Quick QR Code Generation

QR Codes are a really easy way to share information between your desktop or laptop and a smartphone, which don’t have the privacy issues inherent in Google’s Chrome To Phone. The excellent FOSS Barcode Scanner app for Android makes scanning these codes and opening the scanned data a breeze. However, generating them on the desktop can be a bit of a pain. There are several websites, browser addons and APIs for generating these codes, but up until now I haven’t found anything really quick and easy.

That is until today, when I discovered the ‘qrencode’ utility. Qrencode does exactly what it says on the tin. It takes some text, encodes it as a QR Code and writes the result as a PNG file. It’s a simple command line tool, which opens up awesome scripting possibilities.

My use case is simply to send the URL of a web page that I’m viewing on my desktop to my phone, via QR Code. I found that qrencode was quite happy to write its output to stdout, which meant I could display the result directly using ImageMagick’s ‘display’ command, e.g:

$ qrencode http://blog.webworxshop.com -o - | display

You’ll notice that by default the QR Code is quite small. We can fix this by increasing the block size:

$ qrencode http://blog.webworxshop.com -s 10 -o - | display

Next, I wanted to automatically pull the text to encode from somewhere to save typing – the clipboard was an ideal candidate. Enter ‘xclip’. Xclip is a command line utility to read and write from/to the X system’s built in clipboard. I used bash’s backtick command substitution to grab text from the clipboard and encode it:

$ qrencode `xclip -o` -s 10 -o - | display

And there you have it, a simple one line command to generate and display a QR Code from the contents of the clipboard. I created a bash script containing the command and assigned it to a keyboard shortcut in Gnome (Ctrl-Shift-Q), so that sharing URLs to my phone is as simple as selecting the text in the location bar and hitting Ctrl-C followed by Ctrl-Shift-Q.

If you want to give this a try, you’ll need to install the utilities discussed, in Fedora these can be installed with:

$ sudo yum install qrencode xclip ImageMagick


4 thoughts on “Quick QR Code Generation

  1. John M. says:

    works great! I use Ubuntu so I just did a
    sudo apt-get install qrencode xclip imagemagick
    and then your examples worked great. I’m going to try assigning the script to one of my extra keys on my keyboard.


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