What is the best barcode to use?

Barcode Information | Tutorials | Examples

The type of barcode to use for a particular situation depends upon: (1) the implementation; (2) the data-to-encode in the barcode and (3) how the barcode will be printed. There are several different types of barcode standards for different purposes – these are called symbologies. Each type of symbology (or barcode type) is a standard that defines the printed symbol and how a device such as a barcode scanner reads and decodes the printed symbol.

If an industry standard was established for the chosen barcode then most likely there is not a choice in selecting the barcode symbology. Industry standards are usually established when multiple parties or companies are involved in the process. Note that the standard is not necessarily the same as the barcode symbology. Barcode standards define how to use the barcode symbology in a particular situation. For example, ISBN is a standard for labeling books and periodicals that uses the EAN-13 symbology. Below is a list of a few established barcode standards and what they are used for:

 Established Standard:For Identification of:Barcode Symbology:
 UPC-A or UPC-Eitems for sale in the USA and CanadaUPC/EAN
 EAN-8 or EAN-13items for sale worldwideUPC/EAN
 ISBN, ISSN & Booklandbooks and periodicalsEAN-13 with UPC/EAN
 UCC-128, EAN-128 or SSCC-18shipping cartonsCode 128
 SCC-14shipping cartonsInterleaved 2 of 5
or Code 128
 EAN-14shipping cartonsInterleaved 2 of 5
or Code 128
 SSCC-18shipping cartonsCode 128
 SISACserial numbers for serial publicationsCode 128
 SICI Codeserial numbers for serial publicationsCode 128
 POSTNETUS mail addresses for the US Post OfficePOSTNET
 USPS Special ServicesUS mail return receipts and registered mailInterleaved 2 of 5
or Code 128
 MICRbank checksMICR E-13B or CMC-7
 LOGMARSUnited States Department of Defense standardCode 39

Before selecting a symbology to use, check to determine if there is an established standard for the industry by contacting the respective industry standard board for the correct symbology choice. View the Barcoding for Beginners presentation for assistance in selecting the right barcode –  (PDF version)

Proprietary Implementations:

If it has been determined that there is not a standard for the chosen implementation, there are several symbologies to choose from. It is assumed that a decision has been made as to how the barcodes will be printed. However, if the decision has not been made, review the products available for printing section first, then refer to the document titled what data is encoded in various barcodes to choose the barcode type.