Barcode Guide

What are the different types of barcodes, and which symbology is best for your project?

Achieved Width

The calculated element width based on measurements.

One Dimensional (1D) Barcode Types

One Dimensional barcodes hold data in vertical lines and spaces of varying widths, and often have human readable numbers below the lines.

Code 39

Industry: Manufacturing, Defense
Common Uses: Identification, Asset Tracking

The Code 39 barcode symbology is one of the most commonly used barcodes in the manufacturing and defense industries. It used to be that there were only 39 characters that could be encoded (A-Z, 0-9), but it has since been expanded to 43 characters (-, ., $, /, +, %, and space). While Code 39 is similar to Code 128, Code 39 requires much more space so Code 128 tends to be favored when labeling very small goods.

Barcode - Code 39

Code 93

Industry: Shipping, Logistics
Common Uses: Asset Tracking and Management, Postal Delivery

Code 93 was designed to improve upon Code 39, with higher density and increased data security in a more compact label. There are 43 characters available plus four shift characters, and a unique start/stop character. This label is commonly used to identify packages in shipping, and is used by Canadian Post to track delivery information.

Barcode - Code 93

Code 128

Industry: Logistics, Transportation
Common Uses: Inventory Management, Shipping & Receiving, Asset Tracking

Code 128 barcodes are high-density, compact, alpha-numeric barcodes commonly used when storing a large amount of data on a relatively small label. A Code 128 barcode has six sections: a quiet zone, a start character, the data sequence, a checksum that verifies that encoded data is correct, a stop character, and another quiet zone. This barcode symbology is commonly used in shipping and supply chain management.

Barcode - Code 128

UPC Code

Industry: Retail, Wholesale Distribution
Variations: UPC-A, UPC-E
Common Uses: Retail, Point-of-Sale, Inventory Management

The Universal Product Code (UPC) is the barcode symbology most commonly found on consumer goods around the world. There are two variations of the barcode symbology: UPC-A and UPC-E. UPC-A features the scannable barcode strip with 12 numbers below. The UPC-E is a smaller, compressed version of UPC-A which eliminates the u201cextrau201d zeros in the symbology. No letters or other characters may appear on the UPC barcode.

Barcode - Code UPC

EAN Code

Industry: Retail, Wholesale Distribution
Variations: UPC-A, UPC-E
Common Uses: Retail, Point-of-Sale, Inventory Management

Similar to the UPC code, the EAN barcode symbology used to be the primary barcode on consumer goods in Europe, but is now found globally. This symbology used to be called the European Article Number, hence the abbreviation EAN, but has since been renamed the International Article Number. Like the UPC code, there is the EAN-13 symbology with 13 digits, and an abbreviated EAN barcode called the EAN-8 with only 8 digits for smaller goods where space is limited.

Barcode - Code EAN

ITF (Interleaved 2 of 5)

Industry: Shipping, Logistics
Common Uses: Product Identification, Asset Tracking, Inventory Management

ITF barcodes encode pairs of digits, the first of which is encoded in the first five bars, the second of which is encoded in the spaces interleaved between them. Two of every five bars or spaces are wide, hence the name u201c2 of 5.u201d These labels are commonly used to label cartons of goods for shipping when the products inside are marked with UPC barcodes.

Barcode - Code ITF


Industry: Logistics, Healthcare, Government
Variations: Code-a-Bar, Ames Code, NW-7, Monarch, Code 2 of 7, Rationalized Codabar, ANSI/AIM BC3-1995, USD-4.
Common Uses: Product/Patient Identification, Asset Tracking and Management, Library Catalog Tracking.

CodaBar is a simple, self-checking barcode that was designed to read even when printed on a dot-matrix printer. The symbology can encode up to 16 different characters and 4 start/stop characters. The main benefit of the CodaBar symbology is that it is easy to print and can be produced on any impact style printer, so the creator of the barcode doesnu2019t even need computer equipment. Today, the CodaBar barcodes are most commonly found in libraries and bloodbanks, but can also be found on FedEx airbills.

