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PDF417 is a 2-d barcode type with high density and data encoding capability. It can encode huge amount large amount of data. PDF417 actually consists of set of linear codes stacked together to give a 2-d outlook. It is has been named PDF417 because it consists 4 bars along with white spaces, where each bar is 17 units long. PDF417 is also referred as Macro PDF, Macro PDF417 or the portable data file.


PDF 417 was developed in the year 1991 by a researcher named Dr. Ynjiun P. Wang at Symbol Technologies. Recently Symbol Technologies has been bought by Motorola.


The basic purpose of PDF417 barcode type was to develop an encoding technique which could encode huge and complex data types. Before PDF417, most of the encoding techniques could only encode alpha numeric data along with some special characters, however there was a need of barcode which could encode large files, images and complex data, for this purpose PDF417 was developed which suffice the said requirement.


Can encode large variety of data types such as numeric, alphabets, binary, special characters. It can also store files including photographs, signatures, finger prints and several types of graphic formats.
Can be scanned with handheld scanners as well as linear CCD scanners
PDF417 is has extremely high density and can store large amounts of data like other 2-d barcodes.
User can specify the length and width of the barcode unlike standard widths and lengths.
No license is required to print this barcode format. It has Public Domain Format.
Large damage tolerance like other 2-d barcodes.
Built-in error detection mechanism


It is often larger in size as compared to other 2-d barcodes like QR code and datamatrix.
It is extremely sensitive to the angle of the scanner and tilted scanner might not be able to decode correct information.


PDF417 barcode type can be used to print postages which are recognized by the United States Postal Department.
PDF417 is extensively used in transportation sector, particularly in the automotive industry like QR Code and other 2-d barcodes.
Used in airline industry. PDF417 is inscribed on boarding passes.
Inscribed on driving licenses and Real ID, issued by The Departments of Homeland Security.


In scenarios where we need to store complex data information in a barcode such as images and high graphic data, PDF417 is the best data format to use.

Bytescout BarCode  SDK and BarCode Reader SDK are able to generate and read PDF417 .