There are different types of barcode languages (data carriers) to satisfy the many types of barcode applications.
The UPC-12 is the most widely used and most recognized symbol in the United States. Its primary usage has been for product identification in the retail industry.
This symbol has a fixed length of twelve numeric characters. The data encoded within a UPC-A conforms to a standardized format (See illustration). The twelfth digit of a UPC-A symbol is a calculated check character computed from the eleven prior numbers.
UPC-E only codifies 8 numbers. This data carrier is referred as “zero suppressed” since it represents a condensed version of the twelve data characters of a UPC.
EAN-13 bar code is exactly the same as a UPC-12, however the first digit is not assumed to a zero. All scanners which are able to read a UPC-12 can also read an EAN-13. This barcode is widely used globally outside of the United States.
Code 3 of 9 (Code 39)
Code 3 of 9 (also referred to as Code 39) is a very common bar code language which can represent alphanumeric characters of varying length. The start/stop characters for Code 39 symbols is always an asterisk.
Interleaved 2 of 5 (I 2/5)
Interleaved 2/5 is a high density code of variable length. Only an even number of numeric data can be encoded within this symbol. This “double density” symbol encodes odd positioned data in the bars, and even positioned data in the spaces.
The ITF-14, is used to mark cartons, cases, or pallets that contain products which have UPC or EAN identification numbers. The container symbols are used by retailers, manufacturers, and distributors for accurate logistical and inventory handling. The data carrier used to encode the ITF-14 is Interleaved 2of5.
Code 128 is a very compact and versatile language which allows the encodation of the entire 128 ASCII character set. This symbology is self-checking and is designed with geometric features to improve scanner read performance.
This language is a variation of the Code 128 symbology designed primarily for product/shipment identification applications. The GS1-128 specification uses the same code set as Code 128, however a special character (function 1) is used as part of the start code in the symbol. In addition, this symbol symbol utilizes standardized application identifiers (AI’s).
The GS1 DataBar (formerly known as RSS or Reduced Space Symbology) was formally adopted by the global supply chain in January 2011. It can carry all 14 digits of a manufacture’s GTIN and is more than 50% smaller than the currently used UPC and EAN symbols.
Codabar is a self-checking language which encodes 16 data characters:0-9,6 special characters (-$:/.+).
The Postnet (Postal Numerical Encoding Technique) barcode was developed by the US Postal Service to encode ZIP code information on letter mail. Postnet symbols differ from other barcodes, because the individual barcode height alternates rather than the bar width.
QR Code is a 2 dimensional barcode, commonly used for mobile marketing campaigns.
PDF417 is a high density, two dimensional barcode consisting essentially of stacked lower barcode sets. This symbology is able to encode all the ASCII table characters (255).