How to Identify a Barcode Format

Often times you may need to reproduce a barcode that you do not know what type it is. There are two ways to identify type of the barcode - using a capable scanner or visual inspection of its shape and start/stop patterns.

Using Barcode Reader to Identify Barcode Format

Barcode scanners are able to give the data encoded. At the mean time, they know the format. Many barcode scanners can be configured to output the format at the beginning, usually the first letter. The indicator is usually proprietary to the manufacturer; and you need to lookup the manual to find out what it means. Some scanners can be configured to output AIM Symbology Identifier (SI) at the beginning, which is a public standard for barcode identification.

Visual Inspection

If your scanner does not have the capability to output symbology identifier, you can visually inspect the barcode to determine the type. To make sure that your determination is correct, you can create barcode using our free online barcode generator and compare the patterns. If all patterns matched, it is likely that the determination is correct. This applies on most linear symbologies. For 2D formats unless the encoders are based on the same source code, the resulted images are usually different.

2D Barcode Formats

It is quite easy to identify 2D barcode formats by examining their shapes and unique finder patterns. A finder pattern is like a special mark that exists in all barcodes of the same format - such as the boxes in the center of an Aztec barcode.

Linear Barcodes

Most linear barcodes can be identified by comparing start and stop patterns. Start/stop patterns tell barcode reader where to start and end.

SymbologyDescriptionAlso Known AsExample
Code 39Code39 is a simple format that encodes alphanumeric data (capital letters and some punctuation).LOGMARS, HIBC LIC
Extended Code 39Extended Code39 is capable of encoding all 128 ASCII characters. It is compatible with normal code39 and scanner must be configured to read in extended mode in order to get the correct results. 
Code 128Code128 is capable of encoding all 128 ASCII characters. It starts with one of the three start patterns: A, B and C. The stop pattern is always the same for all Code128 barcodes.ISBT 128, USS Code 128
UCC/EAN 128 (GS1-128)UCC/EAN-128 encodes structured data with each piece of data starts with a unique AI (application identifier). It is used widely across many industries. The barcode usually has a "C" start pattern followed by a unique character (FNC1).UCC 128, EAN 128, GS1 128, SCC-14, SSCC-18, GTIN, EAN14
Interleaved 2 of 5Interleaved 2 of 5 encodes numeric data in a compact format. It is primarily used to encode GTIN-14/SCC-14 number, also referred as ITF14.ITF-14, ITF25, DUN14, SCC-14