QR codes have been around a long time, since 1994 to be specific. Barcode scanner developer Masahiro Hara set out to develop barcode scanners that could read barcodes more quickly. The result was the QR code, something we see multiple times every day.

While the QR code has been around almost 30 years, the concept had been slow to catch on with the general public. According to an article by QRcode-tiger.com, in 2011, only 6.2% of smartphone users in the United States had ever scanned a QR code. In 2012, another study revealed 97% of us didn’t even know what a QR code was. The lackluster acceptance extended beyond the United States. In 2015, only 9% of the German population had ever scanned one.

But things have changed

Now, every restaurant we visit lets us view the menu by scanning a QR code. The pandemic led to the temporary removal of traditional menus touched by customer after customer. One scan of a QR code lets us view the same menu on the phone.

If you don’t already have a QR code reader on your phone, go to the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

How could you use QR codes in your daily life?

If you’re an artist, displaying your work in a gallery

There’s likely a story behind every piece of art, and you likely have those stories in blog posts or pages on your website. Display a QR code next to each item. Scanning the QR code takes the person to the page that displays the story.

Was your business written up in an online journal or online newspaper?

Create a QR code that takes people to the article. Proudly display the QR code on the front door or in the lobby.

Are you giving a presentation and want your handout to be digital?

As long as that handout has a URL, you’re in luck (and with Evernote or Google Drive, that part is easy). At the bottom of the handout, create a QR code that takes people to the handout. Instead of reading out a long URL for people to type, stand at the door and let the first few people scan the QR code from your phone. They are now looking at the handout. They can scroll to the bottom of that handout where you have the QR code. Others now scan the code with their phones. In a couple of minutes, the entire roomful of people has the handout.

Do you want to be able to access digital owner’s manuals for large appliances?

Create a QR code for each manual. Download and tape the QR code somewhere on the appliance.

Are you a teacher and want to annotate the teacher’s edition of your textbook with links to videos, documents, or other digital resources?

Create a QR code for each resource. Download the QR codes and shrink each one to a fairly small size. Print and tape the QR codes into the teacher’s manual at the appropriate places.

How can you make your own QR codes?

We’ve always been able to search Google for “QR code generator” and find good candidates. But there’s something ridiculously convenient you probably haven’t noticed.

Use the icon in the Chrome address bar

If you use Google Chrome, the next time you’re viewing a website, click on the address bar. To the right of the address, do you see a small icon that looks like four dots enclosed in a rectangle? In the video, you’ll see it.

Click it. You just created a QR code for the webpage you are on! You’ll also see a button to download that QR code. You can now print it or copy/paste it anywhere!

Go to a site designed to generate QR codes

You have other options for making QR codes. A Google search will reveal various options. Here are a few:

Those sites allow for the creation of QR codes for more than URLs. Other options include the following:

  • A word, sentence, or paragraph. Imagine scanning a QR code and seeing the text of a poem on your phone.
  • Email. Scan the QR code and make it open your phone’s email program and enter the email address of the recipient, the subject, and the text of the email.
  • SMS message. Scan the QR code and watch it compose a text message before your eyes and enter the phone number.
  • vCard. Create one of these with your contact information. People scan it and now have your correct address, phone, number, and email.
  • WiFi. When friends visit and want to get their iPads on your network, they just scan the QR code.

Shared Google Sheet

If you need to create a whole series of QR codes for URLs or simple text, grab this Google Sheet. In Column A, enter the text or URL. In Column B, the QR appears. Copy. paste, and resize anywhere you like. You can even print it, cut out the code, and tape or glue it to a physical object.

Grab a copy of this Google Sheet to generate multiple QR Codes


[Update: September 29, 2022. This post landed on the radar of Canva. One of their team members reached out to let me know about QR Code Generator within Canva.]

To get started, select your design template (or design you’d like to add a QR code to) and click more on the left side toolbar, then create something new. Then, click QR code and type in the URL of the website or content you’d like to add to your design. All you need to do is wait, and your QR code will be added to your layout and you can customize it as you see fit. At this time, Canva’s QR code generator tool can only create static QR codes, as this is the easiest and most accessible type of QR code for everyone.

If you are already familiar with Canva, this video will have you adding QR codes to Canva creations in minutes.

The next time you need to make a QR Code, you can come back here to review the instructions. If you’ve read this far, you likely have an interest in how to do it. So, why not try your hand a making one. Of the examples, which is the most applicable to your situation? Make a QR and see if it works. In the comments, tell me what type of QR code you created.

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