QR Code Basics

QR Code Basics

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So, it looks like QR Codes are slowly starting to catch on. The New Rockstar Philosophy is encouraging SXSW-2011-goers to use them instead of CDs, which is an excellent idea. If their call catches on, we could see finally see the QR Code go mainstream, which is something I’ve been waiting for since 2009. Following is a primer on QR Code basics, what they are, how to read them, and how to create them.

What Are QR Codes?

From the Wikipedia article:

Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes are now used in a much broader context, including both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile phone users (known as mobile tagging). QR codes can be used to display text to the user, to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a URI or to compose an email or text message. Users can also generate and print their own QR codes for others to scan and use by visiting one of several free QR code generating sites. Frank C. Hudetz, a US Marketing Services Professional, claims to have invented the idea of mapping bar codes to a URL.

QR codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards, or on just about any object about which users might need information. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the phone’s browser. This act of linking from physical world objects is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks.

So, a QR Code is basically a picture that, when translated, does something. It can direct you to a webpage, add a vCard to your address book, compose an email or text message, etc. I think we’re only just starting to realize the possibilities. Here’s an example QR Code for this website:

SpiritOfNine QR Code

I See It, Now What?

In order to make sense of a QR Code, you need a reader. There are plenty to choose from, including BeeTagg, QR Reader and Scanner, QRCode, HEROLD QR, AveaTag and countless others. There are readers for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and just about every other smart phone out there.

But … I hate having too many apps on my phone, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that RedLaser, in addition to all the other wonderful things it does, also handles QR Codes. Win. I tested it on the QR Code above and it worked perfectly. (If you don’t use RedLaser and have an iPhone or Android device, I highly recommend it. It’s free and full of brilliant.)

Whichever reader you settle on, just fire up the app, point the camera at the code (which usually involves centering the image between some brackets) and wait. Once the program sees and processes the image, the magic will happen. It’s really that simple.

Creating or Generating QR Codes

If you Google “qr code generator”, you’ll find several options. I created mine on BeeTagg back in 2009. It really doesn’t matter where you create them. Kaywa has a nice, simple interface (and they have a reader as well). It’s very simple to create a code that points to a web page or send an email or txt message. You can create as many as you want and plaster them where ever.

And That’s That

And that’s the QR Code basics. You now know what you need in order to get started, so get with it. Plaster those codes! (For more information, see Gina Trapani’s excellent What Business Card? Just Scan My QR Code).

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