Types of barcodes and their usage

Barcodes have been around for more than 50 years now, and there’s no end in sight. They first gained traction with the use of UPC and EAN codes on products, making supermarket checkouts much faster. Since then, a lot of different barcode types emerged.

One-dimensional (1D) barcodes or linear barcodes

One-dimensional barcodes can only hold a very limited amount of data. Since they can be detected by optical laser scanners and a lot of this hardware is still around, they are widespread. That is about to change with mobile scanning solutions like an SDK that can be used in any app to scan lots of barcode types.

Code 25

  • Type: Lines with two widths
  • Max. numerical characters: Variable
  • Max. alphanumeric characters: N/A
  • Common usage: Industrial
  • ISO/IEC certification: ISO/IEC 16390

Code 128

Code-128 Example
  • Type: Lines with many widths
  • Max. numeric characters: Variable
  • Max. alphanumeric characters: Variable
  • Common usage: General purpose, product identification (GS1)
  • ISO/IEC certification: ISO/IEC 15417


The GS-1 barcode is a sub-standard of Code 128 and was heavily adopted by the industry because it was introduced as a new standard to encode commonly used data together with an identifier. For example expiration dates, lot numbers, serial numbers and so on. The identifier tells you what data follows and it’s possible to chain multiple kinds of data as well.

Two-Dimensional (2D) Barcodes or Matrix Codes

Different types of matrix barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes are made of a grid of „pixels“ which can have either an on (black) or off (white) state. These pixels usually have a fixed width and height. A visual anchor, called a marker or symbology, makes it easier for the reading devices to find the code. You most certainly know the squares in the corners of a QR code. But there are many more patterns in these types of barcodes, like the central squares of the Aztec code or black lines of the Data Matrix code.


PDF417 barcode example
  • Type: Stacked lines with many widths
  • Max. numerical characters: Variable
  • Max. alphanumeric characters: Variable
  • Common usage: Transportation, Ticketing, Driver’s License, Visa, ID Card
  • ISO/IEC certification: ISO/IEC 15438

‍Learn more about PDF417

Data Matrix

Data Matrix
  • Type: Pixel matrix with L-shaped border as marker
  • Max. numerical characters: 2335
  • Max. alphanumeric characters: 3116
  • Common usage: Industrial, Healthcare
  • ISO/IEC certification: ISO/IEC 16022

Learn more about Data Matrix

QR Code

QR Code example
  • Type: Pixel matrix with markers in the corners
  • Max. numerical characters: 7089
  • Max. alphanumeric characters: 4296
  • Common usage: Marketing
  • ISO/IEC certification: ISO/IEC 18004

Learn more about QR Code

Aztec Code

  • Type: Pixel matrix with marker in the center
  • Max. numerical characters: 3832
  • Max. alphanumeric characters: 3067
  • Common usage: Transportation, Healthcare
  • ISO/IEC certification: ISO/IEC 24778

Learn more about Aztec Code

Other types of 2D barcodes

Other 2D barcodes use dots or colored triangles to be more efficient. These standards are not very common, and the industry focuses on the three options that have been displayed previously.

If you want to implement the Scanbot Barcode Scanner SDK into your workflow, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to bring your ideas to life. Let’s talk.

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