QR Codes: What are they and how can I use them?

March 1, 2010 / Updated: March 1, 2010 / Lena Shore

What are they?

QR Codes (Quick Read Codes) are two-dimensional bar codes that hold information. They are built in such a way to be easily and quickly read by a scanner. It was the brain child of the Japanese corporation, Denso-Wave. They are very common in Japan and are the most common type of two-dimensional code there.

How do I read them?

You just need to be able to scan it and then read it. You can find free readers online by doing a google search or download reader applications for your mobile phone. You just take a picture of the QR Code with your camera phone and your reader will decode it for you. Pretty snazzy.

Alternately, you can get a reader application for your computer or use a service online.

Note the big one I posted at the top of this article. Feel free to download a free reader app and test it out. I’ll wait.

How much information will a QR Code hold?

A QR code can hold somewhere upwards of 3,000 – 7,000 characters, depending on the content type.

  • Numeric only: Max. 7,089 characters
  • Alphanumeric: Max. 4,296 characters
  • Binary (8 bits): Max. 2,953 bytes
  • Kanji/Kana: Max. 1,817 characters

What are QR codes good for?

There are lots of cool ways to utlize QR codes, especially if you have a smart phone and a little creativity. Here are a few ideas:

  • Our city posts them at the bus stops for people to get the bus schedule.
  • Putting a QR Code in a newspaper that contains information for a special your business is running.
  • Placing discounts or coupon information on printed materials for customers
  • Display one on your website or the back of your business card so people can download your vCard into their address book.
  • Use them at trade shows on t-shirts or hats with a secret message.
  • Use them as a green way to send out invitations and registrations.
  • Google sent me a sticker of one to post on my car so people would know where my business was for using Google Maps.
  • Tattoo one on your forehead so if you pass out in a bar, people will know where you live and who to call in an emergency. Just don’t move to another home or apartment.

How do I make one?

Again, google it. If you do a search for “QR Code Generator” you’ll find a bunch. Many are free to use. Here is a link to one that I tried at kaywa.

I predict that now that QR Codes are becoming more popular, you will start noticing them and thinking of cool ways to use them. I know I am.

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Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.

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