2D Barcodes Ultimate Guide: Everything You Should Know

Update:  May 27, 2024
2D Barcodes Ultimate Guide: Everything You Should Know

Feeling overwhelmed and lost in the maze of marketing strategies? 2D barcodes can help you navigate your way through it.

Unlike traditional barcodes, these two-dimensional barcodes pack a wealth of data into a compact grid.

But how do you access this hidden information, and what types of two-dimensional barcodes are there that you can use?

In this article, we'll explain how they work, explore the different types, and show you how to scan them with your smartphone.

You'll also discover how to use the best QR code generator available online to create your own QR codes easily.

What is a two-dimensional (2D) barcode?

A two-dimensional barcode surpasses traditional barcodes in data storage capacity. It compresses information into a smaller area, offering a denser storage space. 

The versatility of two-dimensional barcoding finds application across various sectors, from inventory management and shipment tracking to sharing website links on business cards and facilitating swift access to product details on packaging.

Users can also use this technology by downloading the best barcode scanner app on their smartphones. These apps enable them to decode two-dimensional barcodes on the go and conveniently access the embedded information.

How do 2D barcodes work? 

A two-dimensional (2D) barcode encodes information in a grid or matrix format, allowing it to store far more data than traditional one-dimensional (1D) barcodes, which only use simple lines of varying widths. 

Two-dimensional barcodes can hold diverse data types, including website URLs, files, text messages, contact information, and even images and videos. Think of them as tiny data vaults.

The scanner captures the two-dimensional barcode image and translates the encoded data into a readable format, providing instant access to the stored information.

Unlike one-dimensional barcodes that need a specific scanning angle, two-dimensional barcodes are omnidirectional and can be scanned from virtually any angle. This versatility makes them much more user-friendly.

A guide on how to scan 2D barcodes

Guide when scanning 2d barcodes

Scanning a two-dimensional barcode is easier than you think. Most smartphones nowadays are equipped with camera apps that serve as barcode scanners. Here's a quick guide:

  • Download a barcode scanner app.

Note: This is only applicable if your smartphone does not have a built-in scanner. 

  • Open your smartphone's camera app.
  • Point your camera at the two-dimensional barcode. Make sure it's well within the frame.
  • Wait for the app to detect the code, interpreting the pattern of light and dark modules.
  • Click the popup link to open the encoded data.

It is also worth taking note that many two-dimensional barcodes are designed with "error correction" capabilities. 

This feature enables the scanner to accurately decode the information even if the code is slightly damaged or scratched.

As a result, users can enjoy a seamless and dependable scanning experience.

Different types of barcodes you should know

Five types of 2d barcodes

Let’s explore the diverse world of two-dimensional barcodes and each type's unique characteristics and applications.


Looking for a way to encode more data than a QR code allows? Meet PDF417, the barcode designed for handling extensive information.

Whether it's for inventory management, detailed shipping labels, or legal documents, PDF417 has got you covered. 

It efficiently manages large volumes of data, ensuring safe and seamless transmission despite their relatively small size.

QR code

2D QR codes are the most widely recognized types of two-dimensional barcodes.

Traditional barcodes, commonly found on products, are restricted to storing just 10-30 characters. In contrast, QR codes serve as miniature data repositories, capable of holding up to 2000 characters.

If we do a QR code vs barcode comparison, it's clear that QR codes surpass the latter in data capacity, making them ideal for diverse applications beyond mere product identification.

They can encode website URLs, comprehensive product details, contact information, or even brief text snippets. 

This flexibility renders them a potent instrument for information sharing and marketing campaigns.

Data matrix 

Never underestimate the power of small things. Take, for example, Data Matrix barcodes.

This type of two-dimensional barcodes are even often compared to QR codes in a data matrix code vs QR code discussion. 

These tiny squares are commonly found on electronic components or product packaging. Despite their size, they possess an unexpected capacity for data retention. 

Their design makes them resistant to damage and harsh conditions, guaranteeing their scannability even when scratched or worn. 

This quality renders them perfect for tracking parts in manufacturing, storing information on medical devices, or encoding complex product details.


MaxiCode is an example of the many types of barcodes. These two-dimensional barcodes function as the backbone of the shipping sector. 

They encode abundant details about a package, including destination, weight, and tracking specifics. 

Their unique structure and dimensions allow efficient scanning at multiple junctures during shipping, guaranteeing a quick and secure delivery of your package to its intended location.

Grid matrix

Grid Matrix barcodes are versatile two-dimensional barcodes used for various applications, from product identification and inventory management to marketing campaigns. 

Their adaptable format allows them to be customized to hold a range of information, making them a valuable tool for businesses across multiple industries.

How do QR codes differ from other 2D barcodes?

How QR codes differ

While QR codes are the rockstars of the two-dimensional barcode world, they're not the only performers on stage. 

Unlike traditional barcodes that only store basic data, various other types of two-dimensional barcodes offer specialized functionalities. 

For example, PDF417 barcodes are data powerhouses for legal documents, while data matrix codes excel in harsh environments, like on medical devices.

Now, the question is, in which area do QR codes shine? Their strength lies in versatility. 

QR codes can hold a broader range of information than other specialized two-dimensional barcodes, making them perfect for everything from website links to event tickets. 

This flexibility, combined with their easy scannability with most smartphones, has driven their widespread adoption. 

It’s also important to note that there are different types of QR codes wherein each is tailored for a specific purpose. 

For example, the lesser-known type of QR code, MicroQR, as its name implies, is a mini QR code with reduced data storage. 

