4 POSTNET barcodes contain a 5-digit ZIP code plus an additional 4-digit code. If a POSTNET barcode contains ten digits (including the check digit) and has 52 bars, it is a ZIP+4 POSTNET barcode.
Delivery Point POSTNET barcodes contain the 11-digit Delivery Point Code. If a POSTNET barcode contains twelve digits (including the check digit) and has 62 bars, it is a Delivery Point POSTNET barcode.
Intelligent Mail Barcode
Intelligent Mail Barcode, also known as the OneCode, is a type of postal barcode used by the United States Postal Service (USPS) for sorting and tracking letters and packages. It is a numeric-only barcode and can encode 20 to 31 numeric digits.
Here’s how you can visually identify an Intelligent Mail barcode.
- Observe the fixed length: The barcode has a fixed length of 65 bars. This means that regardless of the encoded data, the barcode will always consist of 65 bars. Each bar represents a single bit of data, and the entire barcode is divided into distinct sections.
- Note the height modulation: The bars in an IMb are height-modulated, meaning the length of the vertical bars can vary. This modulation creates a visually distinct appearance, as the bars will have different heights throughout the barcode. The height modulation ranges from 1 to 4 units. In other words, the vertical bars can be as short as 1 unit or as tall as four units in length.
- Identify the four-state encoders: The IMb utilises four-state encoders, also known as bar states, to represent different patterns within the barcode. These four states are Full Bar, Ascender, Descender, and Tracker. Each state represents a combination of short and long bars, forming unique patterns. These patterns contribute to the encoding and decoding of the data contained in the barcode.
How to Identify Two-Dimensional Barcode Types Visually
Two-dimensional (2D) barcodes, also known as matrix codes, are symbols that encode data in both horizontal and vertical directions. These barcodes use graphics or patterns like squares, dots, hexagons and other shapes to store data.
Here are a few things to look for when identifying 2D barcodes:
- Structure of data modules – 2D codes store data using graphics and patterns instead of bars and spaces. Therefore, if a barcode contains a mix of squares, dots, hexagons and other shapes, it is surely a 2D barcode.
- The shape of the barcode symbol: 2D barcodes are mostly square or rectangular, although other shapes, such as circular or triangular, are also used. In other words, 2D barcodes are shape-flexible.
- The presence of the “finder” pattern: These barcodes contain a “finder” pattern, which is an arrangement of squares, circles or dots typically located at one of the four corners of the barcode symbol. The finder pattern helps barcode scanners determine the position and orientation of the barcode symbol.
Here is the list of 2D barcodes that can be identified visually.
- QR code
- DataMatrix code
- Aztec code
- JAB code
- Code 1
QR code, short for Quick Response code, is a versatile 2D barcode that can store numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary data and Kanji characters. It has the capacity to encode 2953 bytes of data, 4296 alphanumeric characters, 7089 numeric characters, or 1817 Kanji characters.
QR codes are used for a wide range of applications, from sharing information to payment processing.
Here’s how you can visually identify a QR code.
- Look for the matrix pattern: QR codes consist of a pattern of squares and rectangles modules arranged in a grid or matrix-like pattern.
- Identify the large square structures: These codes have three identical square structures called position markers located at the top right, top left, and bottom left corners of the barcode. Each position marker consists of a dark square within a dark frame.
- Identify the small square structure: QR codes have one (or multiple) small square structures called alignment markers, usually located at the bottom right corner. Alignment markers contain a black dot within a square frame.
Data Matrix Code
Data Matrix is a high-density barcode composed of black and white squares arranged in a matrix pattern. It is capable of encoding all 256 ASCII characters, ISO characters, and EBCDIC characters and can hold 2335 alphanumeric characters, 3,116 numerical characters, or 1556 bytes of information. Data Matrix codes find extensive use in the aviation, electronic, logistics, and automotive industries.
To identify a DataMatrix code, pay attention to the following details:
- Look for the matrix pattern: Data Matrix codes consist of black-and-white square and rectangular-shaped modules organised into rows and columns, creating the overall structure of the code.