Barcode - Code CODABAR

GS1 DataBar

Industry: Retail, Healthcare
Variations: GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional, Truncated, Stacked, Stacked Omnidirectional, Expanded, Expanded Stacked.
Common Uses: Retail, Point-of-Sale, Product Identification

The GS1 DataBar barcode symbology is most commonly used to label fresh food and on consumer coupons at retail locations. It is over 50% smaller than the EAN/UPC symbologies so it can be used to label smaller, more difficult to label items. The GS1 DataBar was first introduced in 2001, and in 2011 it became the mandated symbology for retail coupons.

Barcode - Code GS1 Databar

MSI Plessey

Industry: Retail, Wholesale Distribution
Common Uses: Product identification, Inventory Management

The MSI Plessey barcode is a continuous symbology that is not self-checking. It represents only digits 0-9 and does not contain any characters or symbols. It is primarily used in inventory tracking, such as labeling storage containers and warehouse shelves.

Barcode - Code MSI Plessey

Two Dimensional (2D) Barcode Types

A Two Dimensional barcode has a pattern of squares, dots, or hexagons and can hold much more information than One Dimensional (1D) barcodesu2014usually they can hold hundreds of characters.


Industry: Aerospace, Government, Manufacturing
Variations: Micro-DataMatrix
Common Uses: Identification and Tracking of Assets, Inventory

DataMatrix is a two-dimensional (2D) barcode consisting of black and white cells arranged in a square or rectangular pattern. DataMatrix barcodes can store up to 2,335 alpha-numeric characters depending on the size of the code. The most common use is on very small items, as you can encode fifty characters readable on 2 or 3 mm 2.

Barcode - Code DataMatrix

QR Codes

Industry: Retail, Manufacturing
Common Uses: Product Identification, Advertising, Coupon Offers for Smartphone Users.

The QR code is a 2D matrix barcode originally designed in Japan for asset tracking in the automotive industry.Now QR codes are commonly seen on advertisements, in magazines, and even on business cards, as they have become more popular with the rise of QR code scanner apps on smart phones. A QR code uses four standardized encoding modes: numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji to efficiently store data.

Barcode - Code QR


Industry: Transportation
Common Uses: Ticketing

Aztec codes are 2D barcodes that can encode small to large amounts of data with user-selected percentages of error correction. It is distinguishable by the square bulls eye in the center which locates the code, which is how the symbology got its name. Unlike other matrix barcodes, the Aztec barcode does not require a surrounding quiet zone so they can take up less space.

Barcode - Code Aztec


The label looks amazing.  Thank you for taking the time to meet our requirements and provide the sample labels quickly.  My manager was impressed with how quickly you provided a sample via email.  We look forward to working with you to meet our asset tag needs.

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When looking for a new vendor for labels, I reached to to Express and they were very knowledgeable and helpful. After waiting for days from a large company, these guys had fast turnarounds for quotes, and the pricing was better than the mighty conglomerate that had me waiting.
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Thom H. – AccraFab

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Sandy L.

I just wanted to let you know that the labels arrived in a timely manner and they looked great! I just wanted to express my thanks to you for the outstanding job that you did in making things happen in such a short window.

Robert H.

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Mike O.

We have been buying stainless steel barcode plates from Express for over 10 years. Excellent quality and delivery!

Mike D. – Teklogix

Thank you so much for processing our ID plates so quickly and getting them shipped earlier than projected!  I am sincerely grateful for your efforts with this and providing us the items in a timely manner.  Looking forward to doing business again in the near future.

Mary R.

I just want to say how nice they [the tags] look, how well they were packaged, how appreciative I am that you got them to us in time and communicated with me during this order.  Thank you so much!

Linda G.

We will let you know if we ever need anything else.  Ya’ll have been great!

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Jason D.

We got the labels and everyone here really likes the quality and appearance of them.  I’m working on another order for you of the UID labels and will have that data out next week.  Thanks!

Greg H.

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