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UPC faq

common questions about UPC barcodes

This FAQ covers UPC barcodes. Technical questions about our software are answered on our tech support page.

UPC-A barcode

Help! How do I get started with UPC barcodes?
The first step in making a UPC barcode is to obtain your UPC number or numbers. You'll need one UPC number for each one of your different retail products. If you just need one or a few UPC numbers, you can purchase them online here.

If you've got tens or hundreds of different products, a company prefix from GS1 US is your best bet. A company prefix is used when constructing an 11-digit number for each item for sale.

Once you've got UPC numbers you're ready to turn them into UPC barcodes, which you can print onto labels or your package design. Retailers will ask you for each product's UPC information, so be sure to maintain a UPC database or spreadsheet for yourself, and back it up frequently.   return to top

How do I calculate a UPC check digit?
The last digit in a UPC barcode is a check digit based on the previous 11 numbers. Our example barcode data is “41234554321”.

  • Add the digits in the odd-numbered positions (first, third, fifth, etc.) together.
  • Multiply that number by three.
  • Add the digits in the even-numbered positions (second, fourth, sixth, etc.) to the result.
  • Find the result modulo 10 (i.e. the remainder when the result is divided by 10).
  • If the result is not zero, subtract the result from ten.

4+2+4+5+3+1=19 19x3=57 1+3+5+4+2=15 57+15=72 and 8 makes 80.

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How do I deliver my UPC barcodes to a business or trade partner?
If you use the barcode fonts in UPCTools to make a UPC barcode, simply paste the barcode into any document, labeling or design application, save as high-quality PDF document, then email. File formats like JPG and GIF are bitmapped formats and don't have the resolution necessary to make scannable symbols. Give 'em a PDF file. Create, copy, paste, save, send. Done!   return to top

How do I make a UPC barcode?
UPC-A barcodes are made up of three parts:

  • A company prefix. You may purchase your own company prefix from GS1, or use ours.
  • A shorter number unique to the individual product.
  • A check digit. A UPC check digit is the 12th digit on the far right of every accurate UPC barcode.

The simplest way to create UPC barcodes from your UPC numbers is to use UPCTools.   return to top

How do I make a UPC barcode in an Adobe program like Illustrator, PhotoShop, or InDesign?
Because UPCTools uses fonts to make UPC barcodes, simply create your barcode with the UPCTools utility, copy, then paste into a text field within your Adobe project. Format the pasted text into one of the Azalea UPC barcode fonts and you're ready to save and print.   return to top

How do I make a UPC barcode in Microsoft Access?
Make UPC barcodes in Access using UPCTools. You can create and print UPC bar codes from within any Access database with the right UPC barcode fonts and Azalea's free sample code. Use the Azalea custom user-defined function or call our external DLL. Both approaches add the start and stop character and calculate the required UPC check digit for you.   return to top

How do I make a UPC barcode in Microsoft Excel?
Store your UPC numbers (along with product information like size, color, suggested retail price, internal SKU, etcetera) in an Excel spreadsheet; be sure to keep this database current and secure, and back it up frequently. Use UPCTools to convert your UPC numbers into UPC barcodes within your spreadsheet. When you're ready to print you can do so directly from Excel, or export your barcodes to a label or document template in another program, then print.   return to top

How do I make a UPC barcode in Microsoft Word?
UPCTools gives you two simple ways to create UPC barcodes for Microsoft Word. You can copy and paste from the UPCTools barcode wizard or you can export from your Excel spreadsheet or Access database into Word.

Copy from the wizard if you're making one or just a few UPC, EAN or ISBN bar codes. For tens or hundreds of UPC, EAN or ISBN barcodes, create your barcodes in your spreadsheet or database, then import or 'mail merge' them into your Word label or document template.

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How do I make a UPC barcode in SAP Crystal Reports?
Use the UFL (User Function Library) that comes with UPCTools to create and print UPC barcodes in your SAP Crystal Reports projects. Create a barcode field in your report, and give the UFL your UPC numbers. It adds the guard bars and calculates the mandatory UPC check digit. Format the returned string in one of the Azalea UPC fonts and you're ready to save, share or print.

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How do I print a UPC barcode?
UPC barcodes can be printed with laserjet printers, inkjet printers, specialized label or thermal-transfer printers, or off-site by a professional print shop. UPCs should always be printed in black against a white background, with a clear border of white space around the barcode. Once you've printed a sample sheet or label, take the time to make sure the barcode is scannable by checking it with UPC scanning hardware.   return to top

How do I print a UPC barcode on labels?
First create a label template in Word, Avery, or other label software. Then convert your UPC numbers into UPC barcodes. If you have just a few different barcodes, copy and paste them from the UPCTools utility into your label template. If you have tens or hundreds of different UPC numbers, use UPCTools to convert them within your database or spreadsheet, then export or 'mail merge' them into your label template.

