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FAQ# 1068:

What is the difference between 1D barcodes and 2D barcodes?


What is the difference between 1D barcodes and 2D barcodes?


With all the smartphone hubbub these days, 2D barcodes are becoming more and more prominent. Perhaps you have wondered what, exactly, a 2D barcode is, and how it differs from a 1D barcode.


The short version is this: A 1D or linear barcode is a series of vertical (up and down) lines stretched out horizontally (left and right). Think of the barcode on your can of soda. A 2D barcode is a series of shapes (usually squares) arranged in a matrix -- up and down, left and right. Think of the QR Codes printed in magazines, intended for smartphone users. 2D barcodes typically allow for much more data to be encoded than linear barcodes.


For a better understanding of this, imagine that you have a very large piece of graph paper on which you intend to create a barcode by hand. Were you to create a linear barcode on this page, you could use a single row of squares or several rows of squares, but the columns would always need to be identical: If a square is black, the square above it, if used, must also be black; likewise the square below it. The only dimension you have available to "encode" data on this paper is the X axis -- horizontal, left-and-right. Conversely, a 2D barcode may use squares in any pattern: If a square is black, the squares adjacent to it need not be black. You have both the X and the Y axes available to you -- horizontal and vertical, left-and-right and up-and-down. Because of this, a 2D barcode is able to store much more data, while taking up no more space.


Hand Drawn Barcode Examples

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