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Why You Should Know About QR Codes

Sunday, 9 October 2011

You may have seen a few of these cryptic little square patterns recently : they've started popping up in all sorts of places. In case you're wondering, they're called QR ("Quick Response") codes and they're definitely worth knowing about.

QR codes are basically two-dimensional barcodes. The code above contains the URL for this blog : So what? The point is, smartphones, tablets and other devices these days will most likely have a camera in them to allow such codes to be read as well as the software required to interpret them. So by pointing, say, an iPhone at this image printed on a piece of paper somewhere, you'd be able to browse to this web site without having to remember and/or type in the URL. QR codes allow you to easily grab web site addresses from somewhere out there in the physical world and onto a computer. For writers, they're another way of letting readers find your web site, blog or whatever. That's why you see them more and more on the back of books, on promotional bookmarks, on adverts.

QR codes are easy to generate and don't cost anything to make. I used this online generator to create mine (althought his one says non-commercial use only; there are plenty of others). They don't, incidentally, have to be used just for URLs; they can be used to encode anything.

Why not just spell out the actual URL? That's because computers are bad at interpreting letters and numbers. Human brains and computers are very different things. You're good at pattern-recognition; your poor, mindless computer isn't. That's why you often have to type in strings of characters on blogs etc. They stop someone automatically generating a zillion spam posts. When a computer tries to interpret a URL it can easily make mistakes. But a computer can read a QR code effortlessly.

So, if you're producing some marketing material or publishing a paperback, it's well-worth considering adding in a QR code along with all your human-readable contact information ...


  1. I wondered what those were. Thanks. Now I don't have to ask my sons or their friends.

  2. Or...I could generate a QR code for my blog, print it out on a bunch of flyers, and post them all over town like it's some uber-secret message from an even uberer-secret society!

  3. WiDo Publishing recently published a book and included a QR code. I had no idea what it was or why it was included. Thanks for clarifying this for me, Simon!

  4. Golly these codes are everywhere! Even my ever so tiny and local indian restaurant has this thingy on their menus! LOL! Take care

  5. Thanks for the tip. And for telling me what these strange symbols are called -- I knew what they were for, but it never occurred to me I could use then too.

  6. Thanks Simon, I'd wondered what they were, but never got around to finding out.

  7. niiganab : Now you can impress your sons with your knowledge!

    Milo : That would work really well. I'm sure you'd get a bunch of hip young things scanning them ...

    Karen : WiDo are clearly switched on!

    Old Kitty : I know! You even see them on web sites, which is slightly weird. I guess it's a way of getting a URL from one computer/device to another.

    Thomas : I'm sure you could create some great artwork with one of them embedded in ...

    Deborah : Glad to be of use.

  8. I didn't know what these were either - or that iPhones could read them!

  9. fairyhedgehog - hope that was vaguely useful!

  10. I had wondered about those squares!

    Thanks for the post.

  11. Golden Eagle,

    You're most welcome!

  12. My brother told me about these a little while back (he's in IT) but I chose to ignore him. May have to reconsider.

  13. Cate - Your brother sounds wise!

  14. I thought they were just interesting looking pictures. Thanks for the info Simon.



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