Aztec Bar Code: Basics of a 2D Barcode Symbology [GUIDE]

Nov 15, 2022 - Views: 1331

Rating: 4.9 - 58Votes

Aztec bar code is a kind of 2D barcode that many people mistake for a QR code or even have never heard about.

But don’t worry if you also don’t know about this barcode symbology.

This article will provide you with a detailed guide about an Aztec barcode with a lot of useful information.

Let’s get started!

A guide to an Aztec barcodeA guide to an Aztec barcode

What Is An Aztec Bar Code?

First of all, it is crucial to get some basics about this barcode symbology.


An Aztec Barcode is a type of barcodes that is known as a matrix barcode that may be scanned and encoded to hold a particular set of information. 

Because it uses 2D technology, you can read it both vertically and horizontally. From the center outward, the square bullseye design shifts in pixelated layers.

This barcode was developed in 1995 by Andrew Longacre and Robert M. Hussey as an improved version of a barcode. 

The technique was formally made available to the public in 1997 after Aim, Inc. bought the patent. 

Aztec QR code

Aztec QR code

See more: What is MICR String? How does it work?

Notably, Aztec barcodes are comparable to QR Codes in that they both use 2D technology, unlike conventional barcodes that only employ 1D technology and can only be read horizontally.

Pros & cons

Compared to other matrix codes, the Aztec bar code makes better use of its available space. 

Additionally, the size can change, giving it the capacity to retain enormous amounts of data. 

The Aztec code also offers mistake correction and lets you choose the percentage.

Unlike 1-D barcodes, a damaged Aztec code can still be read because of the Aztec's extraordinarily high damage tolerance capacity.

On the other hand, unlike QR codes, the Aztec code does not allow Kanji or Kana characters. 

Additionally, understanding it takes a lot of training. Aztec code is difficult to decode and encode for the average user.

✅ Make better use of space

✅ The size can vary

✅ Include error correction

✅ High damage tolerance capacity

❌ Doesn’t support Kanji or Kana character

❌ Hard to decode and encode

What Are Features Of An Aztec Bar Code?

Below are some outstanding features of an Aztec barcode that you should be aware of:

Symbol structure

The following components make up the barcode symbology:

Finder pattern

A square bull's-eye construction with a center square that is one module high and wide, with black and white square rings shifting between them.

Orientation patterns

  • The first layer has chevron orientation patterns in each corner and is one module wide. 

  • One white module is accompanied by two black modules in the second pattern. 

  • The third consists of two white modules followed by one black module. 

  • Three white modules make up the fourth.

Mode message

It indicates the data's length and symbol size. Additionally, it features a custom Reed-Solomon error-correcting encoding.

Reference grid

It includes rows and columns of black and white squares alternately one module wide. From the middle of the finder pattern to its edges, one row and column are present. 

At every sixteenth row and column from the center, additional columns and rows appear. 

Data layers

The first orientation pattern, the all-black one, is followed immediately by the first data layer. 

Each successive data layer starts right next to the last layer's edge and finishes close to the first layer's edge.

The structure of Aztec barcodes

The structure of Aztec barcodes

Character set

All 255 ASCII characters (text, numbers 0 through 9, and binary data) as well as the FNC1 and Flag 7 symbols are supported by this symbology.

Importantly, an Extended Channel Interpretation (ECI) protocol value is represented by a Flag 7 with six digits, ^7nnnnnn, where nnnnnn is the six-digit ECI number. 

For instance, the ECI value 8 is represented as ^7000008.

There are four different ways to interpret ECI protocol values:

  • International character set identifiers (code pages)

  • Control data for an unbuffered mode of a structured append

  • General-purpose, like for encryption or compaction 

  • Information defined by the user

Aztec characters set 

Aztec characters set 

Symbol dimensions

Aztec Code has a range of 1 to 32 data layers, although there are a total of 33 possible symbol sizes as there are two sizes for four-layer symbols. 

The smallest and largest modules are 15 × 15 and 151 x 151, respectively. The size of modules is unrestricted but the barcode is always square.

Error correction

The Reed-Solomon algorithm is used by Aztec Code to correct errors. 

The amount of the data region that error-correcting codewords are to occupy can be specified by the user.

The suggested level is 23 percent of the symbol capacity with three additional codewords.

See more: Facebook QR messenger quick

How Does An Aztec Bar Code Work?

A pattern of various layers surrounds the core square in a barcode Aztec style. These squares are put together to encode the information the Aztec barcode contains.

The "quiet zone" feature of other codes is not required because its corners also have larger pixelated indicators that show the reading direction.

Aztec bar codes don’t have quiet zone

Aztec bar codes don’t have quiet zone

In addition, Aztec barcodes may hold up to 32 layers and 1,914 bytes of data.

They get an error correction level of up to 23%, which implies that even if nearly a quarter of it has been damaged, you can still read it. 

Their size is totally configurable based on the quantity of data contained.

How Are Aztec Bar Codes Used?

Aztec barcodes are quite popular and are used in everyday life. 

For instance, they are frequently used in the transportation sector as electronic boarding cards. 

Passengers frequently have the barcode Aztec on the tickets scanned or boarding passes in order to check in for a flight or rail trip.

Furthermore, for mobile payments, Aztec Barcodes is also linked with Apple Wallet.

Barcode Aztec is used a lot in daily life

Barcode Aztec is used a lot in daily life

Important papers like invoices and car registrations are also encoded with Aztec barcodes. 

The Aztec barcode can be used by consumers to make automatic payments for invoices as well as by authorities to verify the legitimacy of documents.

How To Read An Aztec Bar Code?

Using a camera-based barcode image reader is among the most popular Aztec code reader to read Aztec barcodes.

They can be read using a dedicated barcode Aztec scanner built into the camera, based on the situation. 

Nevertheless, it is also possible to use a third-party app to read Aztec codes on Android and iOS tablets and smartphones.

Also, Aztec barcodes may typically be read by default by 2D barcode imagers. Numerous handheld imagers can also interpret tiny symbols.

A camera-based barcode image reader is an Aztec barcode reader

A camera-based barcode image reader is an Aztec barcode reader

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is a license required to use Aztec symbols?
There is no need for a license or royalty payment to utilize the Aztec emblem because its creator, Honeywell, made it public domain.
Which one is better: Aztec Codes or QR codes?

Aztec codes are more modern than QR Codes, more dynamic and compact, and have a larger data storage capacity.

Unfortunately, it lacks software and platform support. Although they require more space than Aztec codes, QR codes offer a lot of free software support.

What does an Aztec print look like?

Aztek printing patterns include stripes, polka dots, chevrons, zigzags, and other patterns mixed with solid shapes like circles, triangles, and outlines. 

These designs combine to create an exquisite print that has a trendy yet elegant appearance.


At last, since Aztec code allows for the encoding of both ASCII and all extended ASCII characters, it is the optimum method for encoding prolonged ASCII characters. We hope that you have gained some interesting knowledge about the Aztec bar code after reading this post! 

Rating: 4.9 - 58Votes


  1. Oscar Hanson

    Oscar Hanson

    Thank you so much for such a detailed article. You just nailed it again

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    1. Barcodelive

      Thank you

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  2. Jason Ward

    Jason Ward

    Where are Aztec codes used?

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    1. Barcodelive

      The Aztec is typically used for airline tickets and other travel documents, as well as car registration documents

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  3. Barbara Johnson

    Barbara Johnson

    Great insight. I learned several things from this article

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    1. Barcodelive


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