GS1 General Specifications

The General Specifications is the foundational GS1 standard that defines how identification keys, data attributes and barcodes must be used in business applications. Release 19, Ratified, Jan 2019

These specifications have been developed as a reference document aimed primarily at GS1 staff and system engineers developing software based upon GS1 system standards. All aspects of the GS1 system are summarised in section 1, which is recommended for those wishing to become familiar with the GS1 system logic and terminology. Each application section mandates the use of system features defined elsewhere in this document, such as check digits, element strings, data carriers, and barcode symbol placement.

The General Specifications consists of 8 sections:

  • Section 1 Basics and principles of the GS1 system: Provides an introduction to the core components of the GS1 system.
  • Section 2 Application standards: Provides a definition for each GS1 application using a template format. Each application is uniquely identified and contains a description, the associated GS1 key, its definition and links to relevant data structures and attributes (section 3), rules (section 4), carrier specifications (section 5), placement (section 6), and unique processing requirements (section 7).
  • Section 3 GS1 Application Identifier definitions: Describes the meaning, structure, and function of the GS1 element strings so they can be correctly processed in users’ application programs.
  • Section 4 Application rules: Provides the rules for use of GS1 keys in their application environments. Differences in industries are included as well as the data relationship rules for GS1 Application Identifier use.
  • Section 5 Data carriers: Provides a detailed description of the data carriers that are endorsed by GS1. It includes symbol specification tables for use in the supply chain operational environment as well as the related barcode production and quality assessment required to achieve excellent scan rates.
  • Section 6 Symbol placement guidelines: Provides guidance on symbol placement as well as transport label standards and tag standards.
  • Section 7 AIDC validation rules: Provides rules for validating and processing GS1 element strings without human intervention. Check digit and calendar date algorithms are also included.
  • Section 8 GS1 Standards glossary of Terms: A standard vocabulary used throughout the GS1 system.

Download the GS1 General Specifications (Login required)

The GS1 General Specifications are free to download for all paid-up Members of GS1 Ireland. Please login to the Members Area to access a copy. If you need assistance with your account, username or password settings please contact the GS1 Helpdesk on 01 2080660 or email

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