Asterisk, and other worldly endeavours.

A blog by Leif Madsen

Creating vCards with QR Codes


Recently I’ve been noticing a lot more use of QR codes around the internet. A QR code is those 2D matrices that look like a bar code, but aren’t just the ordinary vertical lines that you would see on your box of cereal. These are a box that contain pixels that have been coded to contain information about pretty much anything. I’ve been seeing some people using them for contact information, web links, and pretty much anything you can think of to distribute information.

I also recently saw a show on Discovery where in Japan people will post these large images on a wall somewhere hoping people will scan them with their cell phones, thereby visiting a site of a product, or perhaps giving information about an upcoming show.

These codes can then be scanned by an application on your cell phone which then displays the data for you. On my Nokia E71, if I scan in a QR code which is in the format of a vCard, then my phone will recognize that, and let me save the contact information to my phone book. How cool is that!

I figured it’d be neat to build a vCard (which is a standard format that can be used by cell phones to distribute contact information so you can easily add it to your phone book), so I went looking on the internet for some free QR code generators, specifically for vCards. I was somewhat disappointed because all the vCard generators seemed to be missing a field for a SIP URI, which I wanted to add. So I ended up using Wikipedia to find the standard vCard format, and then noticed I just needed to add the X-SIP field to my vCard information, and voila, I had the field I wanted!

If you want to generate a vCard as well, you can use the http://www.invx.com website. I found it the most forgiving, and generated the best QR codes. Additionally, it generates a semacode at the same time if you’re looking for that kind of thing :)

Here is the result of my internet scouring for QR code data generators. If you wanna try it out, feel free to scan with your cell phone and add my contact details to your cell phone! If you don’t have a bar code scanner for your cell phone, then there are several that you can find on the Internet. I tried one from http://www.i-nigma.com which seemed to work pretty well. I have one that comes with my cell phone anyways, which I actually liked quite a bit, so I’m just using that, but thought I’d try something else just for fun. You can also install it from you cell phone by visiting http://www.i-nigma.mobi.

NOTE: At some point you can only encode so much information into the graphic because the cell phone seems to get confused. For example, the image I’m generating below seems to be pretty much at the limit that my cell phone will easily pick up. It seems to be the more data you encode, the less likely your cell is to pick it up on the first try.

Update (2011/04/11): This is the most popular post I’ve ever written it seems, and it blows the other posts out of the water in terms of constant views. It seems that QR Codes are very popular now and will continue to do so. Blackberry users have a QR Code for adding accounts to the BBM, most products now contain a small QR Code which matches the barcode, and we’re seeing QR codes on business cards, and in random spots for advertising which get people to a webpage. The latest edition to the web is Kimtag which is a QR code that takes you to a webpage that contains all a persons contact information and social media links. Here is mine:

QR Code for leifmadsen at Kimtag

Update (2011/04/12): Been doing more research as to how to get contacts into my Blackberry, and it seems the best way is to really just create a QRCode that goes to an external site and then provides the vCard that way. Below is a graphic I generated at http://qrcode.offermobi.com/qrgen/vcard/ which seems to work quite well. The advantage is you can use the QRcode scanner in the BBM application. (I tried it on a recent version of BBM using the ‘Scan a Group Barcode’ option.) Enjoy!

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Written by Leif Madsen

2009/08/27 at 9:02 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with , , ,

59 Responses

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  1. DON’T USE THIS ONE! See the updated version down further on this page!

    Oh, some additional information. Here is the format of the vCard that I used. You just can just stick this text into the code generator, and away you go.

    BEGIN:VCARD
    VERSION:2.1
    N:Madsen;Leif
    FN:Leif
    LN:Madsen
    ORG:LeifMadsen Enterprises, Inc.
    TITLE:Consultant and Author
    TEL;WORK;VOICE:+14164790259
    EMAIL;PREF;INTERNET:leif@leifmadsen.com
    URL:http://www.leifmadsen.com
    X-SIP:sip:leif@leifmadsen.com
    REV:20080424T195243Z
    END:VCARD

    Leif Madsen

    2009/08/27 at 11:31 am

    • Where can you find the code like TEL Email or Title.
      I like the ability to create your own.

      Thank you.

