A method and apparatus for reading encoded symbols such as bar code labels at any orientation to a raster scanning device. A pattern of virtual scan lines is selected over the two-dimensional imaging region according to the specifications of the images to be read. The pattern is generated by defining a family of parallel lines of a certain spacing and rotating the family by a specified angle until the two-dimensional imaging region is covered. Only the data at selected raster locations on the virtual scan lines is stored and processed. One-dimensional signal processing methods are used to detect edges and decode the encoded symbols.