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PDF417 and QR code scanning SDK for iOS
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pdf417 SDK for iOS

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pdf417 SDK for iOS is small and powerful tool for enabling barcode scanning in your apps. It's reliable, fast, and customizable. It's distributed as both framework and CococaPod so it's very easy to integrate. pdf417 SDK works on both iPhones and iPads on iOS 5.1.1 or later. Besides PDF417 format, SDK supports QR codes and all 1D barcodes.

Important: if you require deployment targets older than iOS 5.1.1 please contact us on We can support iOS 4.3 and newer on demand.



CocoaPods is the recommended way to add pdf417 SDK to your project.

  1. Add a pod entry for PPpdf417 to your Podfile pod 'PPpdf417', '~> 2.0.0'
  2. Install the pod(s) by running pod install.
  3. Go to classic integration step 3.

Classic integration

  1. Drag the pdf417.embeddedframework into the Frameworks Group in your Xcode project. The framework consists of code, headers, resources, strings, images and everything it needs to function properly.

  2. Include the following frameworks and libraries into your project:

    • AVFoundation
    • AudioToolbox
    • CoreMedia
    • CoreVideo
    • CoreGraphics
    • libc++.dylib
    • libz.dylib
    • libiconv.dylib
    • OpenGLES
    • QuartzCore
  3. In files in which you want to use barcode scanning, place import directive #import <pdf417/PPBarcode.h>

  4. pdf417 framework uses it's own CameraViewController to present the UI. You should decide where you want to show this UI and write the following initialization code there. The initialization procedure consists of the following steps:

    First, it's appropriate to check if pdf417 scanning is supported and present some kind of message to the user if not (this can only happen in Simulator builds and on pre iPhone 3GS phones):

    // Check if barcode scanning is supported
    NSError *error;
    if ([PPBarcodeCoordinator isScanningUnsupported:&error]) {
        NSString *messageString = [error localizedDescription];
        UIAlertView *alert = [[UIAlertView alloc] initWithTitle:@"Warning"
                                              otherButtonTitles:nil, nil];
        [alert show];
        return nil;

    Then you need to setup pdf417 initialization parameters. Parameters are placed in a NSMutableDictionary object. This is where you set which barcode formats are scanned (currently PDF417, QR code and 1D barcode types) and where you can set language used in pdf417 framework.

    // Create object which stores pdf417 framework settings
    NSMutableDictionary* coordinatorSettings = [[NSMutableDictionary alloc] init];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning pdf417 barcode standard (default YES)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizePdf417Key];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning qr code barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeQrCodeKey];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning all 1D barcode standards (default NO). Use this if you're not sure
    // which barcode type you need to scan. Specific values for each barcode type (listed below)
    // overrides this value. This means that you can say YES for all 1D barcodes and set NO for
    // Code 128 and Code 39 to disable them.
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognize1DBarcodesKey];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning code 128 barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeCode128Key];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning code 39 barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeCode39Key];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning EAN 8 barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeEAN8Key];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning EAN 13 barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeEAN13Key];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning ITF barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeITFKey];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning UPCA barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeUPCAKey];
    // Set YES/NO for scanning UPCE barcode standard (default NO)
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPRecognizeUPCEKey];

    You can use pdf417 SDK free of change and without license key for development and non-commercial projects. Once you obtain a commercial license key from, you can set it like this:

    // Set the license key
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:@"Enter_License_Key_Here" forKey:kPPLicenseKey];

    You can also set the resolution which you would like to use for barcode scanning. There are four different options, but you should set only one:

    // There are 4 resolution modes:
    //      kPPUseVideoPreset640x480
    //      kPPUseVideoPresetMedium
    //      kPPUseVideoPresetHigh
    //      kPPUseVideoPresetHighest
    // Set only one.
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPUseVideoPresetHigh];  

    As a rule of thumb, use the following values:

    1. For PDF417 barcodes with 15 or more columns, use kPPUseVideoPresetHighest.
    2. For PDF417 with 5 or less columns, use kPPUseVideoPreset640x480
    3. Otherwise, it's recommended to use kPPUseVideoPresetHigh. This is also the default value.

