Create QR Code for Free

Want to drive traffic to your business, website, or event?

Links in webpages are great, but what about in print?

You could post a weblink and hope your viewer can write it down and remember to view it later, or you can capitalize on the fact that they are probably carrying a camera in their pocket that can be used to take a picture of your announcement and instantly display all the relevant detail.

Welcome to the world of QR codes.

These strange little jumbles of dots and boxes are your key to unleashing torrents of information in the space of a large coin.

Let’s see how we can make our QR codes for FREE using a Google Sheets function.

By using a function to generate the QR codes, we can create the codes in a dynamic way that allows for changes and provides the opportunity for bulk code creations.

We’ll also be able to show all our Excel Fanboys something they only WISH they could do.

We will examine the process of creating QR codes from scratch, but if you’d rather benefit immediately from QR codes without putting in the work, you can access the link to the completed file at the bottom of this post.

This will create a copy of the file, after which you can type the URL of your choice and the QR code will be generated automatically.

Once the QR code has been generated, you can copy and paste the image into any application of your choosing.

Creating the QR Code from Scratch

NOTE: You will need to be logged in to your Google account for this to work properly.

Creating the Workbook

The first step in creating a QR code in Google Sheets is to open your favorite browser and type “sheets.new” (without the quotes) in the Location Bar.

This will start a new Google Sheets workbook and automatically save it in your Google Drive.

It would be a good idea to give the new workbook a better name.  Feel free to change the workbook name to something other than “Untitled spreadsheet”.

If you are unhappy with the save location of the file in your Google Drive, you can click the Move button to relocate the file to a better location.

Establishing the Links

The next step is to create a list of the link or links that you wish to generate QR codes from.

Writing the QR Code Generator Function

Google Sheets does not possess a specific function to generate QR codes, but you can use the IMAGE function to call a URL that will generate the QR code.

The requirements for the IMAGE function’s URL are the link to the Google API along with the desired size and cell address that holds the Web link.

Information on the Google API can be found at the following address:

https://developers.google.com/chart/infographics/docs/qr_codes

(See what I did there?  😊 )

The requirements for generating the QR code are:

  • The root URL – https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?
  • The QR code request option – cht=qr
  • The image size defined as <width> x <height> – ex: chs=500×500
  • The URL for the image – chl=

You can also define the output encoding and error correction if needed.  See the online Google API documentation for details.

A generic version of an API call would look like the following.

https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=500x500&chl=

In the below example, we are placing the URL to a website in a separate cell.

The IMAGE function is accepting the Google API link concatenated with a cell reference (B1) to create and retrieve the QR code and place it in a cell.

Notice how each of the QR code API elements is concatenated using the “&” character.

By enlarging the height of the rows, we get a clearer image of the QR code.

By dragging the formula down to adjacent rows, we can generate QR codes for all the desired links.

Pro Tip for Bulk Creation

If you plan on using the QR API call using the IMAGE function in many locations throughout your document, consider placing the API URL in a dedicated cell.  This cell can be referenced by the IMAGE function.

When concatenated with the cell holding the website URL, it can make for a very short and easy to remember formula.

If you name the cell holding the API URL, say to something like “QRCode”, your formulas can be even easier to remember and write.

Using the QR Codes in Other Applications

Once the QR codes have been generated in Google Sheets, it’s a simple matter of clicking on the QR code, press COPY, then switch to your favorite application and press PASTE.

The File

Grab your own copy of the file HERE.

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