      David Douglas

      David Douglas

      2009/12/21 at 3:16 am

      • Not entirely sure what you mean by this question. It’s all part of the vCard spec.

        Leif Madsen

        2009/12/21 at 7:23 pm

    • DON’T USE THIS ONE! See the updated version below!

      Leif Madsen

      2010/04/26 at 9:38 am

  2. I’m a huge fan of this – done it before. I’ve also thought about including them on business cards, so people can easily input my contact info into their address book.

    Trevor

    2009/08/27 at 12:27 pm

  3. Great minds think alike then :) I’m currently getting some square business cards with the vCard on the back.

    Leif Madsen

    2009/08/27 at 12:35 pm

  4. Glad you like invx.com, much appreciated :-)

    Johann

    2009/09/01 at 5:04 am

    • If you’re the one providing it, thanks, because I greatly appreciate it! :)

      Leif Madsen

      2009/09/01 at 7:09 am

  5. Leif,

    That is totally awesome. I wonder how small that can be before a typical scanning device (such as a smartphone) has trouble reading it. I want to get that on my next round of business cards, but I want to retain the same ‘normal’ business card dimensions.

    Thanks for sharing the results of your efforts.

    Jim

    Jim Van Meggelen

    2009/09/02 at 9:09 am

    • Well I figure it should be fine on the normal business card dimensions. I’m actually going to be getting a round of cards made up, so we’ll see what happens! I’ll keep you posted!

      Leif Madsen

      2009/09/02 at 9:31 am

    • I got some cards done up with the vCard as a QR code. Works well.

      Jim Van Meggelen

      2010/08/10 at 9:17 am

      • Very cool! Do you have a picture of the business card you could share?

        Leif Madsen

        2010/08/10 at 9:20 am

  6. google charts can create those barcodes, with nothing more than a single URL.

    For example: http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?chs=225×225&cht=qr&chl=blahblahblah

    jeremiah

    2009/09/08 at 10:25 am

    • Yes thanks! I remembered that existed, but couldn’t find the link for some reason.

      Leif Madsen

      2009/09/08 at 10:30 am

  7. Hello Leif,

    What is the difference between VCARD and MECARD formats (pro/con)?

    Does QR Reader automatically add VCARD/MECARD to
    your mobile phone address book (contact/phone book) or just save it?

    Tob

    2009/09/17 at 10:10 am

  8. I’m not sure the difference between VCARD and MECARD formats.

    However! Google seems to :)

    I did a search for MECARD vs. VCARD, and I found this thread on Google groups:

    http://groups.google.com/group/zxing/browse_thread/thread/97fa9470b6f7f886?pli=1

    It seems to basically state that MECARD is a more compact format, and that it generates a smaller QR code. It seems to be what Google is using on their business cards. VCARD tends to be more widely used as a business contact format, but tends to create larger images.

    I can attest to this as a link to a MECARD generator (below) produces something significantly less complex than my VCARD code.

    http://zxing.appspot.com/generator/

    My concern with the MECARD may be wider availability on phones, but if you’re scanning, it is entirely possible your phone will understand both formats, in which case MECARD would make more sense for contact information.

    I can’t test with my Nokia E71 right now because I left it beside my girlfriends bed, and I’m up at 4:30am attempting not to disturb her with my insomnia :)

    Hope that helps! And thanks for bringing MECARD to my attention!

    Leif Madsen

    2009/10/07 at 3:29 am

    • can we save organisation name in mecard format..ne clue?

      Rohan

      2011/12/23 at 4:17 am

  9. The thing that surprises me about this post the most, is that THIS is the one that gets the most hits each week, and not anything to do with Asterisk. Perhaps I should get into the QR code business :)

    Leif Madsen

    2009/11/24 at 10:37 am

    • People get it. Providing links to the internet on hard copy has mammoth ramification. Suddenly access points to the internet world have jumped off the screens into our everyday real worlds. This will go down in history along with the invention of the printing press in terms of its ramifications.

  10. What mobile app do you use to read the QR code and import a Vcard into your phone.

    I have use ScanBuy to read QR codes. It will read a mail:code and send me to an email page, or a URL and send me to a web page, but all I get is the data when I scan a QR with v-card data. I don’t know how to import it into my address book.