    If the license key is valid for your application, this will automatically unlock the pdf417 SDK, remove the watermark from the camera view and enable all features to be used in your app.

    There are more, optional settings values. For example:

    // present modal (recommended and default) - make sure you dismiss the view controller when done
    // you also can set this to NO and push camera view controller to navigation view controller 
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPPresentModal];
    // Set this if you want to use front facing camera
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithBool:YES] forKey:kPPUseFrontFacingCamera];
    // You can set orientation mask for allowed orientations, default is UIInterfaceOrientationMaskAll
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:[NSNumber numberWithInt:UIInterfaceOrientationMaskAll] forKey:kPPHudOrientation];
    // Define the sound filename played on successful recognition
    NSString* soundPath = [[NSBundle mainBundle] pathForResource:@"beep" ofType:@"mp3"];
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:soundPath forKey:kPPSoundFile];

    Also, this is where you can set language used in pdf417 SDK, this can currently be only en (English), de (German) and hr (Croatian). Other languages can be supported on demand. If you don't specify the language, default user language will be used, so use this feature according to your application's localization strategy.

    // Set the language. You can use "en", "de", "hr", if not specified, phone default will be used.
    // Use this according to your app localization strategy
    [coordinatorSettings setValue:@"en" forKey:kPPLanguage];

    Now you can initialize PPBarcodeCoordinator object and use it to create PPCameraViewController which controls scanning UI. You can present it on navigation view controller or modally, whichever suits you best.

    // Allocate the recognition coordinator object
    PPBarcodeCoordinator *coordinator = [[PPBarcodeCoordinator alloc] initWithSettings:coordinatorSettings];
    [coordinatorSettings release];
    // Create camera view controller
    UIViewController *cameraViewController = [coordinator cameraViewControllerWithDelegate:self];
    // present it modally
    cameraViewController.modalTransitionStyle = UIModalTransitionStyleCrossDissolve;
    [self presentViewController:cameraViewController animated:YES completion:nil];
    [coordinator release];
  5. In the last step, you had to create CameraViewController with a delegate object. This object gets notified on certain events in pdf417 scanning lifecycle. In this example we set it to self, but any object can be used. The protocol which the delegate has to implement is PPBarcodeDelegate protocol and it consists of 2 required methods:

     * Barcode library was closed. 
     * This is where the Barcode library's UIViewController should be dismissed
     * if it's presented modally.
    - (void)cameraViewControllerWasClosed:(id<PPScanningViewController>)cameraViewController;
     * Barcode library obtained a valid result. Do your next steps here.
     * Depending on how you want to treat the result, you might want to
     * dismiss the Barcode library's UIViewController here.
    - (void)cameraViewController:(id<PPScanningViewController>)cameraViewController

    For example, your implementation of these methods can be (if you presented camera view controller modally):

    - (void)cameraViewControllerWasClosed:(id<PPScanningViewController>)cameraViewController {
        // this stops the scanning and dismisses the camera screen
        [self dismissViewControllerAnimated:YES completion:nil];
    - (void)cameraViewController:(id<PPScanningViewController>)cameraViewController
                  obtainedResult:(PPScanningResult*)result {
        // continue scanning if nothing was returned
        if (result == nil) {
        // this pauses scanning without dismissing camera screen
        [cameraViewController pauseScanning];
        // obtain UTF8 string from barcode data
        NSString *message = [[NSString alloc] initWithData:[result data] encoding:NSUTF8StringEncoding];
        if (message == nil) {
            // if UTF8 wasn't correct encoding, try ASCII
            message = [[NSString alloc] initWithData:[result data] encoding:NSASCIIStringEncoding];
        NSLog(@"Barcode text:\n%@", message);
        NSString* type = [PPScanningResult toTypeName:[result type]];
        NSLog(@"Barcode type:\n%@", type);
        // Check if barcode is uncertain
        // This is guaranteed not to happen if you didn't set kPPScanUncertainBarcodes key value
        BOOL isUncertain = [result isUncertain];
        if (isUncertain) {
            NSLog(@"Uncertain scanning data!");
            // Perform some kind of integrity validation to see if the returned value is really complete
            BOOL valid = YES;
            if (!valid) {
                // this resumes scanning, and tries agian to find valid barcode
                [cameraViewController resumeScanning];
        UIAlertView *alertView = [[UIAlertView alloc] initWithTitle:type
                                                  otherButtonTitles:@"Done", nil];
        [alertView show];
        // don't forget to dismiss camera view controller when the alert view is dismissed
        // [self dismissViewControllerAnimated:YES completion:nil];

