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How to use QR Codes

What to do if you see one of those ‘square barcodes’? How can you convert that into something useful like a web link or phone number?

You see them in ads, signs, billboards, test and trace signs and even menus – little square blobs like this:

QR Code example image from How to use QR Codes at

What are QR Codes and how can you use them?

QR Codes  are essentially a new-fangled type of barcode. Unlike the familiar UPC product barcode, QR Codes can contain text like a web link, phone number or contact details for the public to use.

The most common use of QR Codes is with smartphones. There are special apps which will read and decode the QR code. But these days that’s not usually necessary.

Most smartphone cameras now detect QR Codes automatically. You don’t even need you to press the ‘shutter’ button – just turn on the app and point the camera at the QR code. The app will ‘see’ there’s a QR code, take an image and process it.

QR Codes usually contain a web link and, if so, the app will let you tap on the link to open up your browser and display that page. Web links are the most common type of public QR Code for signs and menus.

If it reads a phone number, it will prompt you to call that number.

A business card could have a QR Code, scan that code and all the details can be saved to your contact list.

QR Codes for COVID vaccination/recovery proof contain your name, DOB and other data including expiry of the certificate in an encoded form that’s been agreed across many countries. All the data in the QR Code is displayed ‘in the clear’ in the same app that you use to display the QR Code.

QR codes can contain any text data including a contact or coupon but the ability to convert that text into something useful depends on the QR reading software. There’s defacto standards for the most common uses like web links and phone numbers. Most apps have a history feature so you can quickly scan a code and come back later to check it out.

There are many QR Code apps available, search your app store (“QR Code”) for one that suits you. But first check what your smartphone can do, chances are good that the phone comes with QR code capability already.


QR Code Reader and Scanner

QR Reader for iPhone


QR droid

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