There is no single standard format for barcodes. Currently, there are well over 50 different formats available. These formats can be grouped into two categories: Linear and 2D (a.k.a. matrix code). Linear barcodes are the classic thin and thick lined style that use a start and stop delimiter. 2D formats can vary in size and style although the size remains constant within a format. Below are examples of each:
Working With Scanners
Barcode scanners range in price from under $100 to a few thousand dollars. The price depends on three attributes: form factor, technology, and barcodes supported. The most common form factors are hand-held, free standing, and mobile. Technology factors include bluetooth and the type of scanning technology used: imager, laser, CCD, or omni-directional. Every barcode scanner has a preset number of barcodes it supports. When selecting a barcode to use, it is important to consider the cost of scanners that support it. USB barcode scanners are an excellent choice for cross platform development. USB is a common standard found in all modern hardware. USB scanners also have the benefit of being automatically installed as a keyboard wedge. This means barcodes will be translated as keyboard data. No special programming required.
Most scanners come with a variety of customization options including special pre/post commands, custom interactions, and much more. For ease of use, it is advisable to stay away from customizing these devices. This can turn into an implementation nightmare and few devices have the same set of custom options available. By default, USB scanners append a keyboard command after every successful scan. This command is either a "tab" or "enter" key.
In terms of development, with a basic knowledge of barcodes and scanners the sky is the limit. Utilizing fonts is an excellent option for an installed product, but what about the web? There are a variety of jQuery plug-ins to help with this need that take minutes to implement. They create barcodes for end-users that can be viewed and printed (if necessary). Many associate barcodes with product inventory management. Although this is an excellent use, barcodes can be unitized any time tracking is required. Postal carriers, Amazon, and sports arenas all use barcoding systems. Adding barcode capabilities is a fast and cheap way to broaden a product's offering.