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  A barcode symbology is the encoding scheme used to express numerical and character data with a pattern of bars and spaces in a bar code. These bars and spaces are the elements of the symbology.


UPC (Universal Product Code) symbols are used for retail applications in the United States and Canada. UPC(A) is a 12-digit format. The symbol consists of 11 digits of data and one check digit. The first digit usually represents the type of product being identified. The following five digits are a manufacturer's code, and the next five digits are used to identify a specific product. UPC(A) codes must be numeric.


Like UPC(A), UPC(E) is used for retail applications; however, since the bar code is smaller, it is better suited to smaller items. This format is also called "zero-suppressed," because UPC(E) compresses a 12-digit UPC(A) code into a six-digit code. UPC(E) suppresses the number-system digit, trailing digits in the manufacturer's code, and leading zeros in the product identification part of the code.

An optional two or five-digit number may be added to the main UPC(A) or UPC(E) bar code. This number is designed for use on publications and periodicals, and appears as an additional bar code to the right of the main bar code. UPC(E) codes must be numeric.


The European Article Numbering (EAN) system is the European version of the Universal Product Code (UPC). This code is now called the International Article Number; however, the EAN abbreviation remains. EAN codes are found on European retail items. EAN-8 encodes eight numbers, consisting of two country-code digits, five data digits, and one check digit. An optional two- or five-digit number can be added to the main bar code. This number is designed for use on publications and periodicals, and appears as an additional bar code to the right of the main bar code.


EAN-13 is the European version of the Universal Product Code (UPC (A)). The difference between EAN-13 and UPC (A) is that EAN-13 encodes a 13th number into the left six number of a UPC (A) symbol. The 13th number, combined with the 12th number, represents a country code.
An optional two- or five-digit number may be added to the main bar code. This number is designed for use on publications and periodicals and appears as an additional bar code to the right of the main bar code.


ISBN (International Standard Book Number) codes are printed on books. This format is not a separate bar code type. ISBN codes have a specific structure and are encoded using EAN-13 bar codes. The bar code is formed by a fixed three-digit country code of 978, followed by the 10-digit ISBN number. The 10th digit or the check digit is discarded. Enter the digits using the x-xxxx-xxxx format. ISBN codes must be numeric.
ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) codes are printed on magazines, newspapers, and other serial publications. This format is not a separate bar code type. ISSN is an EAN-13 bar code with a 977 country code and a two-digit supplemental code. The two-digit supplemental code contains the issue number. For example, January=01, and February=02. Enter the digits using the xxxx-xxxx format. ISSN codes must be numeric.

Interleaved 2 of 5

Interleaved 2 of 5 is a higher-density numeric symbology based upon the Standard 2 of 5 symbology. It is used primarily in the distribution and warehouse industry. Interleaved 2 of 5 encodes any even number of numeric characters in the widths (either narrow or wide) of the bars and spaces of the barcode. Unlike Standard 2 of 5, which only encodes information in the width of the bars, Interleaved 2 of 5 encodes data in the width of both the bars and spaces. This allows Interleaved 2 of 5 to achieve a somewhat higher density. The symbology is called "interleaved" because the first numeric data is encoded in the first 5 bars while the second numeric data is encoded in the first 5 spaces that separate the first 5 bars. Thus the first 5 bars and spaces actually encode two characters. This is also why the barcode can only encode an even number of data elements.
Interleaved 2 of 5 by itself is a complete specification for barcode type or symbology. However, there are several other specifications developed that specify how the symbology is to be printed or used.

  • USS Interleaved 2 of 5 (Uniform Symbology Specification Interleaved 2 of 5) is the published specification for Interleaved 2 of 5. All of our barcode printing products support the published specification.
  • USPS special services such as return receipts and delivery confirmation may use Interleaved 2 of 5 with a MOD 10 check digit.
  • ITF-14, EAN-14, SCC-14, GTIN & DUN14 - the Interleaved 2 of 5 symbology may be used to create barcodes for these specifications. SCC14 is primarily used for distribution applications and serialized carton tracking.


Codabar format is commonly used in libraries, blood banks, and the air parcel business. The variable-length format allows encoding of the following 20 characters: 0123456789-$:/.+ABCD. The start and stop characters of a Codabar message must be A, B, C, or D.