Retrieving scanning results

Recognition results are returned via PPScanningResult object. You use this object to read barcode type and barcode data.


PPScanningResult has a field named type which is enum (identification) of the type of the barcode which was scanned. This can currently be one of the following values:

  • PPScanningResultPdf417,
  • PPScanningResultQrCode,
  • PPScanningResultLicenseInfo,
  • PPScanningResultCode128,
  • PPScanningResultCode39,
  • PPScanningResultEAN13,
  • PPScanningResultEAN8,
  • PPScanningResultITF,
  • PPScanningResultUPCA,
  • PPScanningResultUPCE,

Byte array with result

The field named data contains the bytes scanned from the actual barcode. These are raw bytes which are written in the barcode. No encoding for this is assumed, since this is a responsibility of the user of the library. This byte array is guaranteed to terminate with \0 character, so you can safely convert it to string.

Since barcode can contain various data types besides strings, you can use the field rawData to obtain more detailed information from the barcode. This field is used to obtain images and other raw binary information encoded in the barcode.

Raw result (for non-textual data, images, encrypted values etc.)

rawData field is of a type PPBarcodeDetailedData which contains field barcodeElements. This is a NSArray that contains elements of type PPBarcodeElement. Each PPBarcodeElement contains two fields: elementType, which is enum (identification) of the type of that element and elementBytes, which contains raw byte data. Identification of the type can be PPTextElement or PPByteElement.

If the type is PPTextElement, this means that data in field elementBytes can be safely understood as string. If the type is PPByteElement, the data in field elementBytes is arbitrary binary data. Of course, you can always interpret both element types as string, if you like so. In such case, you would get the same information as with the data field of the PPScanningResult object

If you are able to decode raw data without the need of elaborate structure information, then you can send message getAllData to object of type PPBarcodeDetailedData. Twhis will return NSData that will contain raw bytes of whole barcode.

Uncertain barcodes

isUncertain field is of a type BOOL. If this value is YES, this means that the scanning library found the result, but the scanned barcode is malformed, or not encoded according to a barcode standard.

If this value is YES, we advise you to perform some kind of integrity check on the obtained value. If the value doesn't pass your integration test, you can present the user some kind of message, or simply continue scanning until the your integration test has passed.

Using ARC

pdf417 Framework is ARC agnostic which means you can safely use it in your ARC projects. Just follow the rules described in ARC release notes and you'll be fine. This means you just need to remove retain/release calls from above code and use default strong ARC references.

Custom user interface

Overlay View Controller is an abstract class for all overlay views placed on top PhotoPay's Camera View Controller.

It's responsibility is to provide meaningful and useful interface for the user to interact with.

Typical actions which need to be allowed to the user are:

  • intuitive and meaniningful way to guide the user through scanning process. This is usually done by presenting a "viewfinder" in which the user need to place the scanned object
  • a way to cancel the scanining, typically with a "cancel" or "back" button
  • a way to power on and off the light (i.e. "torch") button

PhotoPay always provides it's own default implementation of the Overlay View Controller for every specific use. Your implementation should closely mimic the default implementation as it's the result of thorough testing with end users. Also, it closely matches the underlying scanning technology.

For example, the scanning technology usually gives results very fast after the user places the device's camera in the expected way above the scanned object. This means a progress bar for the scan is not particularly useful to the user. The majority of time the user spends on positioning the device's camera correctly. That's just an example which demonstrates careful decision making behind default camera overlay view.

Both PhotoPay and PhotoPayArc demo projects in your development packages contain PPCameraOverlayViewController class, an example of custom overlay view implementation.