Despite its small size, it can manage kanji, special characters, and even graphics, making it ideal for tiny items like machine parts.

These specialized QR codes might need dedicated scanning apps to interpret the data they hold.

While the QR code will replace barcode narrative is a bit dramatic, their user-friendliness and adaptability have certainly made them a dominant force in the two-dimension barcode arena.

According to QR TIGER’s latest QR code statistics report, here are the top 10 most popular QR code solutions:

  • URL 
  • File
  • vCard 
  • Link in Bio (Social media) 
  • MP3
  • Landing page (HTML) 
  • App Store
  • Google form 
  • Menu 
  • Text 

However, for situations requiring richer product information or interactive experiences, GS1 Digital Link QR Code barcodes are gaining popularity. 

These combine the familiar QR code format with the GS1 Digital Link standard. 

This standard ensures that the information encoded within the QR code links directly to a web address containing detailed product information.

When users scan a GS1 QR Code, they're directed to an in-depth product page, typically managed by the manufacturer or retailer. 

This offers consumers a more engaging and informative experience compared to traditional barcodes.

What makes QR codes ideal for daily use?

QR codes for daily use

QR code is among the 2D barcodes that have become an essential part of our daily lives. But how do QR codes work and what makes them perfect for everyday use? 

Here are some of the reasons why:


QR codes are designed to provide seamless user interaction. Today, most smartphones have camera apps that also function as QR code scanners. 

Simply open your camera app, point it at the code, and the encoded information will appear on your screen. 

No downloads or special equipment is needed—just point and scan. 

However, if your phone lacks a built-in scanner, you can go online and find a  QR code generator with logo and scanner, making QR code interaction effortless.

Data capacity

QR codes are data powerhouses, capable of storing an impressive amount of information—thousands of characters compared to just a few dozen. 

This makes them perfect for encoding website links, detailed product descriptions, event tickets, and contact information, all neatly packed into a compact square.

Error correction with the best QR code generator

QR codes are designed to endure daily wear and tear. A lot of generators online include built-in error correction. 

This feature ensures that even if the code gets slightly damaged or crumpled, your phone's scanner can still accurately read the information, eliminating the frustration of unreadable codes.


QR codes are the versatile chameleons of the information age, adapting to almost any situation. 

Whether restaurant menus with scannable links or product packaging with detailed information, QR codes provide a dynamic way to engage users and share information. 

Businesses can employ QR codes for marketing campaigns, while individuals can use them for personal projects or on their social media profiles.

Free and open standard

One key advantage of QR codes is their accessibility. Unlike some proprietary barcode formats, QR codes operate on a free and open standard. 

Anyone can generate or use them without facing licensing fees. This makes them ideal for businesses of all sizes and individuals seeking to share information in an engaging and interactive manner.

Creating your own customized QR codes using a QR code generator with logo

Customizing your QR codes can significantly enhance their effectiveness. And the process is easier than you might think. Here's a quick guide:

  1. Go to QR TIGER by clicking the link provided.
  2. Choose a QR code solution and enter the required information.
  3. Click Static or Dynamic QR code and generate.
  4. Customize your new QR code with your chosen color palette, patterns, and eyes, or add your brand logo to boost brand recall.
  5. And lastly, scan your QR code to test its functionality. If it operates smoothly, click "Download" to save it.

Bonus Tips: 

  • Opt for a dynamic QR code to unlock advanced features like data editing and tracking.
  • QR TIGER offers a free trial of its dynamic QR code features, so you can explore the perks before making any commitments. Sign up now—no credit card details required!

Explore the next generation of encoded information with QR TIGER

2D barcodes, specifically QR codes, rapidly transform how we access and share information. And as technology advances, these powerful information carriers evolve with it.

They streamline processes, boost efficiency, and connect the physical and digital worlds seamlessly. 

Yet, we’re only beginning to tap into their full potential. 

With QR TIGER, the best QR code generator, you get enhanced security features, greater data storage capacity, and dynamic content that can be updated even after printing. 

The future of encoded information is bright and brimming with exciting possibilities.

Frequently asked questions

Is 2D code same as QR code? 

A 2D code is a broad term for any square barcode that stores information in two directions. 

QR codes are a specific type of 2D code, identifiable by their distinctive black and white squares. So, while all QR codes are 2D codes, not all 2D codes are QR codes.

What's the difference between 2D and 1D barcodes? 

The main difference between one-dimensional and two-dimensional barcodes is their information storage capacity. One-dimensional barcodes use lines to store limited information. 

While two-dimensional barcodes, such as QR codes, use squares, dots, and patterns to hold much more data, like website links, tickets, or even contact details, making them more versatile and powerful.

What is the difference between 2D and 3D barcodes?

Two-dimensional barcodes use a two-dimensional grid of squares, dots, or hexagons that stores data by converting information into a series of small codes that a scanner can read.

On the other hand, three-dimensional barcodes don't use additional dimensions for data storage. Their "3D" aspect refers to the barcode's physical structure, which is raised or etched onto a surface.

While "3D barcode" might suggest a more advanced technology, it's essentially a two-dimensional with a unique physical feature. 

With their efficient data storage and smartphone scanning capabilities, two-dimensional barcodes remain the preferred choice for most applications.

What is barcoding?

This involves the process of encoding information into a visual format that is readable by machines. 

These codes transform product details, website links, or ticket information into patterns that scanners can easily interpret. 

Many companies use this to track, identify, and manage items efficiently.

Brands using QR codes
PDF ViewerMenu Tiger