- Identify the “L” shaped finder pattern: These codes have a distinct “L” shaped finder pattern made up of two solid adjacent borders arranged in a perpendicular shape. The finder pattern is usually located on the left side of the code.
Aztec codes are matrix barcodes created with black and white modules. They have a distinctive pattern in the centre that resembles the square, multi-stepped Aztec pyramids. Aztec codes are often smaller in size compared to other 2D barcode symbologies.
Aztec codes are capable of encoding alphanumeric characters and binary data. They can hold 3,832 numerical digits, 3,067 alphabetic characters or 1,914 bytes of data. Aztec codes are widely used in the transportation industry for ticketing and tracking.
Here’s how you can visually identify an Aztec code.
- Look for the distinctive finder pattern: Aztec codes have a unique finder pattern in the exact centre of the code. This pattern resembles the square, multi-stepped Aztec pyramids. The square structure also contains a bulls-eye structure consisting of alternating black and white square rings.
- Codablock A
- Codablock F
- Codablock 256
Codablock A is the first Codablock barcode variant developed between 1989 and 1995. It is made by stacking multiple Code 39 barcodes. Codablock A can encode upper-case letters (A–Z), numeric digits (0–9) and special characters. It has a data capacity of 1,340 characters distributed across 2 to 22 lines, each with 1 to 61 characters.
Codablock F is the current version built upon the foundation of the Code 128 barcode symbology. It can encode a full 256 ASCII character set. Codablock F has a data capacity of 2,725 characters distributed across 2 to 44 lines, each with 4 to 62 characters.
Codablock 256 is an internal barcoding standard developed by ICS Identcode-Systeme GmbH. It is made by stacking multiple codes 128 barcodes. Codablock 256 can encode all 256 symbols of the ASCII character set, including the FNC4 character. It has a maximum data capacity of 2,725 characters.
Here are the visual cues to identify a Codablock barcode.
- Look for the block-like shape: The Codablock barcode has a block-like structure. This structure is formed due to the vertical multi-row stacking of Code 39 or Code 128 barcode.
- Observe the rows and symbologies: The rows within the barcode consist of either Code 39 or Code 128 symbologies. Follow the rules of those symbologies to identify the barcode.
PDF417, short for Portable Data File 417, is a 2D stacked barcode symbology that uses a pattern of bars or spaces of varying widths and heights to represent coded data. PDF417 codes are capable of encoding all 256 ASCII characters and 8-bit binary data. It can store up to 1850 alphanumeric characters, 2710 numeric digits or 1108 bytes of data in one symbol.
PDF417 codes are used for a range of applications such as banking, healthcare, transport ticketing and document tracking.
To identify a PDF417 code, here’s what to look for:
- Look for the rectangular shape: PDF417 codes have a rectangular structure. They consist of multiple linear barcodes stacked vertically, forming a tall and elongated structure.
- Notice the barcode structure: These codes use bars and spaces of varying widths and heights arranged in a pattern to represent coded data.
- Identify the start and stop characters: The barcode features long, straight vertical parallel lines at its start and stop. These vertical bars are longer than the other barcode elements and easily distinguishable.
MaxiCode, also called “Bird’s Eye,” “Target,” “Dense code,” or “UPS code,” is a type of postal and shipping barcode composed of hexagonal modules or offset rows arranged in an array with a finder pattern at the centre. This barcode is developed and patented by United Parcel Service (UPS) and is widely used for tracking and organising package deliveries.
MaxiCode can encode all 256 ASCII characters and has the capacity to hold up to 93 alphanumeric characters or 138 numeric characters.
Here is what you should look for when identifying a Maxicode:
- Look for the hexagonal grid: MaxiCode is made up of offset rows of hexagonal modules arranged around the finder pattern at the centre.
- Observe the bullseye pattern: At the centre of a MaxiCode barcode, you will find a bullseye pattern. This pattern consists of concentric circles surrounding a central module.
- Recognise the circular and hexagonal modules: MaxiCode barcodes consist of alternating rows of circular and hexagonal modules. Each row contains either 29 or 30 hexagonal modules.
