top of page

The difference between QR Codes & Barcodes

Updated: Mar 10

In today's digital age, scanning codes has become an integral part of our daily lives, whether we're shopping, attending events, ordering at a restaurant or accessing information. Among the myriad of codes, two stand out prominently: QR codes and barcodes. While they may seem similar at first glance, each serves a distinct purpose and operates differently. Let's delve into the world of these codes and uncover their disparities.

Common linear barcodes (left) vs QR Code (right)


Barcodes have been around since the 1970s and are perhaps the more traditional of the two. They consist of parallel lines varying in thickness and spacing. These lines represent encoded data that is readable by a scanner. Barcodes are primarily used to store numerical data, such as product identification numbers, and are ubiquitous in retail, inventory management, and logistics.

QR Codes

QR codes, on the other hand, are a relatively newer innovation, first developed in Japan in the 1990s but have boomed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike barcodes, which are one-dimensional, QR codes are two-dimensional, consisting of black squares arranged on a white background. QR codes can store much more information than traditional barcodes, including alphanumeric characters, binary data, and even entire URLs. This versatility has made them popular in marketing, advertising, ticketing, and more.


Distinguishing Features

Information Capacity

One of the most significant differences between QR codes and barcodes lies in their information storage capacity. Barcodes can typically hold up to 20-25 characters, whereas QR codes can store thousands of characters, making them ideal for encoding extensive data sets.

Scanning Speed and Angle

Barcodes require a reasonably direct line of sight between the scanner and the code which can make the scanning process slightly slower compared to QR codes. QR codes, on the other hand, can be scanned from various angles, and the scanning process is slightly faster due to their two-dimensional structure. Nevertheless, the use of QR and barcodes can streamline many processes like serving customers in retail stores, manufacturing processes and invoicing.

Error Correction

QR codes by design incorporate error correction techniques, allowing them to remain readable even if they are partially obscured or damaged. This robustness ensures reliability in scanning, even in less-than-ideal conditions. Barcodes lack this built-in error correction capability, making them more susceptible to scanning errors.


While both QR codes and barcodes find applications in various industries, their usage often differs. Barcodes are predominantly used for product identification and tracking in retail and logistics. QR codes, with their ability to store more information, are commonly used for marketing campaigns, ticketing, contactless payments, and digital content distribution. But in saying that, QR codes are becoming a more common choice in general, often replacing traditional barcodes due to the above-mentioned benefits.



In conclusion, while QR codes and barcodes may appear similar at first glance, they differ significantly in terms of their structure, functionality, and applications. Barcodes are linear and best suited for storing numerical data, whereas QR codes are two-dimensional, and capable of storing extensive alphanumeric information. Understanding these differences is crucial for leveraging their respective strengths in different scenarios.

When it comes to utilising QR and barcodes for invoicing, both make the invoicing process incredibly fast and accurate. If you're wondering whether to use QR codes or barcodes on Invoice Assist, the difference is marginal. But in saying that, it is worth considering if you could potentially use QR codes for other purposes, maybe like links to instruction manuals, stock locations or even your website.

If you're looking to streamline your invoicing processes, QR and barcodes are the ideal way to achieve this and Invoice Assist is designed entirely around this. So if you want to chat further you can book a catch-up or simply download the app to get started.


bottom of page