How Do QR Codes Work and What Do You Need?

by Cathy Miller on September 21, 2011

The first in a three-part post defined QR codes and provided a bit of history about them.

Now it’s time to get down to the fun part –

  • How do QR codes work?
  • What do you need to make QR codes work?

Make it Work

Before we put the cart before the horse, we should know what we need to make these square soundbites work.

  • A mobile phone with a camera – or –
  • A webcam (more about this later)
  • A QR code reader
  • Web access

I must admit when I first heard about the codes, I pictured carrying my scanner down the street.

Hardly practical.

I should have known it involved a smartphone. You know those devices that do everything but make calls when you need them.

QR Code Reader

Some smartphones come with the software already loaded; however, you can download an application (app).

  • You can get QR code readers at the App Store for iPhones
  • Blackberry App World for Blackberrys (duh)
  • Mobile codes for Nokia phones
  • Or the 14 million markets for Android and other apps

You do need to make sure the apps are compatible with your phone. Like any software, your personal preference may be different from others.

Here are a few options.

i-nigma – This is one I found mentioned repeatedly while researching readers. It is supposed to work on any mobile phone with a camera.

iPhone Apps (free)
(free) QR Code reader apps

(free) QR Code reader apps

This is a very small sample. Like most apps, there are free ones and those with nominal fees for download.


You can load reading software to your computer and provided you have a webcam, you can scan in the codes and project the information on your monitor – instead of that teeny, tiny smartphone.

Not that this baby boomer would understand that problem.

Note: the webcam works with mail, magazines or other material with QR codes you receive at your home. We do not recommend stealing store posters and taking them home for scanning.

How Does it Work?

  • Smartphone? Check
  • Camera? Check
  • QR code reader software? Check

Congratulations! You are ready to crack the code on those square mysteries of information.

Depending on your software, you simply –

  • Initiate the reader app on your phone
  • Aim your smartphone at the code
  • Wait for it to read the code
  • Then watch it deliver the link/information to your smartphone

Make sure you hold the smartphone steady and capture the whole image.

Some of the information may be in the form of a v-Card (file format for an electronic business card). Your reader may ask if you want to save it to your address book.

But, what if you want to make your own QR codes?

That’s simple, too – my favorite word – simple.

Create Your Own

There are several sites for creating your own QR codes.

Here are five free code-generator sites.

It was news to me that the link shortener also generates QR codes.

Here’s how it works.

1. Copy a shortened link and add dot QR at the end of it

For example, here is the link for the first post in this series –

2. Paste that link into a browser
3. Enter and it takes you to your QR Code

Here is what the site turns into codes.

  • URL
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Text
  • Vcard
  • Text message (with phone number)
  • YouTube video

Kaywa offers the following.

  • URL
  • Text
  • Phone number
  • SMS message
Kerem Erkan

This code generator allows you to customize the color and format.

Here is my blog URL with my blog’s theme color – cool!

 Mobile Barcodes

Your options are –

  • URL
  • Text message
  • Phone number
  • SMS
  • Email

Will it Work for You?

Now you know –

  • What the codes are
  • What you need
  • How they work
  • How to make your own

We touched on some of the uses in the first post.

We’ll explore some more, as well as the Good, the Bad & the Ugly in the final post of the series.

What do you think so far?

Do you have a favorite reader software app? Favorite code generator?

Share your experience in comments.

See you on Post #3 – coming soon to your favorite blog post feed.


This is the first topic of seven from my What I Want to Learn list. It’s another round of practice what you preach. I have to stop preaching! I hope you enjoy the series. I would love your feedback.

BigStock Photo credit (under Title-the rest are actual QR codes)


Helping you Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours – contact me for help with your business writing needs.



If you enjoyed this post, please share. Thank you!Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookPrint this page

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Hurley Hall September 21, 2011 at 4:50 am

Thanks, Cathy. I’d heard of some of these readers. I have a Nokia and haven’t yet identified the best one for it. I had no idea that did QR codes; that could come in handy.
Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Writing Techniques – Sometimes Less is MoreMy Profile


Cathy September 21, 2011 at 5:38 am

Hi Sharon: I thought it was cool about, too. I use it all the time, now just one more step gets a QR code as well.

Let us know if you find a reader that you like for your Nokia. Thanks, Sharon, for sharing your comments.


Anne Wayman September 21, 2011 at 7:30 am

I know I’m starting to feel way left out because I don’t have a smart phone to read these, but if it takes all those steps maybe I don’t want to know.
Anne Wayman recently posted..Freelance Writing Jobs Are BackMy Profile


Cathy September 21, 2011 at 7:37 am

That’s part of what I’ll talk about in the last post, Anne. Not everyone has smartphones and even if you do, does that mean this is a great idea? Since I am a fan of being unique, I totally understand not jumping on the bandwagon.

Thanks for sharing your comments, Anne.


Lisa Kanarek September 21, 2011 at 7:51 am

I’m filing this under “you learn something new every day.” 🙂 You’ve saved all of endless hours of research time to learn this new technology. I’m going to find ways to apply it to my business and put my iPhone to work. Thanks for sharing this.
Lisa Kanarek recently posted..Contracts Can Make Everything ClearerMy Profile


Nicky Parry September 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

So since I have an iPhone, there’s no excuse for me not to get more “with-it”! I did laugh, however, at the prospect of me actually making my own codes…..
Nicky Parry recently posted..Taste Buds #10My Profile


Cathy September 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

Oh, there’s always room for excuses, Nicky. 🙂


HarperKarl June 25, 2015 at 5:15 am

No Nokia? i was hoping i’d get something for Lumia phone, Nokia or MS. it’d be nice if someone can actually comment or give me a link. btw, thanks for taking time out and posting this Cathy. thumbs up.


Cathy Miller June 25, 2015 at 11:45 am

Probably time for an update after four years. 😉
Cathy Miller recently posted..What Lasting Impression Does Your Business Communication Leave?My Profile


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: