Overview of common 1D barcode formats and 2D barcode formats
August 24, 2023 by Klaus

Barcode Types at a glance
Overview of common 1D & 2D barcode formats

Barcodes are ubiquitous nowadays and we encounter them in various industries such as trade, industry, logistics, manufacturing, air travel, healthcare, insurance, parcel services or classically in the supermarket. They serve as an efficient means of automatic identification and data capture of products and information. Since their invention in 1948, several formats have been added, which we describe in the following article.

Integrate our Docutain Barcode Scanner SDK
Integrate high-quality Barcode Scanning into your own apps for Android, iOS, Windows or Cross-Platform for Xamarin, .NET MAUI, React Native, Flutter, Cordova & Ionic. If you like to learn more about the Docutain SDK, click this block or contact us anytime via SDK@Docutain.com.

What barcode types are available?

Basically, one can differentiate between two barcode symbologies: 1D barcodes (one-dimensional) and 2D barcodes (two-dimensional).

1D Barcodes

1D barcodes, also called linear barcodes, are a graphical representation of data in the form of parallel lines and spaces of varying width. They encode information in a single dimension and therefore contain only a limited amount of data. They are still the most common barcode types today.

Common 1D barcode types:

  • EAN:
    European Article Number, probably one of the best known 1D barcodes, mainly used for product identification in retail and distribution worldwide. EAN-13 and EAN-8 are the two most common variants, encoding 13 and 8 digits respectively. Thereby they are often used by libraries, universities or booksellers for the traceability of books.
  • UPC:
    Universal Product Code, a widely used barcode format for product identification in North America, UK, Australia & New Zealand consisting of the variants UPC-A with 12 digits (for most products) and UPC-E with 6 digits (for small items). UPC codes are commonly used in retail to ensure product tracking from production to distribution.
  • Code 25:
    Code 25: A low-density 1D numeric barcode format used primarily for marking warehouse and industrial items that encodes data in pairs of digits.
  • ISBN:
    International Standard Book Number, a unique 13-digit barcode assigned to books for identification in the publishing industry.
  • GS1-128:
    Also known as UCC/EAN-128, a high-density 1D barcode format used for supply chain and logistics applications that encodes various data types and GS1 application identifier.
  • GS1 DataBar:
    Formerly also known as Reduced Space Symbology, a barcode family developed by GS1 and used to identify small items in areas such as healthcare and fresh produce.
  • MSI Plessey:
    Also called Modified Plessey barcodes. A barcode format used in inventory management and grocery stores that encodes numeric data with a fixed number of digits.
  • ITF:
    Interleaved 2 of 5, a purely numeric 1D barcode format with high data density, often used for marking cartons and pallets. To create a symbol, two digits are paired at a time.
  • Codabar:
    A self-checking 1D barcode format that can encode numeric digits and some special characters and is widely used in libraries, blood banks, and photo labs.
  • Code 128:
    A high-density linear barcode that can encode alphanumeric data and special characters and is widely used in various industries such as packaging and shipping due to its versatility and compact size. It also offers high data capacity. Zudem bietet er eine hohe Datenkapazität.
  • Code 39:
    Code 39 is an alphanumeric barcode that can encode uppercase letters, numbers and some special characters. It is often used in various industries for logistics and identification purposes and is one of the oldest barcodes ever. Code 39 is similar to barcode 128, but is not as compact and is limited by a fairly low data density.
  • Code 93:
    A 1D alphanumeric barcode format similar to Code 39, but capable of encoding more characters and used in shipping and identification applications.
  • Industrial 2 of 5:
    A high-density 1D numeric barcode format commonly used in industrial applications and warehouse management due to its compact size and data density.
  • IATA 2 of 5:
    A variant of the 2-of-5 barcode used by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to track air cargo.
  • IMEI:
    International Mobile Equipment Identity, a unique 15-digit barcode used worldwide to identify mobile devices.

2D Barcodes

Unlike linear barcodes, 2D barcodes encode data in two dimensions, which gives them a much higher data storage capacity. To read 2D codes, a reader with a camera is required.