To use your custom overlay with PhotoPay's camera view, you must subclass PPOverlayViewController and specify it when initializing CameraViewController:

PPCameraOverlayViewController *overlayViewController = 
    [[PPCameraOverlayViewController alloc] initWithNibName:@"PPCameraOverlayViewController" bundle:nil];

// Create camera view controller
UIViewController *cameraViewController = 
    [coordinator cameraViewControllerWithDelegate:self overlayViewController:overlayViewController];

Note: if you create camera view controller without specifying overlay view, the default overlay implementation will be used:

// Create camera view controller
UIViewController *cameraViewController = 
    [coordinator cameraViewControllerWithDelegate:self];

As with any view controller, you are responsible for specifying UI elements and handling their actions. Besides that, there are some requirements for interaction with Camera View Controller.

Interaction with CameraViewController

Events received from CameraViewController

PPCameraOverlayViewController gets notified by CameraViewController on various scanning events. Here is a list of all events and the methods which get called in turn:

  1. Camera view appears and the scanning resumes. This happens when the camera view is opened, or when the app enters foreground with camera view displayed. The method called on this event is

    - (void)cameraViewControllerDidResumeScanning:(id)cameraViewController;
  2. Camera view disappears and the scanning pauses. This happens when the camera view is closed, or when the app enters background with camera view displayed. The method called on this event is

    - (void)cameraViewControllerDidStopScanning:(id)cameraViewController;
  3. Camera view controller started the new recognition cycle. Since recognition is done on video frames, there might be multiple recognition cycles before the scanning completes. Method which is called on this event is:

    - (void)cameraViewControllerDidStartRecognition:(id)cameraViewController;
  4. Camera view reports the progress of the current OCR/barcode scanning recognition cycle. Note: this is not the actual progress from the moment camera appears. This might not be meaningful for the user in all cases.

    - (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController
  5. Camera view reports the status of the object detection. Scanning status contain information about whether the scan was successful, whether the user holds the device too far from the object, whether the angles was too high, or the object isn't seen on the camera in it's entirety. If the object was found, the corner points of the object are returned.

    - (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController
  6. Camera view controller ended the recognition cycle with a certain Scanning result. The scanning result might be considered as valid, meaning it can be presented to the user for inspection. Use this method only if you need UI update on this event (although this is unnecessary in many cases). The actual result will be passed to your PPPhotoPayDelegate object.

    - (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController 
  7. Camera view controller ended the recognition cycle with a certain Scanning result, but the timeout occurred in the meantime. The scanning result cannot be considered as full and valid, but it still might be useful to the user. Use this method only if you need UI update on this event (although this is unnecessary in many cases).

    - (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController 
  8. Camera view controller will start the rotation to specific device orientation.

    - (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController 
  9. Camera view controller did complete the rotation to specific device orientation.

    - (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController 

Notifications passed to CameraViewController

Overlay View Controller also needs to notify CameraViewController on certain events. Those are events specified by PPOverlayViewControllerDelegate protocol.

Notification sent when Overlay View Controller wants to close camera, for example, by pressing Cancel button.

- (void)overlayViewControllerWillCloseCamera:(id)overlayViewController;

Overlay View Controller should ask it's delegete if it's necessary to display Cancel button. This might not always be necessary, for example, when Camera View Controller is presented on Navigation View Controller which has it's own Back button.

- (BOOL)overlayViewControllerShouldDisplayCancel:(id)overlayViewController;

Overlay View Controller should ask it's delegete if it's necessary to display Torch (Light) button. Torch button is not necessary if the device doesn't support torch mode (e.g. iPad devices).

- (BOOL)overlayViewControllerShouldDisplayTorch:(id)overlayViewController;

Overlay View Controller must notify it's delegete to set the torch mode to On or Off

- (void)overlayViewController:(id)overlayViewController

Overlay View Controller can ask it's delegete about the status of Torch

- (BOOL)isTorchOn;

Overlay View Controller can get Video Capture Preview Layer object from it's delegete.

