You cannot read 2D barcodes with a device designed to read only linear (1D) barcodes.  So, it’s pretty obvious that if you are reading 2D barcodes, you need a 2D barcode scanner.  But why do you need a 2D barcode scanner if all of your barcodes are linear?

The first reason is relatively obvious: it is possible that in the future, you will need to read 2D barcodes.  You may decide to add 2D barcodes to the labels you produce, or a vendor or customer may add them or require them.  By starting with a 2D barcode reader at the outset, you future-proof your hardware.  Then, if the need to read 2D barcodes arises in the future, you are already prepared.

The second reason to use a 2D barcode scanner to read linear barcodes may not be so apparent.  Because a 2D reader takes a picture of the barcode symbol before it decodes it, some 2D scanning devices provide preprocessing capabilities.  One of these capabilities is called omni-directional reading.  This allows you to position the barcode scanner in any orientation relative to the barcode you are scanning.  The only requirement is that the entire barcode be within the scanner’s field of view.  This means that if the aiming pattern of the scanner is oriented horizontally, it can read a barcode even if the barcode is oriented as a ladder (see image).

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Why is this relevant to reading linear barcodes, you ask?  Let’s say you are taking inventory in your warehouse.  This is a very scan-intensive operation.  The faster you can scan the barcodes, the sooner you finish your inventory.  What happens if some of the labels, and hence the barcodes, are orientated in different positions?  If you use a linear scanner, you must move your hand each time a label is oriented differently, so that the scanner’s field of view lines up in the same direction as the barcode.  However, if you use a 2D scanner, you can leave your hand in the same position to read all of the barcodes.  This helps reduce the possibility of repetitive motion syndrome, and increases the speed of reading the barcodes.

So, if you are in the market for a linear barcode scanner, you may want to consider purchasing a 2D scanner instead.  It could make inventory and other scan-intensive operations easier, and will ensure that you are prepared if you ever decide to switch to using 2D barcodes.