Barcode Languages

There are a number of different types of barcode languages (data carriers) to satisfy the many types of barcode applications.


upcAThe UPC-12 is the most widely used and most recognized symbol in the United States. Its primary usage has been for product identification in the retail industry.

This symbol has a fixed length of twelve numeric characters. The data encoded within a UPC-A conforms to a standardized format (See illustration). The twelfth digit of a UPC-A symbol is a calculated check character computed from the eleven prior numbers.

For more information regarding UPC barcodes, click here

To order GS1 UPC Barcodes, click here


upcEUPC-E only codifies 8 numbers. This data carrier is referred as “zero suppressed” since it represents a condensed version of the twelve data characters of a UPC.


39EAN-13 bar code is exactly the same as a UPC-12, however the first digit is not assumed to a zero. All scanners which are able to read a UPC-12 can also read an EAN-13.  This barcode is widely used globally outside of the United States.

Code 3 of 9 (Code 39)

EANCode 3 of 9 (also referred to as Code 39) is a very common bar code language which can represent alphanumeric characters of varying length. The start/stop characters for Code 39 symbols is always an asterisk (*).

Interleaved 2 of 5 (I 2/5)

i25Interleaved 2/5 is a high density code of variable length. Only an even number of numeric data can be encoded within this symbol. This “double density” symbol encodes odd positioned data in the bars, and even positioned data in the spaces.

ITF-14 (GTIN-14)

gtin14The ITF-14, is used to mark cartons, cases, or pallets that contain products which have UPC or EAN identification numbers. The container symbols are used by retailers, manufacturers, and distributors for accurate logistical and inventory handling. The data carrier used to encode the ITF-14 is Interleaved 2of5.

Code 128

code128Code 128 is a very compact and versatile language which allows the encodation of the entire 128 ASCII character set. This symbology is self-checking and is designed with geometric features to improve scanner read performance.


ucc128This language is a variation of the Code 128 symbology designed primarily for product/shipment identification applications. The GS1-128 specification uses the same code set as Code 128, however a special character (function 1) is used as part of the start code in the symbol. In addition, this symbol  symbol utilizes standardized application identifiers (AI’s).

GS1 Databar

The GS1 DataBar (formerly known as RSS or Reduced Space Symbology) was formally adopted by the global supply chain in January 2011. It can carry all 14 digits of a manufacture’s GTIN and is more than 50% smaller than the currently used UPC and EAN symbols.Databar_1


codabarCodabar is a self-checking language which encodes 16 data characters:0-9,6 special characters (-$:/.+).


postnetThe Postnet (Postal Numerical Encoding Technique) barcode was developed by the US Postal Service to encode ZIP code information on letter mail. Postnet symbols differ from other barcodes, because the individual barcode height alternates rather than the bar width.

QR Code

qrcodeQR Code is a 2 dimensional barcode, commonly used for mobile marketing campaigns.


PDF417 is a high density, two dimensional barcode consisting essentially of stacked lower barcode sets. This symbology is able to encode all the ASCII table characters (255).



Retail Barcodes

Virtually all retailers, distributors and stores use retail barcodes to maximize efficiency within their operations.  Common uses include:

Point of Sale


Inventory Management

Shipping/Receiving Operations



Barcode Tracking

racklabels containerstackslab.pic

All businesses have internal operations which require something to be tracked such as: files, specimens, equipment, people, containers, trucks and many more. Many tracking applications utilize Automatic Identification Data Capture (AIDC) technology to maximize efficiency. In order to select the appropriate barcode for a specific application there are number of factors which need to considered:

  • Data Type & Length –
  • Size and placement of barcode on item
  • Scanning environment
  • Equipment capabilities

Here’s a few of the most commonly used barcodes for asset barcode tracking applications:

DataMatrix – PDF 417



Code 3 of 9



Code 128 






Barcode Compliance

Due to the wide variety and complexities of different supply chains, trading partners will require a specific barcode to support their operations.  Many retail and healthcare requirements are aligned with the GS1 General Specifications.

GS1-128 Concatenated




GS1 DataMatrix


GS1 Databar



  • UPC (GTIN-12)

  • ISBN/Books

  • Medical/UDI

  • Supply Chain

  • Assets/Inventory

  • Coupon

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There are a variety of different types of barcodes. However, the UPC (Universal Product Number) symbol is the most recognized barcode in the United States, since it appears on almost every retail product. The UPC symbol is the barcode representation of the GTIN-12 which consists of twelve numeric characters that uniquely identify a company’s individual product. The GTIN-12 number is part of the family of GS1 global data structures that employ 14 digits and can be encoded into various types of data carriers.

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A requirement for selling a book through booksellers, wholesalers, and distributors is the assignment of unique ISBN numbers for each title and for each book to be marked with a Bookland EAN barcode.

The Bookland symbol allows for encodation of ISBNs (the numbers publishers use to identify their products). Since an ISBN is unique to one particular title (or product), the corresponding Bookland EAN symbol is a title-specific marking which is unique for that title. For example, if a title is available in hard cover, soft cover and as an e-book, three unique ISBN Bookland EAN bar codes are required.

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The FDA UDI Mandate is part of a comprehensive healthcare traceability initiative to improve patient safety.  The Unique Device Identifier (UDI) requirement is rooted in holding each member of the supply chain responsible for ensuring each medical device is marked with a UDI barcode with data maintained on the FDA’s GUDID universal database.

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Supply Chain

Logistic barcodes such as the GS1-128 Shipping Label are used to track movement of a shipment within a supply chain.  Since suppliers are making shipments to a variety of trading partners it is essential to integrate the relevant standards and current technology.  The use of EDI and 2D barcodes which can encode much more data has transformed many supply chains.

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The first step in designing an asset tracking system is to determine whether you are working with assets or inventory.  Assets are any items a company uses internally such as tools, equipment, furniture etc.  Inventory are items which are sold, distributed or used by a company.  The distinction between Assets and Inventory is essential in regards to how the items will be marked, scanned and stored.

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The successful integration of GS1 DataBar Coupons has dramatically improved many promotions.  The interhent features including; value codes and automatic expiration date checking for retailers, has enabled more efficient redemption, much better security and better metrics to measure the performance of a campaign.

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Bar Code Graphics

Bar Code Graphics