Barcode Types: QR codes, Datamatrix and proprietary 2D codes

UPDATE: This post is no longer up to date. To read more about the many types of both one-dimensional and two-dimensional barcodes please see our latest guide to choosing the right barcodes.


We’re coming close to an end with our “Barcode Types” series! We’ve looked at the differences between 1D and 2D barcodes, wrote in detail about the most commonly used 1D barcodes and now we will dig a little deeper into 2D codes.

As you’ve seen in our first post, 2D codes have some special characteristics. They do not use bars but use dots or tiny squares instead and they can contain any kind of alpha-numeric data. They can hold significantly more data than a 1-dimensional barcode while guaranteeing up to 30% fault tolerance in the case of a QR (Quick Response). The data cannot be read with a laser scanner and needs to be decoded using a 2D code scanner.

The most popular code is the QR code. With their strong consumer focus QR codes are typically found on advertisements, magazines and business cards. The QR code is free to use and quite flexible in terms of size and error-tolerance.

As the presence of QR codes is growing outside Japan, more and more people start to use them. Scan rates are still at fairly low levels, however – and most often this can be attributed to a missing value proposition. Here are our 3 tips for better response rates using QR codes:

  1. Give clear instructions and point out customer value! If people don’t know what’s behind the QR code, what’s the incentive to scan it?
  2. Don’t just link to standard websites with the QR codes. They will be scanned on mobile devices only, so provide a mobile-centric experience, preferably with a website, ad or game that suits the device.
  3. Pure black-and-white QR codes are boring! You can adapt and chance them to certain degree – thanks to the big error-tolerance. An inspiration for nice-looking QR codes can be found here:


The Datamatrix code is another 2D code format that is seeing significant use in logistics and operations – not so much in consumer applications. Because of their tiny footprint Datamatrix codes are often used on items with limited white space, e.g. on product packaging. And even with very small Datamatrix codes the Scandit SDK works very fast and reliably.

In addition to these two 2D code formats, there are also other 2-dimensional codes – some that are standardized and some that are proprietary. The Microsoft “tag” belongs into the latter category. It’s based on triangles rather than dots/squares and makes extensive use of colors to store more information in the same amount of space.

So far, we’ve covered the most common barcodes and 2-dimensional codes in our Barcode 101 series. While we also looked at non-traditional codes like the Microsoft tag, there is a whole range of other codes. In the next and last post of this series we’ll look at at more futuristic barcodes and investigate, for example, 3 and 4-dimensional codes. Stay tuned!


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