I'm ashamed to say that I have never really given these little spotty things a great deal of thought or really considered how I might be able to use them in my own life to organise and retrieve material, particularly material stored in the depths of my Evernote account. As I started to explore their potential more deeply it very quickly became apparent that I have been missing not just a trick but many tricks in terms of what I could use these codes for and how they might become part of my everyday life.

A QR Code (the QR stands for "Quick Response") is a mobile phone readable barcode that's been around for quite a while and has popped up in all sorts of locations though many people make little use of them and they are often ignored. These codes can be used to provide pretty much instantaneous access to all sorts of things, below is a list which is by no means exhaustive:

Website URL, YouTube Video, Image File, PDF File, Google Maps Location, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, FourSquare, App Store Download, iTunes Link, Dropbox, Plain Text, Telephone Number, Skype Call, SMS Message, Email Address, Email Message, Contact Details, Digital Business Card, Attendance Tracking, Event (VCALENDAR), Wifi Login, Paypal, Buy Now Link, Bitcoin.

It turns out all I need to make use of them is access to a suitable website which will allow me to generate QR Codes, such as QRStuff.com. I then needed some way of printing out the generated QR Codes if I want to use them in printed form though they can of course be distributed electronically, and then a phone application to read these codes. The code reader I've been using on an iPhone is QR Scanner by MixerBox Inc which is very quick and convenient and available for the iPhone in the App Store.

Any printer can be used but I think the Dymo LabelWriter 450 Turbo is an excellent choice if you are going to be doing a lot of this kind of thing. The QR Scanner application I mentioned has the advantage of happily reading "text only" QR codes without the need for an Internet connection of any kind, this is not true of all QR Code scanners. This means that "text only" QR Codes can be deployed in remote areas or areas without coverage such as subways if required, they will still work. I find the QRStuff.com and QR Scanner combination to be excellent.

My initial plan, having done some reading, is to make various digital versions of manuals available immediately where they are needed, that is at the device itself. I have all the manuals for household items available digitally in Evernote so part of the work is already done. The next steps are as as follows:

  1. Go to the relevant digital manual note in the Evernote application and select the "Copy Note Link" option in the "Note" menu, copy the link to the clipboard.
  2. Go to the QRStuff website (above) and paste in the note link, this will generate a QR Code.
  3. Download the QR Code and print it out onto an adhesive label, or paper.
  4. Attach the QR Code to the device to which the manual relates.

Then the magic can begin. When I need to access the manual I will have the device in hand and I can simply scan the QR Code with my iPhone or iPad and the digital version of the manual will immediately be retrieved for reference, no searching, no messing about in dusty files, no problem. It really does work like a charm.

Here's just a simple example. Need to refer to the instructions for that old battery charger you bought seven years ago and you've forgotten what that little light means? Look on the back of the unit for the QR Code you put there linking you to the scanned copy of the manual in your Evernote account and almost instantaneously there is the manual on your phone or tablet, just where and when you need it. No searching, no swearing about the fact that you cannot find it in an analogue filing system, try it!

QR Codes can also be used for home archiving purposes, coupled with Evernote this will make a brilliant bi-directional storage and retrieval system. I have a number of storage boxes up in the loft and what I'll do as a one-off task is create an Evernote note of the contents of each one, the first note will be called something like "Storage 01". The same process as above will then be used to generate a QR Code which will be attached to the top of the storage box.

Using this arrangement, if I want to know the contents of a box I simply scan the QR Code and the list pops up, it's that simple. However, another "reverse" use of the system is to search Evernote for a particular item, say "Glassware" and this will find that text and the note header will say something like "Storage 03" and you then immediately know which box to look in for the glassware.

The above are very simple examples but the options are endless. All the books on a section of shelving for example could be listed in an Evernote note and that section of shelving labelled with a QR Code which would make retrieval quick and simple rather than scouring shelves for a particular volume.

Are you going out? Don't want to forget important things when you leave the house briefly or for a longer holiday? Are you likely to forget to check the gas ring? Are the lights all off? Is the water turned off?

Simple solution, produce a "Must Not Forget" list in Evernote, get the note link and generate a QR Code. Print out the QR Code and put it on the inside of the front door, as you leave scan it and your "Must Not Forget" list will instantly appear, check it quickly and away you go, confident that nothing important has been left behind or forgotten. As times change simply update the note in Evernote and the new version will pop up when you scan the same QR Code. So, simply posting the QR Code below on the back of the front door and scanning it before you set off out will remind you of those "Do Not Forget" items, whatever they may be, try it!

A similar arrangement can also be applied to packing for a holiday. My plan is to use an existing general packing list which I already have stored in Evernote and I will produce a QR Code label using the link to that note, this QR Code will then be attached to my suitcase which will mean that when I come to pack for a trip I simply scan the QR Code and bingo, there is my packing list exactly where I want it, in my hand. A potential added benefit of this is that if luggage goes missing simply scanning a second identical QR Code attached to travel documents, or referencing the note, will provide an immediate list of suitcase contents for insurance purposes.

Dread that moment of blind panic when you are stuck by the roadside, you can make it more bearable if you have all the information you require. Create a note in Evernote containing the information you might quickly require such as insurance company telephone number and policy details, your vehicle registration number (easy to get wrong in a panic!) and vehicle make and model and of course the emergency phone number of a rescue company. You might want to also include instructions about retrieving your exact location from a SatNav as this can be fiddly with some models and it's far easier if instructions are to hand. For more general use things like tyre pressures can be included in the note to save looking them up on door panels or in manuals.

Once the emergency note is generated create your QR Code as above and attach it to the dashboard and when that horrible moment arrives fire up the QR Scanner on your phone and there is everything you need, immediately to hand.

The possibilities are endless, but you do need to remember your phone or tablet!

Q Field-Boden. December 2017.