Types Of 2D Barcodes

Ever wondered how many types of 2d barcodes exist? According to my count, there are 14 types of 2d barcodes. Some of them we know well, like the QR codes, but others are codes used behind the scenes. Some of these codes are stand-alone types of 2d barcodes. Some are variations of other codes. The 14 types of 2d barcodes are Aztec, Codablock F, Code 16k, Code 49, DataMatrix, GS1 Composite, GS1 Databar, Maxicode, Micro PDF417, Micro QR, PDF417, QR, Tag, and Truncated PDF417. Each of these types of 2d barcodes holds different symbols, amounts of information, and amounts of characters.

The Aztec type of 2d barcodes is the smallest and most dependable. It is a matrix type barcode. This type of 2d barcodes was invented by Honeywell. It supports all 256 characters in the ASCII set. It is used for special applications, and can be read from any direction.

Codablock F barcodes are a type of 2d barcodes that can also read all 256 characters in ASCII. It uses Code 128 symbols to make the linear and stacked barcodes. The maximum number of characters this type of 2d barcode can hold is just over 2700.

Another stacked and linear type of 2d barcodes is Code 16k. This also uses the Code 128 symbols and all 256 characters of ASCII. The code input allows the number of rows, row height, and separator bar between rows to be changed. There can be only a maximum of sixteen rows of data in this type of 2d barcodes.

Code 49 barcodes are also known as USS-49 barcodes. They are another set of stacked and linear barcodes. Although the ASCII characters are used for this type of 2d barcodes, only 128 of the characters are recognized. The number of possible rows ranges from two to eight. The rows and row height can be changed. Only 2400 words can be stored in the code for this type of 2d barcode.

As the name of the DataMatrix barcode implies, it is a matrix-style barcode. It uses all 256 characters of the ASCII set. This type of 2d barcodes has limits on everything that can be included in the code. The maximum number of digits for double-digit numbers is 3100. Only 2300 alphanumeric characters can be included, but that number decreases if capital letters and special characters are used. The limit of number of bytes allowed in this type of 2d barcodes is 1550. These codes can be either square or rectangular in shape depending on the code input.

The next type of 2d barcodes is the GS1 Composite. It is linear, but has a 2d part to it. There is a linkage code used to make sure the 2d part and the linear part are read together. In pictures, it looks like a regular UPC code, but it has an extra encoded bar across the top.

The GSI-databar type of 2d barcodes comes in many variations. There is the omnidirectional, stacked, stacked omnidirectional, truncated, limited, expanded, and expanded stacked. There are only slight differences in each of these types of 2d barcodes. The GSI-databar used to be known as the RSS code. (RSS stands for Reduced Space Symbology.) In this code, there are three linear symbols and three stacked symbols.

One of the types of 2d barcodes we see regularly is called Maxicode. This is also called the UPS code. It is actually a faux barcode as no bars are included in the code. The ‘bullseye’ pattern holds shipping and address information for the UPS service. It is normally square in shape with a circle (or set of circles) in the middle. This type of 2d barcodes uses the 256 characters of the extended-ASCII set for information.
The PDF417 and its variation Micro PDF417 both use the full set of 256 ASCII characters. This type of 2d barcodes looks as if it has thick columns on both ends and the coded rows in the middle. These codes are stacked and linear. The PDF417 holds more than a kilobyte of information in the 900 available patterns. The Micro PDF417 is more efficient than its larger counterpart, but it stores less information. Another variation of these is the Truncated PDF417. It holds the same information and uses the same codes, but it is missing either a code word or a stop bar that would make it a complete barcode.

The types of 2d barcodes we are most familiar with are QR (or Quick Response) codes. These are matrix style codes that come in two formats’normal and micro. The normal format of this type of 2d barcodes has squares on three corners so that the user will know which way the code should face. The micro format only has a square in one corner. It is smaller and holds less data. Both formats of this type of 2d barcodes use the full 256 set of ASCII characters, URLs, phone numbers and other information in the codes. These types of 2d barcodes can be black and white or basic colors. The full-sized format of QR codes is found on products, stores, posters, billboards and myriad other places. The micro format codes are found on smaller items like electronics. QR codes were the first types of 2d barcodes. Now, they are everywhere. The creator of the code can also make them traceable to see how many times and where this barcode is read.

The final type of 2d barcodes is Tag barcodes. This type of 2d barcodes uses black and white or full color to code its information. It was created at Microsoft by Gavin Jancke. Information in this type of 2d barcode is connected to a server. The information on the server can be changed without having to change the code on in the Tag. This type of 2d barcode (along with many of the others) allows for large amounts of information to be put into a small space.

There are 14 types of 2d barcodes being used for various reasons today. The most common ones for us are the Tag barcodes (in magazines and on products), QR codes (used in most advertising today), and Maxicode (on packages being shipped). Each of these types of 2d barcodes carries special information for a specific purpose.