Common 2D barcode types:

  • QR-Code (Quick Response Code):
    The QR code is one of the most popular 2D barcodes. It can store a large amount of data, including text, URLs, contact information, and more. QR codes are widely used in marketing, advertising, and mobile applications.
  • PDF417:
    PDF417 is a high capacity stacked 2D barcode and is widely used for storing large amounts of data such as personal information, airline tickets and ID cards.
  • Data Matrix:
    Data Matrix code is widely used in manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics industries. It can store both numeric and alphanumeric data and encode very large amounts of data in a small space.
  • Aztec Code:
    Aztec Code is a compact 2D barcode that is particularly robust due to its error correction capabilities. It is used in boarding passes, tickets, and industrial identification and is characterized by its space-saving behavior.
  • PPN (Pharmacy Product Number):
    A 2D barcode format used in the pharmaceutical industry to uniquely identify medicines.
  • NTIN (National Trade Item Number):
    NTIN is a 2D barcode format used in some countries for retail product identification.
  • Royal Mail Mailmark:
    A 2D barcode format used by Royal Mail in the UK to improve shipment tracking and processing.
  • Girocode:
    A 2D barcode format used in Germany for fast and convenient money transfers using smartphones or online banking.
  • Swiss QR-Code:
    A 2D barcode format used in Switzerland for e-invoicing and payments to encode banking information and billing data.

What is a GS1 barcode?

In the listings above, several barcodes were exemplary mentioned with the addition “GS1”.

GS1 barcodes are a type of barcode system developed by the global organization GS1 that sets standards for various aspects of business, including product identification and supply chain management. GS1 barcodes are used to uniquely identify products, locations, assets, and more, and they are commonly found on retail products, shipping containers, and inventory items.

A GS1 barcode is essential when you're a manufacturer, distributor, or seller of products that will be sold through retail channels or involved in supply chain management.

The most well-known type of GS1 barcode is the UPC (Universal Product Code), which is widely used in North America for retail products. UPC barcodes consist of a series of parallel lines (the "barcode") and a numerical code underneath. Other types of GS1 barcodes include EAN (European Article Number) used internationally, GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, and GS1-DataMatrix, among others.

GS1 barcodes enable efficient and accurate tracking of products throughout the supply chain, from manufacturer to consumer. They help businesses manage inventory, improve logistics, reduce errors, and provide valuable information to consumers and retailers alike.

1D vs. 2D

While 1D barcodes encode data in a single row of parallel lines, 2D barcodes utilize both horizontal and vertical dimensions, enabling them to store more information in a compact format and support a wider range of applications.

This comparison shows that it really depends on the use case, its complexity and the data space available to decide which barcode scanning technology to use for your business.

💡 Use Case of Barcode Scanner integration

Please see the Success Story of Mediteo GmbH, who successfully integrated the Docutain Barcode Scanner SDK for the recognition of both, 1D and 2D barcodes, in their medication management app mediteo.

In the future, the applications of barcodes may expand further as technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence enable even more precise and versatile use. Barcodes will play an important role in automating and improving business processes, and their importance in the digital world will continue to grow.

Integrate our Docutain Barcode Scanner SDK
Integrate high-quality Barcode Scanning into your own apps for Android, iOS, Windows or Cross-Platform for Xamarin, .NET MAUI, React Native, Flutter, Cordova & Ionic. If you like to learn more about the Docutain SDK, click this block or contact us anytime via SDK@Docutain.com.

You might also be interested in the following articles


What is a barcode?
A barcode, also called a bar code, represents an electronically readable font that contains compressed information. Barcodes consist of gaps and bars of different widths, which are arranged according to a certain coding rule.

How does a barcode work?
A barcode works by encoding information in a series of parallel lines or patterns that can be read by a scanner, which converts the patterns into digital data for processing and interpretation.

Who invented the barcode?
The first barcode was invented by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1948 and patented in the US in 1952.

What is GS1 barcode?
A GS1 barcode is a standardized system for uniquely identifying products, locations, assets, and more using internationally recognized barcode formats developed by GS1, facilitating efficient supply chain management and product traceability.

What is the most common barcode type?
The most common barcode type varies depending on geographic location and industry. However, two of the most widely used barcode types globally are the UPC (Universal Product Code) and the EAN (European Article Number). 1D barcode types like GS1-128 and GS1 DataBar are also widely in use.

Which barcode type supports a large amount of data?
PDF417 codes are ideal for storing large amounts of data.

What is the difference between QR code and barcode?
The QR code is a 2D barcode that stores data in the form of strings. A barcode is a one-dimensional bar code.

Which barcodes can be scanned with Docutain Barcode Scanner SDK?
The Docutain Barcode Scanner SDK can read all common 1D & 2D barcode formats. These include Codabar, Code 39, Code 93, Code 128, EAN-8, EAN-13, ITF, UPC-A, UPC-E, Aztec, Data Matrix, PDF417, QR Code.

Your contact to Docutain

Please tell our colleague Harry Beck how the Docutain SDK can help you with your project. We are looking forward to receiving your inquiry, either by telephone or contact form.