Code 11

Code 11 is a high-density numeric symbology. It is also known as USD-8. It is primarily used in labeling telecommunications components and equipment. Code 11 is a numeric symbology and its character set consists of 10 digital characters and the dash symbol (-).

Code 39

Code 39, also known as "Code 3 of 9," is the most popular format used in the nonretail market for inventory and tracking. The format consists of three thick elements bars or space sin a total of nine elements for each encoded character. This bar code is used extensively in manufacturing, military, and health applications. The discrete, variable-length format will accept the following 43 characters: 0123456789ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ-.*$/+%
The asterisk (*) is used as the start/stop character and cannot be used in the body of the bar code.You can also add a check digit that helps to ensure the security of the bar code. Code 39 supports Modulo 43 and xxx-nnnnnnn-c check digit formats used by US Customs for import/export shipping.

Code 93

Code 93 was designed to complement and improve upon Code 39 . Code 93 is similar in that it, like Code 39, can represent the full ASCII character set by using combinations of 2 characters. It differs in that Code 93 is a continuous symbology and produces denser code. It also encodes 47 characters compared to Code 39's 43 characters.

Code 128

Code 128 is a variable-length, high-density, alphanumeric format that is used in the shipping and labeling industry. This code has 106 bar and space patterns. Each pattern can have one of three meanings, depending on which of the three character sets is employed. One character set encodes all uppercase and ASCII control characters; another encodes all uppercase and lowercase characters; and the third set encodes the numeric digit pairs 00 through 99. The character set used is determined by the start character.


UCC/EAN-128 encodes data using the Code 128 symbology . UCC/EAN-128 isn't, in and of itself, a symbology --rather it is a standard that defines the format of a Code 128 barcode. That is to say, the symbology is Code 128 but the format of the data encoded within the Code 128 barcode conforms to the UCC/EAN-128 standard. A UCC/EAN-128 can be read by any scanner or program capable of reading a Code 128. However, it's the responsibility of the application to recognize the scanned Code 128 barcode as one conforming to the UCC/EAN-128 standard and interpret it as such. for more information about UCC/EAN, please visit here:


PDF417 is a high-capacity two dimensional bar code developed by Symbol Technologies, Inc. A PDF417 symbol can hold approximately 2000 characters of information, whereas a traditional linear bar code has difficulty holding more than 30 characters.
PDF417 symbols are constructed from 4 bars and 4 spaces over 17 modules. The symbol size is from 3 to 90 rows. There is no specified minimum or maximum for X or Y dimension. With at least the recommended minimum level of error correction, the recommended Y dimension is 3X. With less than the minimum recommended level of error correction, the recommended Y dimension is 4X. A quiet zone of 2X is specified on each side of a symbol. Because of delta decode techniques the symbology is immune from uniform bar width growth.
The key characteristic of PDF417 is its large information capacity. This also explains its name. "PDF" stands for Portable Data File. PDF417 is designed with enough capacity to contain an entire data file of information. With traditional linear bar codes, the bar code contains only a key or "license plate". The bar code is read to extract the key, and the key is used to look up the information about the object which has been marked. For example, you read the bar code on a can of peas, get a product number, and use this to look up the needed information, such as price and weight, in a database.
PDF417 is used today in a wide variety of applications, including logistics & transportation, retailing, healthcare, government, identification, and manufacturing.


MaxiCode is an error correcting two-dimensional matrix symbol developed by UPS. It is designed specifically for sortation and tracking applications. MaxiCode symbols are constructed of codewords represented by 6 elements that are hexagonal in shape. Generally the 6 elements are arranged in three rows of two elements. Each MaxiCode symbol is of a fixed size, having 866 hexagonal elements arranged in 33 rows around a central finder pattern. Each row has a maximum of 30 elements. Each MaxiCode symbol including quiet zones shall be 32X wide by 35Y. Each element is a hexagon measuring 0.035 inch (0.89 mm) vertically and 0.040 inch (1.02 mm). The size of a MaxiCode symbol is 1.1 inch (28.14 mm) by 1.05 inch (26.65 mm).

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