    Hmm. Any clues

    • I guess it depends what phone you use. I just use the Barcode scanner application that comes with my Nokia E71. It scans the code and will let me save to the address book. Your mileage may vary.

      Leif Madsen

      2010/03/25 at 1:25 pm

  11. Thanks. I’m using the iPhone. Any clues?

    • Since I’ve never used an iPhone I can’t say I have any idea :)

      Leif Madsen

      2010/03/25 at 2:21 pm

    • Mark,

      I tried a free one and it wasn’t so great. Then I tried quiQR and it works great. Highly recommended.

      Leif, I still don’t understand how to put my vcard info into a qr code. I don’t see that option at invx.com

      Michael Bertoldi

      2010/04/03 at 1:40 am

      • Michael, it’s not an option on the invx.com website. All that site is going to do is take whatever text you put into the box and convert it to the QR code.

        What you want to do is look at the very first comment I posted on this page which contains the VCARD data. You need to construct the data like I did in the first comment, and then copy and paste the entire thing into the text box on the invx.com website.

        Leif Madsen

        2010/04/05 at 7:04 am

  12. Hello, you guys might find the following page interesting/useful:

    http://bramp.net/blog/latex-qr-based-business-card

    Mark

    Mark

    2010/04/10 at 2:18 am

  13. Are you sure there’s an LN field? You seem to have put your first name in “FN” but when I look up the spec, FN = formatted name and I don’t find an LN field at all.

    Ben

    2010/04/25 at 4:15 pm

    • I wonder where I got the initial version from… perhaps it was wrong on wikipedia, because you’re right — I’m not using it correctly. Here is an updated version of the vCard text that you can post onto http://www.invx.com (or some other sites I’m sure).

      Here is the old 2.1 version of vCard text as I posted it earlier (don’t use this one):

      BEGIN:VCARD
      VERSION:2.1
      N:Madsen;Leif
      FN:Leif
      LN:Madsen
      ORG:LeifMadsen Enterprises, Inc.
      TITLE:Consultant and Author
      TEL;WORK;VOICE:+14164790259
      EMAIL;PREF;INTERNET:leif@leifmadsen.com
      URL:http://www.leifmadsen.com
      X-SIP:sip:leif@leifmadsen.com
      REV:20080424T195243Z
      END:VCARD

      And you can see below the updated version based on the information I found on wikipedia, which hopefully is correct :) I just noticed that the REV field is exactly the same as well (same version) which I think means the vCard I got above was probably from wikipedia, but has since been corrected to vCard 3.0 without erroneous fields.

      BEGIN:VCARD
      VERSION:3.0
      N:Madsen;Leif
      FN:Leif Madsen
      ORG:LeifMadsen Enterprises, Inc.
      TITLE:Asterisk Consultant and Author
      TEL;TYPE=WORK,VOICE:+14164790259
      EMAIL;TYPE=PREF,INTERNET:leif@leifmadsen.com
      URL:http://www.leifmadsen.com
      X-SIP:sip:leif@leifmadsen.com
      REV:20100426T103000Z
      END:VCARD

      Leif Madsen

      2010/04/26 at 9:37 am

    • Thanks for bringing notice to this!

      Leif Madsen

      2010/04/26 at 9:37 am

  14. Mike Loukides (who is also the editor of our books on Asterisk at O’Reilly Media) just posted this link on twitter which I found interesting. Seems QR codes are picking up some additional steam. I’ve been seeing some codes on things lately like books which link to a website that could potentially build a community, or get additional advertising information to the consumer. I scanned one on my phone the other day when at Chapters, and it brought me a website dedicated to the book. Cool!

    http://mashable.com/2010/08/09/howcast-ikea/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Mashable+%28Mashable%29

    Leif Madsen

    2010/08/10 at 8:53 am

  15. [...] Creating vCards with QR Codes August 2009 30 comments 3 [...]

