• Barcode Ireland Team

Which barcode is right for you?

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

An extensive guide to barcodes.

Barcode resemblance. Black and white vertical bars lines and spaces resembling a bar code.

What is a barcode?


A barcode (also written bar code) is a series of numbers, letters and unique characters that can be represented graphically according to a predetermined order and following one or more rules or specifications for its generation.

The graphical representation of the barcode information is generally described as a series of parallel lines, bars and spaces of varying widths. Particular industries have adopted a specific type of barcode and created a market standard for the barcode of their products or services in order to make the system and sales funnel more efficient.


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Take a look at the list of barcodes we find in the world today, how they are differentiated and their usages.


Barcodes most commonly used in retail:


EAN-13

EAN-13 barcode
Example of an EAN 13 barcode image

Name: EAN-13

Alternative name(s): EAN, GTIN, European Article Number, International Article Description: 13 digit number

Characters used: Numbers from 0 to 9 Industry: Retail

Usage: Labelling and scanning of consumer goods at the point of sale, POS

This is the most commonly used barcode in the retail sector in the regions of Europe, Africa, and South America. It contains a 13-digit number.

It is also most commonly used during the sale of goods when the products are scanned at the cashier (POS) in supermarkets and stores. Product exceptions include books and journals that require their own barcode (ISBN or ISSN). Medications or medicines that are sold over the counter also use EAN barcodes.

The EAN-13 barcode was derived by adding another digit to the UPC-A barcode (below) so that the EAN-13 barcode could serve the millions of products sold globally.

UPC-A

barcode, barcodes, UPC-A, Ireland
Example of a UPC-A barcode image

Name: Universal Product Code, UPC

Alternative name (s): UPC-A

Description: 12 digit number

Characters used: Numbers from 0 to 9

Industry: Retail (North America and Canada) Usage: Labelling and scanning of consumer goods at the point of sale, POS


The original retail barcode which was developed by Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland, looked very much like a bull’s-eye pattern. Later, a rectangular version was developed by George Joseph Laurer III with centre and side guard rails that helped the scanner detect the direction of the barcode number.

Other changes have been made, including reducing the dimensions and adding a check digit to help authenticate the number and that same barcode is in use today.


ITF-14

barcode, barcodes, ITF-14, Ireland
Example of an ITF-14 barcode image

Name: ITF-14

Alternate name (s): barcodes for packaging or cartons, DUN-14, GTIN-14

Description: 14 digit number

Characters used: Numbers from 0 to 9

Industry: Freight

Usage: Transport of goods in the supply chain.


ITF-14 barcodes are used as barcodes for cartons or boxes derived from the EAN-13 or UPC-A number of the products they contain.

They can be optionally printed with "carrier bars" (thick border along the outside of the barcode).


INTERLEAVED 2 OF 5

barcode, barcodes, Interleaved 2 of 5, Ireland
Example of an Interleaved 2 of 5

Name: Interleaved 2 of 5

Alternative Name (s): ITF

Description: Series of numbers, total is an even number

Characters used: Numbers from 0 to 9

Industry: Film, Retail

Usage: 135 films, ITF-14 barcodes and cartons or boxes of some products while the products inside are labelled with either UPC-A or EAN-13.


Each digit is represented by 2 bars or wide lines and 3 bars or narrow lines. Since this barcode is created by encoding the numbers in pairs, the total number of digits in the number is always the same. If the encoded data is an odd number, an extra zero is placed at the beginning of the bar code number. (Sometimes an odd number is also adjusted by adding spaces at the end of the bar code). Deutsche Post uses variants of Interleaved 2 of 5, called Identcode and Leitcode. Interleaved 2 of 5 provides the basis for creating ITF-14 barcodes.


CODE 11

barcode, barcodes, Code 11, Ireland
Example of a Code 11 barcode image

Name: Code 11

Alternative Name(s): USD8, USD-8

Description: 11 characters, symbology can encode any length string

Characters used: numbers from 0 to 9, or *

Industry: Telecommunications

Usage: Labelling of telecommunications equipment.


Each number, or *, consists of three bars and two spaces. A single narrow space separates consecutive symbols. The * (Asterisk) is used as the start / stop indicator. One or two digits of verification can be included. The barcode image can be displayed with or without the numbers (shown above or below).


CODE 39

barcode, barcodes, Code 39, Ireland
Example of a Code 39 barcode image

Name: Code 39

Alternative Name(s): Alpha39, Code 3 of 9, Code 3/9, Type 39, USS Code 39 or USD-3

Description: Character set limited to 43, variable size. There is no check digit (but a checksum digit that was added to the new versions).

Characters used: 43 characters, consisting of capital letters (A to Z), numerical digits (0 to 9) and several special characters (-,., $, /, +,%, and space). An additional character (denoted '*') is used for the start and stop delimiters.

Industry: Automotive & Defence

Usage: Labelling of goods throughout the supply chain


The CODE 39 barcode can contain up to 43 characters, which are capital letters (A, B, C ...), numbers (1,2,3 ..) or special characters (-, *,., /, +, $ ,% and space) and can be enlarged for a better human reading (ratios of 3: 1 to 2: 1).

Each character uses 5 bars and 4 spaces, 9 in total. The name is derived from the fact that collectively 3 out of 9 are ample and 6 out of 9 are narrow. There is no check digit and each character is separated by a narrow space.

The situations in which it is most often used are in inventories and industrial applications.

CODE 39 MOD 43 - a variation of the original with a check digit.

CODE 39 ASCII complete - adds lowercase letters plus punctuation and control characters.


CODE 93

barcode, barcodes, Code 93, Ireland
Example of a Code 93 barcode image

Name: Code 93

Alternative name (s): None

Description: Letters and numbers, of variable length.

Characters used: Same as Code 39. 26 letters, 10 numbers and 7 special characters

Industry: Other

Usage: Canada Post Delivery Information


This is an improved version of Code 39. The name of Code 93 comes from its design each character is represented by 9 columns of at least 3 bars and spaces. Each bar or space is between 1 and 4 elements wide. Two verification digits are included.

CODE 93 ASCII Full - Variable barcode with 128 characters in total.


EAN-8

barcode, barcodes, EAN-8, Ireland
Example of an EAN-8 barcode image

Name: EAN-8

Alternative name (s): None

Description: 8 digit number.

Characters used: Numbers from 0 to 9

Industry: Retail

Usage: An abbreviated version of EAN-13 used for small retail items.


Some retail items do not have enough space for the standard EAN-13 barcode to be placed on them. Stationery owners and product developers had special difficulty coding their small products. This dilemma was solved using an abbreviated version of the EAN-13 barcode.

Subsequently, EAN-2 and EAN-5 barcodes were introduced to complement larger retail barcodes in products, to distinguish between time periods (in magazines such as January, February issue, etc.) or for weighted products, as in food, such as suggesting a recommended retail price.


CODE 128

barcode, barcodes, Code 128, Ireland
Example of a Code 128 barcode image

Name: Code 128

Alternative Name(s): None, but formally defined as ISO / IEC 15417: 2007

Description: Barcode series with numbers, letters and special characters.

Characters used: Alphanumeric. 128-character ASCII code using the extension symbol,

FNC4 (sets of codes A and B, see below).

Industry: Shipping, packaging and delivery systems

Usage: Applications in the supply chain, freight transport and postal delivery.


There are 4 main sections in a 128 code barcode: