MaxiCode is a public domain, machine-readable symbol system originally created and used by United Parcel Service. Suitable for tracking and managing the shipment of packages, it resembles a barcode, but uses dots arranged in a hexagonal grid instead of bars. MaxiCode has been standardised under ISO/IEC 16023.[1]

A MaxiCode symbol (internally called "Bird's Eye", "Target", "dense code", or "UPS code") appears as a 1 inch square, with a bullseye in the middle, surrounded by a pattern of hexagonal dots. It can store about 93 characters of information, and up to 8 MaxiCode symbols can be chained together to convey more data. The centered symmetrical bullseye is useful in automatic symbol location regardless of orientation, and it allows MaxiCode symbols to be scanned even on a package traveling rapidly.

MaxiCode symbology was released by UPS in 1992.

MaxiCode example. This encodes the string "Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"

Structured Carrier Message

MaxiCode Regions

MaxiCode symbols using modes 2 and 3 include a Structured Carrier Message containing key information about a package. This information is protected with a strong Reed-Solomon error correction code, allowing it to be read even if a portion of the symbol is damaged. These fields include:

  1. A 4-bit indication of the mode in use, currently either mode 2 or mode 3.
  2. A national or international postal code. MaxiCode supports both numeric postal codes (e.g. a ZIP Code), and alphanumeric postal codes.
  3. A 3-digit country code encoded per ISO 3166
  4. A 3-digit class of service code assigned by the carrier

The structured portion of the message is stored in the inner area of the symbol, near the bull's-eye pattern. (In modes that do not include a structured portion, the inner area simply stores the beginning of the message.)

Application-specific information

Irrespective of mode, a variable amount of application-specific information can be encoded in a MaxiCode symbol. This format of this additional data is not strictly defined, and amongst other information may include:

  • Purchase order number
  • Customer reference
  • Invoice number
  • Tracking number
  • Indicator of the originating carrier


  • Mode 0 - Obsolete mode superseded by modes 2 and 3. (Older printers will produce Mode 0 if the firmware is outdated. Mode 0 MaxiCodes can be visually determined by examining the two horizontal hexagons in the upper right-hand corner. They will be white if the Mode is 0. For all other modes, they are black.)
  • Mode 1 - Obsolete mode superseded by mode 4.
  • Mode 2 - Formatted data containing a structured Carrier Message with a numeric postal code. (Primary use is US domestic destinations.)
  • Mode 3 - Formatted data containing a structured Carrier Message with an alphanumeric postal code. (Primary use is international destinations.)
  • Mode 4 - Unformatted data with Standard Error Correction.
  • Mode 5 - Unformatted data with Enhanced Error Correction.
  • Mode 6 - Used for programming hardware devices.

UPS labels use Mode 2 or Mode 3 MaxiCodes.


  1. ^ "ISO/IEC 16023:2000". International Standards Organization. Retrieved 20 December 2018.closed access

External links

Barcode printer

A barcode printer is a computer peripheral for printing barcode labels or tags that can be attached to, or printed directly on, physical objects. Barcode printers are commonly used to label cartons before shipment, or to label retail items with UPCs or EANs.The most common barcode printers employ one of two different printing technologies. Direct thermal printers use a printhead to generate heat that causes a chemical reaction in specially designed paper that turns the paper black. Thermal transfer printers also use heat, but instead of reacting the paper, the heat melts a waxy or resin substance on a ribbon that runs over the label or tag material. The heat transfers ink from the ribbon to the paper. Direct thermal printers are generally less expensive, but they produce labels that can become illegible if exposed to heat, direct sunlight, or chemical vapors.

Barcode printers are designed for different markets. Industrial barcode printers are used in large warehouses and manufacturing facilities. They have large paper capacities, operate faster and have a longer service life. For retail and office environments, desktop barcode printers are most common.

Barcode reader

A bar code reader (or bar code scanner) is an electronic device that can read and output printed barcodes to a computer. Like a flatbed scanner, it consists of a light source, a lens and a light sensor translating for optical impulses into electrical signals.Additionally, nearly all barcode readers contain decoder circuitry analyzing the bar code's image data provided by the sensor and sending the barcode's content to the scanner's output port.


A bokode is a type of data tag which holds much more information than a barcode over the same area. They were developed by a team led by Ramesh Raskar at the MIT Media Lab. The bokode pattern is a tiled series of Data Matrix codes. The name is a portmanteau of the words bokeh—a photographic term—and barcode. Rewritable bokodes are called bocodes. They are circular with a diameter of 3 millimetres (0.12 in). A bokode consists of an LED covered with a photomask and a lens. They are readable from different angles and from 4 metres (13 ft) away by any standard digital camera. Powered bokodes are relatively expensive because of the LED and the power it requires. However, prototypes have been developed which function passively with reflected light like a typical barcode.Bokodes convey a privacy advantage compared to radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags: bokodes can be covered up with anything opaque, whereas RFID tags must be masked by material opaque to radio frequencies, such as the sleeve provided by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles when issuing their enhanced state IDs.

CPC Binary Barcode

CPC Binary Barcode is Canada Post's proprietary symbology used in its automated mail sortation operations. This barcode is used on regular-size pieces of mail, especially mail sent using Canada Post's Lettermail service. This barcode is printed on the lower-right-hand corner of each faced envelope, using a unique ultraviolet-fluorescent ink.


Codabar is a linear barcode symbology developed in 1972 by Pitney Bowes Corp. It and its variants are also known as Codeabar, Ames Code, NW-7, Monarch, Code 2 of 7, Rationalized Codabar, ANSI/AIM BC3-1995 or USD-4.

Although Codabar has not been registered for US federal trademark status, its hyphenated variant Code-a-bar is a registered trademark.It was designed to be accurately read even when printed on dot-matrix printers for multi-part forms such as FedEx airbills and blood bank forms, where variants are still in use as of 2007. Although newer symbologies hold more information in a smaller space, Codabar has a large installed base in libraries. It is even possible to print Codabar codes using typewriter-like impact printers, which allows the creation of a large number of codes with consecutive numbers without having to use computer equipment. After each printed code, the printer's stamp is mechanically turned to the next number, as for example in mechanical mile counters.

Code 11

Code 11 is a barcode symbology developed by Intermec in 1977. It is used primarily in telecommunications. The symbol can encode any length string consisting of the digits 0–9 and the dash character (-). A twelfth code represents the start/stop character, commonly printed as "*". One or two modulo-11 check digit(s) can be included.

It is a discrete, binary symbology where each digit consists of three bars and two spaces; a single narrow space separates consecutive symbols. The width of a digit is not fixed; three digits (0, 9 and -) have one wide element, while the others have two wide elements.

The valid codes have one wide bar, and may have one additional wide element (bar or space).

The decode table has 15 entries because the symbols with two wide bars (1, 4 and 5) are listed twice.

Assuming narrow elements are one unit wide and wide elements are two units, the average digit is 7.8 units. This is better than codes with a larger repertoire like Codabar (10 units) or Code 39 (11 units), but not quite as good as interleaved 2 of 5 (7 units). The non-binary symbology Code 128 uses 5.5 units per digit (11 units per digit pair).

Facing Identification Mark

The Facing Identification Mark, or FIM, is a bar code designed by the United States Postal Service to assist in the automated processing of mail. The FIM is a set of vertical bars printed on the envelope or postcard near the upper edge, just to the left of the postage area (the area where the postage stamp or its equivalent is placed). The FIM is intended for use primarily on preprinted envelopes and postcards and is applied by the company printing the envelopes or postcards, not by the USPS.

The FIM is a nine-bit code consisting of ones (vertical bars) and zeroes (blank spaces). The following five codes are in use:

FIM A: || | || (110010011)

FIM B: | || || | (101101101)

FIM C: || | | || (110101011)

FIM D: ||| | ||| (111010111)

FIM E: | | | | (101000101)All defined FIMs start and end with a bar, and are palindromic, reading the same forward and backward. Thus, there are only 16 possible FIMs, 11 if the current limits of at most 3 consecutive bars or spaces are maintained.

The FIM serves the following purposes: it allows the proper facing of mail for cancellation. It also identifies the manner in which postage is paid (e.g., business reply mail or Information Based Indicia (IBI) postage) and whether that business reply mail has a POSTNET bar code. If the POSTNET bar code is present, the mail can be sent directly to a barcode sorter.

The five codes have the following uses:

FIM A is used for mail bearing regular postage and a POSTNET bar code. It is commonly used by preprinted courtesy reply mail and metered reply mail, but may be applied to any mail to speed delivery.

FIM B is used for business reply mail without a preprinted ZIP+4 bar code. Because this costs more than barcoded mail, it is rarely used.

FIM C is used for business reply mail with a preprinted POSTNET bar code.

FIM D is used only with IBI postage.

FIM E is used to mark customized mail bearing an Intelligent Mail Barcode.


ITF-14 is the GS1 implementation of an Interleaved 2 of 5 (ITF) bar code to encode a Global Trade Item Number. ITF-14 symbols are generally used on packaging levels of a product, such as a case box of 24 cans of soup. The ITF-14 will always encode 14 digits.

The GS1 GEPIR tool can be used to find out the company identification for a given GTIN-14 that is encoded in an ITF-14 Symbol.

The thick black border around the symbol is called the Bearer Bar. The purpose of a Bearer Bar is to equalise the pressure exerted by the printing plate over the entire surface of the symbol, and to enhance reading reliability by helping to reduce the probability of misreads

or short scans that may occur when the scanner is held to a bar code at too large an angle. Such instances of skewed scanning cause the scanning beam to enter or exit the bar code symbol through the Bearer Bar at its top or bottom edge, forcing the scanner to detect an invalid scan since Bearer Bars are much wider than a legitimate black bar.

MSI Barcode

MSI (also known as Modified Plessey) is a barcode symbology developed by the MSI Data Corporation, based on the original Plessey Code symbology. It is a continuous symbology that is not self-checking. MSI is used primarily for inventory control, marking storage containers and shelves in warehouse environments.


PDF417 is a stacked linear barcode symbol format used in a variety of applications; primarily transport, identification cards, and inventory management. PDF stands for Portable Data File. The 417 signifies that each pattern in the code consists of bars and spaces, and that each pattern is 17 units long. The PDF417 symbology was invented by Dr. Ynjiun P. Wang at Symbol Technologies in 1991. (Wang 1993) It is ISO standard 15438.


POSTNET (Postal Numeric Encoding Technique) is a barcode symbology used by the United States Postal Service to assist in directing mail. The ZIP Code or ZIP+4 code is encoded in half- and full-height bars. Most often, the delivery point is added, usually being the last two digits of the address or PO box number.

The barcode starts and ends with a full bar (often called a guard rail or frame bar and represented as the letter "S" in one version of the USPS TrueType Font) and has a check digit after the ZIP, ZIP+4, or delivery point. The encoding table is shown on the right.

Each individual digit is represented by a set of five bars, two of which are full bars (i.e. two-out-of-five code). The full bars represent "on" bits in a pseudo-binary code in which the places represent, from left to right: 7, 4, 2, 1, and 0. (Though in this scheme, zero is encoded as 11 in decimal, or in POSTNET "binary" as 11000.)

Patch Code

Patch Code is a barcode developed by Kodak for use in automated scanning.


Pharmacode, also known as Pharmaceutical Binary Code, is a barcode standard, used in the pharmaceutical industry as a packing control system. It is designed to be readable despite printing errors. It can be printed in multiple colors as a check to ensure that the remainder of the packaging (which the pharmaceutical company must print to protect itself from legal liability) is correctly printed.

For best practice (better security), the code should always contain at least three bars and should always be a combination of both thick and thin bars, (all thick bars or all thin bars do not represent a secure code).

Plessey Code

Plessey Code is a 1D linear barcode symbology based on pulse width modulation, developed in 1971 by The Plessey Company plc, a British-based company. It is one of the first barcode symbology, and is still used in some rare libraries and for shelf tags in retail stores, in part as a solution to their internal requirement for stock control. The system was first used in the early 1970s by J.Sainsbury to identify all of its products on supermarket shelves for its product restocking system.

The chief advantages are the relative ease of printing using the dot-matrix printers popular at the time of the code's introduction, and its somewhat higher density than the more common 2 of 5 and 3 of 9 codes. It has later led several variations as Anker Code by ADS Company, Telxon, and MSI (also known as Plessey modified). It is difficult to have the specifications for them nowadays and thus hard to tell the differences between them (except for MSI), because it was mainly available as a paper document and has since been discontinued.

Postal Alpha Numeric Encoding Technique

The Postal Alpha Numeric Encoding Technique (PLANET) barcode was used by the United States Postal Service to identify and track pieces of mail during delivery - the Post Office's "CONFIRM" services. It was fully superseded by Intelligent Mail Barcode by January 28, 2013.

A PLANET barcode appears either 12 or 14 digits long.

The barcode:

identifies mailpiece class and shape

identifies the Confirm Subscriber ID

includes up to 6 digits of additional information that the Confirm subscriber chose, such as a mailing number, mailing campaign ID or customer ID

ends with a check digitLike POSTNET, PLANET encodes the data in half- and full-height bars. Also like POSTNET, PLANET always starts and ends with a full bar (often called a guard rail), and each individual digit is represented by a set of five bars using a two-out-of-five code. However, in POSTNET, the two bars are full bars; in PLANET, the two-of-five are the short bars. As with POSTNET, the check digit is calculated by summing the other characters and calculating the single digit which, when added to the sum, makes the total divisible by 10.


RM4SCC (Royal Mail 4-State Customer Code) is the name of the barcode character set based on the Royal Mail 4-State Bar Code symbology created by Royal Mail. The RM4SCC is used for the Royal Mail Cleanmail service. It enables UK postcodes as well as Delivery Point Suffixes (DPSs) to be easily read by a machine at high speed.

This barcode is known as CBC (Customer Bar Code) within Royal Mail.

PostNL uses a slightly modified version called KIX which stands for Klant index (Customer index); it differs from CBC in that it doesn't use the start and end symbols or the checksum, separates the house number and suffixes with an X, and is placed below the address. Singapore Post uses RM4SCC without alteration.There are strict guidelines governing usage of these barcodes, which allow for maximum readability by machines.

They can be used with Royal Mail's Cleanmail system, as an alternative to OCR readable fonts, to allow businesses to easily and cheaply send large quantities of letters.


A SPARQCode is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) encoding standard that is based on the physical QR Code definition created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave.


Semacode is a software company based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It is also this company's trade name for their machine-readable ISO/IEC 16022 Data Matrix barcodes, which are used to encode Internet URLs.

Semacodes are primarily aimed at being used with cellular phones which have built-in cameras, to quickly capture a Web site address for use in the phone's web browser. Semacodes are in fact DataMatrix encoded URLs.

The Semacode website states that Semacode tags are an "open system" and that tag creation is "completely unrestricted," with the SDK software tools being free of charge for non-commercial use.Potential uses for Semacode tags are still being explored, and will complement development of the concept of using mobile phones as devices for information gathering and exchange. Suggestions from the website included:

placing Semacode tags on posters, such as those for concerts and public performances. Those interested could use their mobile phone to take a photo of the tag, which could link them directly to the web page where they could order tickets.

using Semacode tags and mobile phones to enable multilingual museum exhibits - a tag photographed at the exhibition entrance could set a language cookie in the phone's web browser, and subsequent Semacode tags displayed at each exhibit could then link the phone's browser directly to a web page about the item, displayed in the user's language of choice.

placing Semacode tags on name tags given to conference attendees. These tags could provide the corporate web address of each attendee's company, or their biography and contact details.


ShotCode is a circular barcode created by High Energy Magic of Cambridge University. It uses a dartboard-like circle, with a bullseye in the centre and datacircles surrounding it. The technology reads databits from these datacircles by measuring the angle and distance from the bullseye for each.

ShotCodes are designed to be read with a regular camera (including those found on mobile phones and webcams) without the need to purchase other specialised hardware. ShotCodes differ from matrix barcodes in that they do not store regular data - rather, they store a look up number consisting of 40 bits of data. This needs to link to a server that holds information regarding a mapped URL which the reading device can connect to in order to download said data.

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