  16. Been having difficulty with the MeCard on iPhone. Doesn’t seem to import URL or ORG.

    Tried a number of generator sites, raw, and two apps (AT&T Scanner & BeeTag)

    Jason the Saj

    2011/01/04 at 6:09 pm

  17. I have tried a few sites including http://www.invx.com and using QuickMark code reader on my phone HTC Desire and on I phone it does scan and sees the correct info on the Vcard but does not save to the phone can anyone advise as I would love to put one of these on my site to allow users to save my VCard
    Help appreciated
    Eddie

    Eddie Stack

    2011/01/10 at 6:33 am

    • I’m using the Qrafter qrcode scanner app on my iPhone and it is fast and pretty good… it worked perfectly on the vCard ver 2.1 but failed on the ver 3.0 though. Hopefully this will be fixed soon. =)

      Brian

      2011/03/12 at 4:25 am

      • The vCard 3.0 on this page was different from what Qrafter could understand. On v1.3 of Qrafter this has been fixed though, so it can understand both v2.1 and 3.0 vCards correctly and perfectly.

        After some more testing, I’ll send v1.3 to Apple for review.

        Kerem Erkan

        2011/03/12 at 6:47 am

        • Hey Kerem! Glad this page helped get something fixed in some software ;) I’m going to link back to your blog page.

          Thanks!
          Leif.

          Leif Madsen

          2011/03/16 at 9:56 am

    • I’d make sure that qr code with your details is within a secure login area on a website.

      Making details easily readable by computers is the last thing you want if you care about not getting spam.

      Often javascript and forms are used rather than plain text to remove the need of contact details being parseable by bots.

      Kevin Chadwick

      2011/09/23 at 7:53 am

  18. Where can I create a text “mecard” at? I’m having a tough time finding one line. So many qrcode generators now. Thanks!

    Brian

    2011/03/12 at 6:26 am

  19. OK…I am new to QR codes and V cards….really missing knowledge of waht you mean by “missing a field for a SIP URI, which I wanted to add. So I ended up using Wikipedia to find the standard vCard format, and then noticed I just needed to add the X-SIP field to my vCard information”.
    I can you dummy down the how to of haow to create a QR Code for a V Card.

    Karen Turner

    2011/03/23 at 1:45 pm

    • I’m not sure what you mean… the whole post is about how to create QR Codes. You’re focusing too much on one particular aspect of the post, which was simply the, “How do I get my SIP URI into the code”.

      The QR Code is created using the invx.com link I posted, and you insert the following data (modified for your own personal information, and deleting the fields you don’t need):

      BEGIN:VCARD
      VERSION:3.0
      N:Madsen;Leif
      FN:Leif Madsen
      ORG:LeifMadsen Enterprises, Inc.
      TITLE:Asterisk Consultant and Author
      TEL;TYPE=WORK,VOICE:+14164790259
      EMAIL;TYPE=PREF,INTERNET:leif@leifmadsen.com
      URL:http://www.leifmadsen.com
      X-SIP:sip:leif@leifmadsen.com
      REV:20100426T103000Z
      END:VCARD

      Leif Madsen

      2011/03/23 at 1:59 pm

      • I read all posts, but i still having problems generating QR Codes. I’m doing a business card with QR Code in generator.beetagg.com
        The code generated in this site is working alright for BlackBerry cellphones, but in Android and in Iphone it only can be read by beetagg app.

        When i create these kind above of QR Code, BBM’s reader doesn’t recognize it. Somebody can help me to create a standard contact QR Code that can be read by any app in any mobile?

        Uriel

        2011/03/31 at 9:10 am

        • I think blackberry can’t read very complex QR Codes, but i’m not sure.

          Uriel

          2011/03/31 at 9:45 am

          • Uriel, did you find a solution ? I’m having the same issue.

            MJLCaron

            Martin Caron

            2011/07/21 at 9:22 am

  20. Hej Leif ;)

    Thank you for this article.
    It is by far the best I’ve read on QR-Codes yet.
    Also the invx generator is fantastic, and I’ve managed to create a few codes, that I’ve not been able to with others.

    I’ve uploaded one of them as avatar, so now I curious if it show next to this comment :)

    Med det navn kan du kun være dansk så -
    ka’ du ha’ed

    Michael

    Michael

    2011/06/18 at 6:59 pm

    • Hej Leif ;)

      Thank you for this article.
      It is by far the best I’ve read on QR-Codes yet.
      Also the invx generator is fantastic, and I’ve managed to create a few codes, that I’ve not been able to with others.