MicroPDF417 is a subset of the PDF417 barcode and is similar to PDF417 in structure. The barcode supports all 256 printable ASCII characters as well as 8-bit binary data and can store up to 250 alphanumeric characters, 366 numeric digits and 50 bytes of data.
MicroPDF417 is utilised across multiple industries, including logistics, warehousing, government, and inventory management.
To visually recognise a Micro PDF417 barcode, consider the following aspects.
- Look for the stack of rows: Micro PDF417 barcodes feature a stack of vertically aligned rows. The number of rows can range from 4 to 44, depending on the encoded data.
- Recognise the codewords: These barcodes encode data using codewords. Codewords are groups of bars and spaces that represent numbers, letters, or symbols. Each codeword is encoded using a set of four bars and four spaces, forming a pattern of 17 rectangular modules in a single row.
- Note the Row Address Patterns: Row Address patterns are similar structures placed within the barcode at the left and right sides of each row.
JAB Code, short for Just Another Barcode, is a coloured 2D barcode symbology composed of colourful square modules arranged in square or rectangular grids. This barcode can encode numeric digits, uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation marks, mixed characters, alphanumeric data, and binary data. JAB code finds use in industrial product identification and the pharmaceutical industry.
Identifying a JAB code is relatively straightforward, thanks to its distinct features and colours.
- Look for the colourful square modules: JAB codes are composed of colourful square modules arranged in a square or rectangular grid. The vibrant colours make JAB codes visually striking and set them apart from other barcode symbologies.
- Recognise the colour variations: These codes support two colour variations: four-colour and eight-colour codes. The four-colour variation utilises cyan, magenta, yellow, and black colours. In addition to these primary colours, the eight-colour variation incorporates secondary colours of blue, red, green, and white.
- Identify the primary symbol: A JAB code typically consists of a central primary symbol, which serves as the core component. The primary symbol can be identified by the presence of four finder patterns located at the corners of the symbol.
- Note the secondary symbols: Within a JAB code, there can be additional secondary symbols surrounding the primary symbol. Secondary symbols do not contain finder patterns and can be connected or docked to the primary symbol or other secondary symbols either horizontally or vertically.
Code 1 Barcode
Code 1 is the first 2-D barcode symbology available in the public domain. It supports all 256 ASCII characters, function characters, and 8-bit binary data. It finds applications in the healthcare and recycling industries.
To identify a Code 1 barcode, here’s what to look for:
- Look for the grid-like arrangement of modules: Code 1 barcodes have a grid-like arrangement of square modules.
- Identify the finder pattern: The finder pattern is represented by a series of horizontal and vertical bars that intersect in the middle of the symbol.
- Note the barcode shape: Code 1 barcodes offer the flexibility to design the barcode in various shapes. They can be designed in L, U, or T shapes, providing versatility in the layout and integration of the barcode.
Practical Applications of Barcode Identification
Barcode identification is essential to many different industries, including retail, logistics, healthcare, and manufacturing. By offering a standardised method to manage data, barcodes boost efficiency and minimise errors.
Let’s take a look at some practical applications of barcode identification.
- In warehouses, recognising barcodes at a glance helps staff choose the right barcode scanner and its settings. This simple act streamlines the process, saving time and reducing errors.
- In the shipping industry, different barcode types are used for various purposes. They track parcels, confirm shipping details, and oversee inventory on the move. Knowing the barcode type means understanding the information it holds, leading to quicker, more efficient operations.
- Libraries use barcodes to keep track of their vast collections. Different formats hold different information. For example, linear barcodes like Telepen label files, while QR codes can store detailed data like URLs or contact details. Recognising these formats helps librarians access the right information swiftly.
Barcode identification plays a pivotal role in enhancing operational efficiency across many sectors. Recognising different barcode types enables staff to use the correct barcode reader and manage data with increased speed and precision, significantly minimising the margin for error.
As various industries continue to digitise and automate, the knowledge and understanding of barcode symbologies remain a crucial skill set, contributing to the seamless functioning of modern day-to-day operations.
We hope this article has provided some useful insight into how to identify barcode types visually.
Thanks for reading!