What are barcodes and why do we need them?

Barcodes are graphical representations of data that are hard for people to read but very easy for scanners to read. These codes come in various formats and are used all over the place for so many reasons. Some are lines others are blocks and they come in many styles.

Barcodes started out as 1D codes that look like a series of virtical lines taht come in various thincknesses and represent a small amount of date. Some examples include EAN, UPC and ISBN which are found on products and books you encounter every day. Here are some samples:

UPC Barcode

UPC-A Code

 

EAN Barcode

EAN-13 / ISBN-13 Code

 

For slightly more complex data that includes numbers and letters and some times punctuation, there are other types of barcodes such as Code 39, Code 128, Interleaved 2 of, Codabar, MSI and Plessey. Examples of these are shown here:

Barcode Code 39

Code 39 (limited text)

 

Barcode Code 128

Code 128 (full text)

 

Interleave 2 of 5

Interleave 2 of 5 (digits only)

 

Barcode Codabar

Codabar (digits and limited punctuation)

 

Barcode MSI

MSI (digits only)

 

Barcode Plessey

Plessey (digits and letters A-F)

 

You can see that all of these have the same basic format of vertical lines. They are actually very different in the the way they encode the data though and not all scanners can understand all of the different barcodes.

There are also a number of 2D barcodes. These look like retangles or squares filled with dots or blocks. These require image scanners that can see the entire image not just a stripe through the middle of the code. There are several different types of these codes. One of the most popular codes at the moment is the QR Code which stands for Quick Response Code and you have probably seen it in advertisements. Here are some examples of 2D barcodes.

Barcode QR Code

QR Code

 

Barcode PDF417

PDF417

 

Barcode Aztec

Aztec

 

Barcode Maxicode

Maxicode

 

Barcode Data Matrix

Data Matrix

You can see that these are far more complex than the standard 1D barcodes. They also store a lot more data in a much smaller area in relative terms. You will find these in warehouses and on shipping packages. Many people and government agencies are using these codes on ID badges and ID cards to store information.

If you need to make your own barcodes, you can do it here on this site. We have two pages related to making barcodes. One page for 1D and one for 2D barcodes because the two are created in very different ways. Use these links to get to the pages where you can make your own FREE barcodes.

1D Barcodes or 2D QR Codes

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