Simply put, They are machine-readable codes or numbers represented by a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths, printed on and identifying Items/products.

Barcodes are used by businesses and organizations to identify and track products, assets and other items. They turn manual product look-ups into an automated process that’s efficient and virtually error free. In practice, barcodes are unique for each item and linked to centralized management in a computer POS software system allowing incredible increases in productivity and efficiency.

If you sell large number of products and track them manually, barcodes can work wonders for you. They automate product management so that when you sell a product, for example, a scanner reads the attached bar code, identifies the unique number associated with it, and completes the sale, pulling up the price and reducing your inventory by one. All of this happens in a fraction of a second—without errors since there’s no manual data entry.

There are Different types of barcodes, used for different applications. prominent are 1D (Linear), 2D/QR codes.

  • 1D (linear) barcodes
    These are the most common type of bar code for products in the retail and wholesale world. They’re used to represent product codes such as European EANs, UPCs, ISBNs, Above is a 1D barcode image, The number is printed on the bar code purely for reference—in case the bar code is damaged and you need to enter it manually. It’s not read by the bar code scanner.
  • 2D barcodes
    These are most commonly seen on carrier shipping labels and have a more complex and robust coding methodology. You probably won’t put these on products, so we won’t go into detail about them here.
  • QR codes
    Quick response (QR) codes can be used to encode several types of data—text, phone numbers, business cards, and more. Most commonly, they’re used for web addresses (URLs), so that when they’re scanned with a phone or tablet, the user is taken directly to that URL.


The pattern of stripes and gaps on barcodes is called the format or “symbology.” Several formats are available to encode different types and amounts of data. It is important to read and understand Barcode symbologies before creating your own barcodes. Code 128 (Free barcodes) and EAN-8, EAN-13, UPC-A (Paid GSI allocation) are the two most common symbologies you may want to concentrate on.

  • Code 3 of 9 Full ASCII (Also called Code 39)
    This barcode can be used to store any of the 128 Full ASCII alphanumeric characters, including upper and lower case letters A-Z, numbers 0-9, and punctuation. Code 3 of 9 Standard (Also called Code 39) Code 39 Standard is the most commonly used barcode. Use Code 39 to store any of the 43 standard alphanumeric characters, including capital letters A-Z, numbers 0-9, and some punctuation.
  • Code 128
    Code 128 is the most easily read barcode and can be used to store any alphanumeric characters. If you are considering using barcodes in your company for free, Code 128 is a good choice.
  • Interleave 2 of 5
    This barcode can only contain numeric information, and is typically used in industrial and master carton labeling.
  • Codabar
    Codabar is often used in libraries and blood banks.
  • Code 93
    Code 93 is similar to Code 39, but allows you to store more characters per inch.
  • MSI Plessey
    This barcode can only store numeric information, and is commonly used in warehousing and inventory control.
  • UPC-A
    UPC-A is a 12-digit fixed-length barcode. This is the most commonly used barcode in retail product labeling. The first 6 digits are unique to your business, and must be assigned to you by GS1 US.
  • UPC-E
    UPC-E is a 6-digit fixed-length barcode. This barcode is a compressed code that is used to mark small packages and paperback books and magazines in retail.
  • EAN/JAN-13
    EAN/JAN-13 can only store 12, 14 or 17 characters. The barcode is similar to UPC-A, but allows you to include the first two digits of a country code.
  • EAN/JAN-8
    EAN/JAN-8 requires the use of 7, 9 or 12 characters. EAN/JAN-8 is similar to the UPC-E, but also allows you to store the first two digits of a country code.
  • US Postal Code
    The US Postal Code barcode is also called POSTNET, and is used by the US Postal service for mail delivery.


The short answer is NO. As a business or shop owner, you can freely generate barcodes for your products and applications as desired. You can use our Online Barcode generator here to achieve that.

However as a Manufacturer, while you can also generate barcodes for free and use on your product, Some top retailers and marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, walmart, Shoprite etc may require their suppliers to use GS1 allocated paid barcodes like UPC. Proper UPC identification enables a more efficient supply chain and end customer experience


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