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Using QR Codes

You’ve probably seen QR codes--those square barcode-like symbols that can be scanned by smart phones--but you may not know how easy they are to create. Learn how to use them on your printed (or web) materials.

What is a QR Code?

QR Code

“QR Code” is short for “Quick Response Code,” and is similar to a bar code. The symbol is a square black-and-white pattern that can be read by electronic scanners. The information contained in the barcode can be simple text, phone numbers, instructions for sending a text message, or, most commonly, a web address (URL).

How are QR Codes Scanned?

Smartphones with cameras can act as scanners for QR Codes, which makes them a really easy way to provide people with more information than what fits on a piece of paper. To read QR Codes you install an app on your smartphone; there are several out there, some free, some a nominal fee. To find an app, search for “QR Code Reader” or just “QR Code” from your smartphone’s app store. Once the app is installed, start it up and point the camera at a QR Code like the one here. You may need to press a button to activate the scanner, but it should then lead you to a web page.

What are Some Uses for a QR Code?

QR Codes can be used to provide more information than fits on a flyer, or they can be used to help people take immediate action. You might use them to:

  • Direct people to a full schedule of events
  • Provide a link to a page to set up an appointment
  • Link to your web page
  • Provide a link to a bus or other transportation schedule
  • Bring people to a sign-up page or application

These are only a few ideas off the top of my head--you can probably think of plenty more.

How are QR Codes Created?

Creating QR Codes is really easy, thanks to some free web sites. I like to use , but a Google search for “QR Code Creator” will give you other options. Once you get to a page, enter the URL that you want, and generate the QR Code. QR Codes can be different sizes; use whatever works for you. You can copy the image into your flyer or other documents, and you can even use them on a web page if you want: to provide a quick way for the user to call, for instance.


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Information Technology
Harold F. Johnson Library Center
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002
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