PDF417, Micro PDF417

PDF417 (from Portable Data File) is a two-dimensional stacked code that can encode up to 2,000 characters. PDF417 is actually several linear barcodes stacked upon each other. While it can be scanned from any angle like true 2D matrix codes the scanning process usually takes longer. Even with small amounts of data PDF417 symbols get fairly large when compared to a modern 2D code (see below for a comparison illustration)

The code is used in the transport industry, manufacturing and on various forms of ID documents, like driver's licenses, passports etc. In the US the barcode is also used on PowerBall® tickets, sometimes in combination with Code 2/5 Interleaved. It is probably an urban myth that the barcode on the ticket can be used to determine the odds of having a winning number on the ticket before the actual draw.

PDF417 Specifications

PDF417 is standardized. The relevant standard is ISO/IEC 15438-2006 and can be obtained from ISO.

Sample PDF417

Sample code encodes "ABCabc123":

PDF417 sample

Compare size to a Datamatrix symbol with the same content and module width (1mm):

Datamatrix sample

PDF417 can directly encode accented and diacritic characters like german umlauts. Sample code encodes "ÄÖÜäöü":

PDF417 sample umlauts

This code has been verified to scan properly on Mac and Windows PCs. Check the settings of your scanner if the scan result is different or if the code doesn't scan at all.

Common problems when scanning PDF417 with non-ASCII data:
  • The PDF417 symbology is deactivated in the scanner
  • The keyboard layout setting of the scanner does not match the locale setting in your computer

Encoding GS/RS/EOT (Group Separator, Record Separator, End-Of-Text) with PDF417

Please see this FAQ entry.

Create PDF417

Softmatic BarcodePlus creates PDF417 codes.

Windows PC - Softmatic® BarcodePlus (Win, V4, Windows XP or higher)

Download for Windows

Mac OS X - Softmatic® BarcodePlus (Mac, V4, 10.7 "Lion" or higher)

Download for Mac

More about our PDF417 barcode software.

Developers: Make sure to see our PDF417 .NET Barcode Generator.