- (AVCaptureVideoPreviewLayer*)getPreviewLayer;

Handling orientation changes

Camera view controller is always presented in Portrait mode, but nevertheless, your overlay view be presented in the current device orientation. There are two ways to handle orientation changes.

The first, built in way is a simple way to achieve autorotation. Your Overlay View Controller only needs to implement standard UIViewController methods which specify which orientations are supported. For example, to support only landscape orientations, you need to add the following methods to your Overlay View Controller implementation.

- (BOOL)shouldAutorotate {
    return YES;

- (NSUInteger)supportedInterfaceOrientations {
    return UIInterfaceOrientationMaskLandscape;

- (UIInterfaceOrientation)preferredInterfaceOrientationForPresentation {
    return UIInterfaceOrientationLandscapeRight;

- (BOOL)shouldAutorotateToInterfaceOrientation:(UIInterfaceOrientation)interfaceOrientation {
    return (interfaceOrientation == UIInterfaceOrientationLandscapeLeft || interfaceOrientation == UIInterfaceOrientationLandscapeRight);

If shouldAutorotate method returns YES, your Overlay View Controller will automatically rotate to support all orientations returned by supportedInterfaceOrientations method. You are responsible for standard iOS techniques (auto-layout or autoresizing masks) to adjust the UI to new device orientation.

The other method gives you full control over the orientation changes. We already mentioned that Camera View Controller passes orientation events to your Overlay View Controller

- (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController willRotateToOrientation:(UIDeviceOrientation)orientation;
- (void)cameraViewController:(id)cameraViewController didRotateToOrientation:(UIDeviceOrientation)orientation;

You can use those methods to fully replace your view hierarchy for the specific device orientation. With this approach you have full control over rotation of your views, but you'll need more work to get the desired effect. To use this approach, you only need to specify that your view controller doesn't want to autorotate (which is by default):

- (BOOL)shouldAutorotate {
    return NO;

All of PhotoPay's default overlay views are implemented in this way and have custom rotation animations.

Steps for providing custom Camera Overlay View

  1. Create a subclass of PPOverlayViewController. You can use XIB for user interface, or create UI from code.

  2. See if there are any events received from CameraViewController which you need to handle for your UI hierarchy

  3. Implement your view hierarchy.

    If you have a Cancel button in your view, don't forget to call overlayViewControllerWillCloseCamera: method on overlay's delegate object when cancel is pressed.

    If you have Torch button, dont forget to check if Torch should be displayed by using overlayViewControllerShouldDisplayTorch: method, and to report new torch state with overlayViewController:willSetTorch: method.

  4. Handle orientation changes, either by implementing standard UIViewController autorotation metods, or by custom rotation management on rotation events.

Replacing resource files and localization

All resource files in pdf417 framework can be changed. For example, you can change or add new localisation resource files. Localisation resource files are named {country-code}.strings. (e.g. en.strings, de.strings..). These files contain strings in format "key" = "value";. In code pdf417 framework uses only "key" values, which are in runtime translated to correct "value".

Modifying strings files is the same as modifying any other resource file.

  1. Find the strings file file in the Xcode (by expanding Frameworks group, pdf417.embeddedframework subgroup under Resources)
  2. Right click it and select delete option. When asked, choose Remove reference option.
  3. Add a new strings file with the same name. You can use the en.strings, de.strings and hr.strings files from the development packages as a template.
  4. Test to see that everything works as it should!

pdf417 framework at runtime decides which language it should use by observing the flag you set while initializing the Coordinator object. For the reminder, the flag is:

// Set the language. You can use "en", "de", "hr", if not specified, phone default will be used.
// Use this according to your app localization strategy
[coordinatorSettings setValue:@"en" forKey:kPPLanguage];

How to license framework for your commercial project

We want framework to be your first choice for scanning barcodes in your iOS or Android apps. That's why we enable you to use completely free of charge in your development phase or in non commercial projects, for as many developers as you need. To obtain commercial license, follow the simple steps defined on our website


pdf417 SDK was created for PhotoPay project by PhotoPay Ltd.. It powers several mobile banking apps like:


For any inquiries, additional information or instructions please contact us at our follow our page on Twitter (@417pdf).

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