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QR Code Barcode FAQ & Tutorial

QR Code Barcode Overview

2D QR Code Barcode Encoding VCARD Contact Info

QR Code is a very efficient, two-dimensional (2D) barcode symbology that uses a small area of square modules with a unique perimeter pattern, which helps the barcode scanner determine cell locations and decode the QR Code symbol. Characters, numbers, text and actual bytes of data may be encoded, including Unicode characters and images. IDAutomation's implementation of QR Code is based on the ISO/IEC 18004:2006 standard.

Fig. 1. A 2D QR-Code Symbol Generated with the IDAutomation QR-Code Image Generator

Common Uses of QR Codes

Example of VCARD decoded from QR-CodeQR Codes are commonly used with smart-phone devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Windows 7 Phones to direct users to additional information about a particular topic. These 2D barcodes can also be used with social media hubs to perform an automated Facebook Like or Twitter Follow Me, for example. Encoding VCARD contact information on business cards is also a common implementation. The image to the right demonstrates the options available after scanning the barcode in Fig 2 with the BeeTag iPhone app.

The chart below lists common uses and the encoding technique. The Free QR Code Generator may be used to generate all codes described below. Simply copy the example below into the Free QR Code Generator replacing the generic information with yours.

Purpose Prefix Example
Website URL http://
Facebook Like http://
Twitter Follow http://
E-mail Address mailto:
Phone Numbers tel: tel:+18135142564
Text (SMS) sms: sms:12345
VCARD Contact Information, in MeCard format MECARD: MECARD:N:Smith,John;ADR:550 N. Reo St.,Suite 300,Tampa, FL33609;TEL:+18135142564;EMAIL:you@com;
NOTE: Symbols created with the MeCard format only work correctly when scanned with an app that is MeCard compatible, such as the Free BeeTag iPhone app.

QR Code may also be easily displayed on smart-phone devices in place of anything that is normally printed with a barcode, such as coupons, tickets and passes. When used in this way, the QR Code is displayed on the screen via a website, email or text and scanned from the screen. The IDAutomation 2D USB Scanner quickly performs scans from mobile phone screens as seen in this video.

Generating and Printing QR Codes

Creating QR Code Barcodes
View Video Full Screen on YouTube

IDAutomation offers a Free QR-Code 2D Barcode Image Generator, designed to encode a meCard business card barcode or URL, which can encode up to 200 characters. Capability to encode more than 200 characters available in the product described below.

The IDAutomation QR Code Barcode Font and Encoder is a collection of encoders and components that generate QR Codes with either fonts or graphics.

Several types of QR Code encoders are available in the package to support multiple operating systems including Windows 32 and 64 bit systems, Mac OSX, UNIX and Linux.

QR Code is also offered in several barcode components, such as the .NET Forms Control, ASP.NET Server Control and Streaming Server for IIS, as well as the 2D Image Generator for Windows and the Barcode Label Software Pro.

QR Code Size and Accuracy

QR Codes are some of the smallest and most dependable barcodes in use today. The QR Code symbology is approximately 30 times smaller than a Code 39 barcode representing the same data. QR Code is also a good choice when sending barcodes over faxed documents, because the symbol can withstand many poor resolution and scanning issues.

A quiet zone of four times the size of one module is required on all sides of the QR Code symbol. The quiet zone should be the same color as the background.

Verifying QR Code Barcodes

Printed QR Code barcode symbols may be easily verified with the Print Quality Assessment test found in the IDAutomation 2D Barcode Scanner. The quality assurance test will grade the symbol and report any possible problems. The report below was generated when scanning the symbol in Fig. 1 with PQA enabled:

>> PQA <<
QR CODE: MODEL 2 VERSION 2 (25 x 25 modules)
Mask Pattern Reference #7, Error Correction Level "L"
Data Field: 34 data & 10 checks in 1 block(s) of GF(256)
X roughly = 0.041"
[C] < Data Safety Margin = 46%
[A] < Horizontal Print Growth = +4% of X
[A] < Vertical Print Growth = +1% of X

Error Correction and Encoding Modes

Products such as the IDAutomation QR Code Barcode Fonts and the QR Code Components all support the encoding modes listed below. By default, the encoding mode for most components is "byte" and an error correction level of M. If the choice is to encode text only and size is a concern, a change of the encoding mode to Alpha-Numeric may produce a smaller symbol. The data represented in the symbol may be encoded using one of the following modes:

Encoding Mode Parameter Selection* Description
Byte 0 Encodes lower case letters, text, images, double-byte characters, binary data and 8 bit values.
Alpha-Numeric 1 Encodes only numbers and uppercase letters. In this encoding mode, lower case letters will be converted to upper case. All other data will be filtered out.
Numeric 2 Encodes only numbers; all other data will be ignored.

Four levels of Reed-Solomon error correction are referred to as L, M, Q and H. The error correction levels allow verification of data and recovery in the event that part of the symbol is damaged. Increasing the error correction level increases the symbol size and reduces data capacity. The percentage of recovery and capacity noted below are approximate.

Error Correction Level % of Recovery Byte Capacity at Size 24 Parameter Selection*
L 7% 1171 2
M 15% 911 0
Q 25% 661 3
H 30% 511 1

* The parameter selection is the parameter to use in IDAutomation's QR Code Font and Encoder and other QR Code Components.

Symbol Version:

The version is the size of the symbol from (1) 21x21 to (40) 177x177. Zero is the automatic selection and the default. If the symbol needs to be larger than the selection, the component automatically overrides this value.

Reading QR Code Barcodes

Encoding ASCII Functions (such as Tabs and Returns)

Encoding Double Byte, Unicode and Extended ASCII Character

It is possible to scan and encode international and extended characters provided the instructions below are followed:

  1. Encode the data using byte encoding.
  2. Scan the data via the serial interface option (data bits have to be 8N) on the scanner. Normally, keyboard wedges and USB scanners do not support extended characters above ASCII 128, and only scan characters that are actually on the keyboard. Contact the scanner vendor for more information as some of the scanner's internal settings may need to be changed.

Amount of Data Encoded

  • It is recommended to limit the amount of data encoded in each symbol to 800 characters or less if possible. The ISO/IEC 18004 specifications state that up to 2900 bytes and 4200 ASCII characters may be encoded in single symbol; however, few imagers can dependably decode symbols that large. The amount of data that can be encoded will vary depending upon the type of data, the encoding mode and what the scanner can read. In ASCII or text mode, the amount of data that can be encoded is significantly decreased due to mode switching between different types of characters, such as between numbers, upper case, lower case and punctuation.

    Most camera based imagers and hand-held scanners have difficulty reading symbols that contain over 800 characters. In the best case scenario, up to 1200 ASCII characters have been successfully encoded and read by using the text encoding mode of the IDAutomation QR Code Barcode Font with the IDAutomation 2D Barcode Scanner.

Control Characters and use of Tilde

  • IDAutomation QR Code Barcode Fonts, Components and Applications use the tilde character "~" to recognize special characters when "Apply Tilde" or "Process Tilde" is enabled. The following tilde options are available:
    • ~dNNN: Represents the ASCII character encoded by the 3 digits NNN.
      • For example:
          ~d009 represents a tab,
          ~d013 represents a return and
          ~d065 represents the character 'A'.

Is a License Required for Use?

  • Denso Wave, Inc. invented the QR-Code symbology. A notification on their website states that no license or royalty fees are required for use provided that a proper copyright notice is included that refers to Denso Wave, Inc. as the copyright owner.

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