Be sure your barcodes are aligned correctly, black (or very dark) in color on white background, and with a clear white border all the way around each barcode. Print a sample sheet of labels at high or 'photo' quality. Be sure to scan your sample sheet with a UPC barcode reader. If they scan correctly you're ready to print off your entire label job.   return to top

How do I put a UPC barcode on existing packaging?
Use UPCTools to quickly create your UPC barcode. Print your barcode onto labels, then peel and stick. Next time you redesign your packaging, use UPCTools to build the barcode right into the package design- save time, save money, take an early lunch!   return to top

How do I size a UPC barcode?
UPC barcodes can be proportionally scaled down to 80%, or up to 200%, of their full size. In addition to scaling, UPC barcodes can be truncated. Truncation means reducing the height without reducing the width. A truncated symbol can also be scaled.

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How do I use a UPC barcode font?
Many people look at a UPC bar code and think of it as a graphic, rather than a font. Our barcode fonts make UPCs in most applications, and can be printed to a wide variety of printer types and brands. Once installed, bar code fonts show up in the available font list of all your favorite programs.

Barcode fonts are easy to use. Use the UPC bar code fonts in UPCTools to print UPC, EAN or ISBN barcodes from your own computer. UPCTools includes both TrueType and Type 1 (PostScript) UPC barcode fonts. UPCTools adds the necessary start and stop characters and calculates the mandatory   return to top

What is a UPC barcode?
UPC stands for Universal Product Code. UPC barcodes are used to identify individual products in the retail channel. Cash registers read UPCs at the point of sale (POS) to call up information in a retailer's database: product name, size, retail price, etcetera. Barcode scanners read them for inventory and tracking purposes. The use of UPC numbers eliminates the need for error-prone humans to type data.

UPC barcodes have three segments: a company prefix unique to each manufacturer, an individual product item number, and a UPC check digit. The company prefix and item number together total 11 digits. The check digit is the 12th digit on the far right.   return to top

What is a UPC company prefix, or 'manufacturer number'?
Company prefixes are assigned by the barcode standards body GS1. A manufacturer uses their assigned company prefix as the first portion of their 11-digit UPC numbers. The second portion of each UPC number contains a unique product number created by the manufacturer to identify that product. As long as everyone uses their company prefix no two barcode numbers will ever be the same.

A handful of companies, including Azalea Software, are authorized to sell individual GS1 UPC numbers. If your company produces only one or a few products, buying individual UPC numbers may be the wiser financial choice.   return to top

What is a UPC-A barcode?
UPC version A barcodes are a direct encoding of a 12-digit UPC number. 12 numbers, 12 barcode characters, with no compression. UPC-As are the most commonly used barcode in the North American retail channel. If a retailer who will be selling your product/s has asked you to put a UPC barcode on them, they very likely mean a UPC-A. If you have any doubt, however, don't take our word for it! Double-check with your retailer directly about their UPC barcode specifications.   return to top

What is a UPC-E barcode?
UPC version E symbols are 'zero-suppressed'. They're created in a compressed format that drops one or more of the zeros in the combined company prefix and item number. They have only one notch, unlike UPC version A symbols. Not all company prefixes can make UPC-E symbols. Some company prefixes allow more version E barcodes to be made because they end with two or more zeros. The last digit in the lower right corner is the mandatory UPC check digit. Always confirm UPC barcode specifications directly with your trade partners.   return to top

What is the UPC character set?
UPC is a numbers-only barcode symbology. Therefore UPC symbols only include the digits 0 through 9. There are never letters in UPC barcodes.   return to top

What is the UPC check digit?
All UPC barcodes include a modulo-10 check digit. The UPC check digit is the 12th digit in the lower-right corner of the barcode. The check digit provides error correction by insuring that a barcode scanner correctly decodes a UPC symbol.   return to top

What is UPC bar-width reduction?
Bar width reduction (BWR) involves pre-narrowing the bars in a UPC barcode to compensate for ink spread on an ink-jet printer or printing press. Because ink runs and paper is porous, the width of the printed bars is slightly wider than the original artwork. In order to maintain a specific bar width, the bars are created narrower than needed so that the ink spreads out to the desired width.   return to top

What is UPCTools?
UPCTools barcode font software is the gold standard when it comes to creating and printing UPC, EAN, ISBN-13, ISSN or JAN barcodes. The first UPC barcode software certified by the barcode standards body GS1, "easy" and "powerful" are two raves we've heard for years about our simple, efficient barcode maker.

UPCTools comes with a family of ten different barcode fonts that have been carefully designed to meet GS1 barcode standards. Create tall, thin, regular or half-height barcodes, with or without human readables (the visible numbers underneath a barcode) with just a few keystrokes. UPCTools calculates the UPC check digit for you automatically, whether you're making barcodes in batches through Access, Excel, or Crystal Reports, or one at a time.

UPCTools comes with a family of ten different barcode fonts that have been carefully designed to meet GS1 barcode standards. Create tall, thin, regular or half-height barcodes, with or without human readables (the visible numbers underneath a barcode) with just a few keystrokes. UPCTools calculates the UPC check digit for you automatically, whether you're making barcodes in batches through Access, Excel, or Crystal Reports, or one at a time.   return to top