What is the best barcode to use?

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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-E items for sale in the USA and Canada UPC/EAN
 EAN-8 or EAN-13 items for sale worldwide UPC/EAN
 ISBN, ISSN & Bookland books and periodicals EAN-13 with UPC/EAN
 UCC-128, EAN-128 or SSCC-18 shipping cartons Code 128
 SCC-14 shipping cartons Interleaved 2 of 5
or Code 128
 EAN-14 shipping cartons Interleaved 2 of 5
or Code 128
 SSCC-18 shipping cartons Code 128
 SISAC serial numbers for serial publications Code 128
 SICI Code serial numbers for serial publications Code 128
 POSTNET US mail addresses for the US Post Office POSTNET
 USPS Special Services US mail return receipts and registered mail Interleaved 2 of 5
or Code 128
 MICR bank checks MICR E-13B or CMC-7
 LOGMARS United States Department of Defense standard Code 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.