Quick Response Codes are easy to use. Just point your smartphone’s camera at the code with a barcode scanning app and the corresponding web page opens in the smartphone’s web browser.

Quick Response Codes were developed in 1994 by Toyota’s subsidiary Denso Wave to allow automotive components to be scanned at high speed. QR Codes provide an easy way to print machine-readable information on paper. In its most compressed form, a single QR code contains several thousand characters.

Barcode for the Car Loan calculator

QR codes have recently become popular also as a simple means to feed information into smartphones, usually web addresses, from newspapers, subway advertisements or museum displays. Special apps can read and decode the QR Code through the smartphone’s camera, and automatically open the related web page in the smartphone’s web browser.

Beware that QR Codes can be malicious. Since they are impossible to decode with the human eye, there is no way for you to determine if the web page that will open in your device is the one you expect, or if it’s safe. We recommend scanners with built-in web security checks, e.g. Kaspersky QR Scanner or QR Pal from QR Pay Ltd, both available both for iOS and Android devices.

Installing a QR Code reader

If you don’t have a QR Code scanner on your device, visit the app store and download one of the many alternatives. Before you install a QR Code reader, consider the following:

  • Your phone must have a working camera.
  • Your phone must have an Internet connection at the time you scan the QR Code, to be able to open the web page.

Scanning the QR Code

  1. Start your QR Code scanning app and wait for the camera to power up. If your device has more than one camera, e.g. front and back, ensure you’ve selected the back camera so that you can focus the camera on the barcode using the display on the front.
  2. Point the camera at the QR Code. When your display shows the image from the camera, try to get as close to the screen as you can. You should be able to see how the camera automatically adjusts its focus and scans the code. The QR Code is automatically corrected for reading errors, so it’s unlikely that you will get an incorrect reading.
    Screenshot of a QR code scanning app for iPhone
  3. Verify that the link points to the correct website. When the app has decoded the QR Code, the link is usually displayed on the screen. Some QR Code readers decipher shortened URLs (beginning with domain names like bit.ly, ow.ly or goo.gl), which makes it easier for you to verify the true destination address. QR Code readers with reputation control will also give you a report on the reputation of the site you will be visiting. If your barcode scanning app doesn’t have these features you may open a malicious website unless you verify the link carefully.
    Screenshot of a link deciphered from a QR code
  4. Approve the decoded link if you feel secure that the address you just scanned is safe. This should open the web page from the QR code in your smartphone’s default web browser.

If you are viewing a converted web page from another device, you only need to scan the barcode the first time you open the page. If the web page is already open on your mobile device, just press the Reload button. It is usually a circular arrow (it looks like a “rotate clockwise” symbol) and it is often located near the website address field.

Screenshot of the Reload button in Safari

Using QR codes with laptops

Many laptops have built-in cameras above their screens to facilitate video conference calls. Such web cameras can also be used to scan barcodes from another computer’s screen to open a particular web page on the laptop.

The easiest way to scan a barcode from a computer screen with a laptop is to hold the laptop upside down with the camera pointing at the barcode image on the other screen. It doesn’t matter that the QR code is read upside-down.

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