      I’ve uploaded one of them as avatar, so now I curious if it show next to this comment :)

      Med det navn kan du kun være dansk så -
      ka’ du ha’ed

      Michael

      Ha – it did :) Though very small…

      Michael

      2011/06/18 at 7:00 pm

  21. Hello my good man!
    If you wish to just make one vcard, it’s too much hassle to make it manually.
    Use the gmail export function :-)

    If you have an android handset, you’ll have all your contacts there already.
    Just edit the contact there (you can edit your self too) and then export to VCARD format. It will fix everything.. You can then sort emails, etc in your favourite editor like notepad++.

  22. There is a less used BIZCARD QR code format, do you know how can I add a web URL to this format? I have tried URL:, URLTO:, U:, and http:// without any results. Thanks

    Marco Antonio

    2011/10/05 at 5:11 pm

  23. Dear Leif,

    Many thanks for this interesting article.
    One question: does a webservice or software that generates a QR code from an uploaded vcard file exist?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.
    Best,
    -Peiro

    Peiro Bonnal

    2011/10/06 at 1:12 am

  24. Thanks!
    Used http://www.invx.com and it’s good!
    Couldn’t get a fax # on a vcard though (v3.0). Advice anyone? Maybe it was working fine and my iphone won’t read it…

    Mara

    2011/11/06 at 8:25 pm

  25. I wasn’t sure whether online qr code generators were adding in their own trackers into the images so I used a free app to create my codes. I used Zint from sourceforge.org. Simple to use, installs on MS or unix, can be adopted into other code/apps – but that’s beyond my ability. If you want to create qr mecards or vcards then you’ve got the syntax, for the most part, contained in this thread – else you can google for it.

    To read codes from a source you’re not sure of before you scan them with your phone, or to check that your own codes can be read okay you can download a bar code reader – I use Zbar Bar Code reader from sourceforge.org – again can be used on MS or unix. I just print the qr images off, fire up Zbar (takes a few seconds to load my web cam) and then scan them in the webcam on my laptop and the code is revealed.

    Unless I trust the source of a qr code I won’t scan it with my phone….google for ‘evilqr’

    Both the above seem to adhere to ISO and RFC standards.

    HTH

    limey_01

    2011/11/22 at 11:01 am

  26. Here is one of the best QR code generator I have found for vCards and more!! SPARQCode also has a great platform for creating mobile sites for your QR Codes to point to. It’s practically the only all-in-one mobile marketing solution I have found. It’s strange how the last vCard image listed in the post had referenced SPARQCode on the image, but the write-up referred you to a different generator. I think this was the one that Leif actually used. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    http://www.sparqcode.com/static/maestro

    Thanks!

    Lindsey

    2012/01/12 at 9:12 pm

  27. Here is another FREE vCard QR code generator: http://www.autreplanete.com/qrcode-generator/

    Thierry

    2012/05/24 at 11:45 am

  28. Using my Nokia E71 I can only get vcard format. MECard only show me the textual information. Does any body know which format is best supported by most of softphone ? I mean Blackberry, IPhone, GooglePhones ? New nokia more recent than the E71 ?

    mountainforever

    2012/06/29 at 2:03 pm

    • Use vCard; I’ve not really seen anyone using MEcards.

      Leif Madsen

      2012/06/29 at 3:02 pm

  29. Hi Leif! Thanks for this article.
    We’re thinking of adding QR codes to our business cards, and I’ve done some tests with some contacts from my Outlook contact list but I haven’t been completely successful. I like adding pictures to my contacts, because it makes it really easy for me, as I never ever forget faces… A name by its own doesn’t mean much for me until I can connect it with a face.
    So, I’ve saved some of my contacts with pictures, as vCard files, in my Public folder of Dropbox, then copied the public URL and tried to get a QR code for that URL, but, when I try to read it with my android (Sony Ericsson, Xperia Arc) it doesn’t give me the option to save it to my phoe as a vCard contact but only shows the information as plain text, including the picture information. Am I doing soemthing wrong? Can you in fact read the vCard information for a QR code, including possible pictures of the contacts?
    I’d be more than thankful if you could help me with this!

    Thanks in advance!

    Amparo, from Chile

    Amparo Bravo

    2013/01/28 at 4:24 pm

  30. Hi
    Do you know how to create a vcard qr code using an add-in outlook software?

    I’ve tried QR Coder 2010 but it only create mecards.

    Thanks

    Ema

    2013/06/18 at 6:33 am


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