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What are QR Codes? How To Use and Make QR Codes

The other day my wife came home with a tray of new plants to add to our outdoor flower garden. In examining the plant tags, I was surprised to observe a Quick Response (QR) code included:

I whipped out my trust iPhone 4, started my QR Reader application, and within seconds I was learning more about the plant in question at the Home Depot Garden Club.

QR codes are very cool. Have you begun using them yet?

What are QR Codes?

Wikipedia defines Quick Response (QR) codes for us pretty nicely:

A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera telephones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data.

My friend and fellow CBT Nuggets colleague James Conrad attended Cisco Live together this year in Las Vegas, and I was mildly surprised to see the degree to which QR codes have infiltrated advertisements, marketing literature, and even product packaging itself.

The presumption with QR codes is that, armed with a mobile phone and a QR reader application, customers can scan the code and discover additional information about the product or service in question. Publishers, for instance, might include a QR code on the back cover of their book in which a reader can watch a sample video that is stored on the publisher’s Web site.

How to Create QR Codes

You will find that there are many, many providers of QR services; your best bet is to try out several and stick with the one(s) that work the best for you. Here are a few sites for you to try—generally speaking you provide the target URL and the site generates the QR code as a PNG or JPG image file that you can then download and use:

Here is a QR code that maps to the CBT Nuggets Web site:

How to Scan/Decode QR Codes

You will certainly want to find a good QR scanner for your mobile device. Rather than present a laundry list of these apps (of which there are many in both the Apple and Android app stores), I recommend that you run a Google search for “qr reader” and the make/model of your smartphone.

Once you have the QR reader installed, you can use the smartphone’s camera to scan QR codes. Just point, shoot, and then browse to the captured URL!

Interestingly, you can also decode QR codes from the comfort of your PC. Here the workflow is a little different—you upload the QR code image or even in some cases an image that contains a QR code, and the online app converts the matrix barcode to a URL.

Here is a list of some free online QR decoders:

I hope that you found this essay useful. Please leave your experiences with QR codes in the comments portion of this post; I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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