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Barcode glossary

Looking for a specific term related to 1D or 2D barcodes? Find out what it means with our barcode glossary!

For an overview of the most common barcode types, please refer to our blog post.

1D barcode

Holds limited amount of data encoded by lines of varying widths and the spaces between them. Can be read by both optical laser scanners and imagers/cameras.

2D barcode

Consists of a grid of pixels that can have either an on (black) or off (white) state. It usually has a visual marker and a quiet zone for easier detection. Can be read using imager scanners and cameras. Learn more about types of barcodes.

alphabetical character

Represents human speech, which many barcodes can encode.

e.g., A-Z, Kanji

alphanumeric character

Alphabetical or numerical character, which many barcodes can encode.

e.g., A-Z, 0-9

American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII)

Character encoding standard that covers 128 characters, including control characters. It was later integrated into the Unicode character set.

e.g., A-Z, a-z, 0-9, !, ?, %

camera scanner

Device that uses a camera lens to record an image of a machine-readable pattern, which it then decodes.

charge-coupled device (CCD)

CCD barcode scanners use LEDs to illuminate a barcode and recognize it based on its reflection. These are generally better at reading wider barcodes than laser scanners.

check digit

Part of a barcode that can be used to confirm that it was scanned successfully. Simple algorithms can be used to determine a check digit.


Data derived from other data to detect if any errors have been introducted. The result can be used as a check digit in barcodes.

clocking pattern

Enumerates the rows and columns of a 2D barcode’s pixel matrix.

data density

The amount of information that can be encoded in relation to the virtual or physical space it occupies. 2D barcodes generally have a higher data density than 1D barcodes.

direct part marking (DPM)

The process of permanently applying a barcode to an item, e.g., through embossing. This makes it possible to identify the item throughout its whole lifecycle.

end pattern

A pre-defined value that tells scanners where a barcode’s data ends.

Start and end patterns on PDF417 codes
European Article Number (EAN)

Barcoding and numbering standard used to identify products. Also called International Article Number and equal to the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN).

EAN Barcode Scanner
European Payments Council (EPC)

EU organization that aims to harmonize payments across Europe. They developed the EPC QR Code, also called GiroCode, for easy digital payments.

finder pattern

Areas of a barcode that are clearly distinguishable from its data patterns and help scanners locate the code. The QR code‘s three squares are a good example of this.

Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)

The global equivalent to the NTIN, unique worldwide. If certain product characteristics change, the GTIN must change as well, which makes it very specific.


A nonprofit organization maintaining standards for encoding information through barcodes. This allows for connecting a data structure with a data carrier.

e.g., GS1-128, GS1 Data Matrix

handheld scanner

Scanning device that is small and light enough to be held in one hand. Very common in the retail and logistics industries.

hardware scanner

Device whose scanning capabilities mainly derive from its hardware instead of its software components.

imager scanner

Device that uses light to record an image of a machine-readable pattern, which it then decodes.

Interleaved 2 of 5 (ITF)

Barcode symbology that encodes numbers in pairs and uses both the black lines and the white space in between for higher information density. Also called Standard Distribution Code. Learn more about ITF Code Scanner.

ITF Barcode Scanner
International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Trade association of airlines. Uses the Standard 2 of 5 barcode symbology for air cargo, which is why it is also called IATA 2 of 5.

International Organization for Standardization / International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC)

Two international organizations consisting of corresponding national organizations. Their purpose is to develop standards (including for certain barcodes) used by all member states.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

Unique code used to identify books. A subset of EAN that contains information like the book’s publisher and title and is often accompanied by a barcode.

laser scanner

Device that uses deflected laser beams to recognize machine-readable patterns, which it then decodes.

Modulo 10 (mod 10)

Simple method of calculating a checksum. It works by adding up every digit from right to left but doubling every second one (subtracting 9 if it is then higher than 9), and finally checking if the last digit is 0, which means it’s valid.

National Trade Item Number (NTIN)

The national equivalent to the Global Trade Item Number. Whereas a GTIN is unique worldwide, a NTIN may not be, as it is only controlled nationally.

pen scanner

Small device that is pressed onto and moved along printed text, which it scans in the process.

Pharmacy Product Number (PPN)

Harmonization of different national number systems for pharmaceutical products. A national number can be easily converted into a PPN.

pixel matrix

Pattern used by most 2D barcodes. It arranges tiny squares on the horizontal and vertical axes and gives them an “on” (black) or “off” (white) state.

Royal Mail Barcode Scanner
Portable Data File (PDF)

The abbreviation (not to be confused with the file type “Portable Document Format”) appears in the name of the 2D barcode PDF417, which is actually a stacked linear barcode.

Quick Response (QR)

Name given to a barcode symbology developed in Japan and initially used to quickly identify motorvehicle parts.

quiet zone

Area around a barcode that does not encode any data. This helps scanners differentiate the barcode itself from its surroundings. The Aztec symbology saves space by not requiring a quiet zone: There’s a finder pattern in its center instead.

Reed-Solomon error correction

Allows codes to detect and sometimes correct their own errors, so they can still be correctly read even if partly damaged. Also used in CDs and DVDs.

Software development kit (SDK)

Collection of tools and code to allow for the development or integration of specific software.

special character

Punctuation mark or other non-alphanumerical character, which some barcodes can encode.

e.g., !, ?, %

start pattern

Pre-defined value that tells scanners where a barcode’s data begins.

Start and end patterns on PDF417 codes

Barcode type. There are many different 1D and 2D symbologies that differ in their visual appearances, the amount of data they encode, and their security characteristics.

timing pattern

Alternating sequence of black and white pixels arranged horizontally and vertically. Helps scanners read codes even when they are distorted.

Universal Product Code (UPC)

Barcoding and numbering standard used to identify products. A UPC-A code can be converted into an EAN-13 code by prepending the number 0.

UPC Code Reader
vehicle identification number (VIN)

Unique code used to identify vehicles. Often found near the windshield and sometimes accompanied by a barcode. Learn more about VIN Scanner.

Information contained in VIN

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