The Most Commonly Used Barcode Formats – The Tools in your Toolbox

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The barcode formats that are used most often in today’s world

Consider these as tools in your toolbox. Whether you’re looking to track the exact location of a product that’s been shipped or want to incorporate a barcode asset tracking system in a big warehouse, for every job that needs to be done, you will need specific barcode formats. It may sound complicated, but in reality, it is very simple. This article will go through the common types so that you can determine which one will work best for your business and if you require more in depth information visit our website

UPC Code

Firstly, you get the UPC – Universal Product Code. It is a retail barcode that consists of 12 digits and used for any item that you would like to sell in a retail store.  It is one of the most common and popular barcode  formats worldwide. This format is predominantly used in the United States of America. This was the first barcode to ever be scanned in a retail store on a pack of chewing gum. It took many years for the perfect format to be created to be used in retail in order to streamline the point of sale, but this one hit the jackpot and has been used ever since in all retail stores as well as online businesses worldwide.

EAN Number

The EAN number is very similar to the UPC. In fact, it is actually the exact same, except that it has 13 digits not 12 digits and it always starts with a 0. It is a newer format than the UPC. It is also used in retailers to sell products and track inventory. Having the extra digit makes the EAN barcode very versatile and this is why most retailers worldwide prefer this code. Although some may still prefer the original UPC format.

A EAN 8 is taken from the much longer 13 digit EAN. It is ideal for smaller labels. The normal EAN is sometimes too large for very small products, such as individual pencils or chewing gum. Therefore, this is the best barcode to use if your product is excessively small. Remember it is always safest to confirm directly with your stores which barcode formats they are able to use at their point of sale before doing a bulk print or purchase.

QR Code

Another code that is often used in retail is a QR code. This barcode is becoming more and more popular as technology progresses. The Quick Response code is a 2D barcode that can be read by a Smartphone that has a simple barcode reader application. This barcode reader translates the code and illuminates the information that is stored in the barcode itself. Some QR codes will store a link to lead the user to a website or it provides other information such as specials or promotions. This format can be used across a vast number of industries in exciting and modern ways.


You may have heard of the book barcode formats, an ISBN. The International Standard Book Number is 13 digits long and identifies the author, title, edition, and format of the book. It is used by publishers, internet retailers as well as libraries and booksellers. If you would like to get a book published, you will need this. There are companies online that are able to assist you with this process step by step. They can advise you of what is required from your side and once you have received your ISBN number, they will then be able to create your unique ISBN barcode to be used on your books.


Similar to this is the International Standard Serial Number or ISSN for short. This is an 8 digit barcode formats  that have been created in order to denote journals, magazines, newspapers, and periodicals as well as printed and electronic media. You will need this if you would like to publish a journal or magazine or if you would like to sell a newspaper.


In order to have your product delivered to any retail store in a large box, crate, case, or pallet, it is necessary to use an ITF-14. These are also called box or case barcodes. They are 14 digits long and are very useful and versatile and are used in retailers throughout the world. These are used in the warehousing and receiving area of the majority of stores across the globe and you will be advised if you require these along with your EAN as they go hand in hand.

The Code 39 was the first alphanumeric code to be created in America in 1974. . It is very common in electronics, government, and health care. The downside is that they cannot be used on very small labels. If you need a very small barcode – the best option is the EAN 8 as previously mentioned in this article.

Lastly, the Code 128 which was created in 1981 is a high density, linear barcode that is used mostly in packaging and shipping worldwide. This is the best to use if you need a large amount of data to be stored in the smallest amount of space. This format is able to store text as well as numbers. When deciding to use to Code-128s for your business there are different kinds that are used specifically for different purposes. One format is called ISBT-128 and this format is only used for in blood products and ISS Code 128 which is has a new option that allows for languages other than English to be used and loaded. But the most commonly used format is the GS1-128.


We hope that this brief article as given you a list of formats that you can refer back to when choosing the format that you would best make use of in your business. Remember you are not limited to only using one type of format you can use all the formats available if you so require. Always ensure that your images are printed at the best resolution and size for scanning and you will not have any problems. Keep track of our article for more in depth information on each format individually.