QR codes easily and securely

QR codes are a great way to give learners a link and ensure that they go to the correct location. It’s too easy for a learner to mistype the address and go someplace that you wish they didn’t. There are a lot of QR code generators online and in the App Store. For the longest time, this was the only option. The downside was that these links were tracked by other parties and that opened a whole new set of issues for students.

There is another option that is built into your iPad, iPhone, and Mac. It only takes a second to set it up and create QR codes quickly and securely. You’ll find it in the Shortcuts app. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the Shortcuts App  
    The main page of the iPad shortcuts app. "All Shortcuts" is selected from the menu on the left.  28 shortcuts are visible.
    screenshot of the main page of the iPad shortcuts app
  2. Tap the Plus icon at the top  
    Main screen of the shortcuts app is shown. The plus icon in the top right is circled with an arrow pointing to it.
    Tap the "+" icon to add a new shortcut
  3. Search QR  
    The build shortcut screen is shown. An arrow points to the search bar. The letters QR are typed in. Three results are shown.
    Search for QR
  4. Select “Generate QR code”  
    Create shortcut screen. QR typed into the search bar. Three results shown. Generate QR Code is circled with an arrow.
    Select Generate QR Code
  5. Under “Next Action Suggestions”  
    Shortcut build screen. Next Action Suggestions show an arrow pointing to Save to Photo Album.
    Select Save to Photo Album under Next Action Suggestions
  6. select “Save to Photo Album”  
    Shortcuts build screen with two actions. Generate QR Code from Text and Save QR Code to Recents
    The finished Shortcut

That’s it. The new Shortcut is saved to your Shortcuts library. The QR code that is generated is saved to your Photos library. I changed the name of mine to “Generate QR Code”

To use your new shortcut:

  1. Copy the link you want to share
  2. Tap on the Generate QR Code icon
  3. Find your new QR code in the Photos app.

Have fun.

All Comments

Posted on August 17, 2023

Done! Thanks so much Mike for the easy to follow instructions.

Posted on August 20, 2023

Love this Shortcut, Mike! I shared this with our faculty during a PD day last week, and it was a hit! :)

Posted on February 09, 2024

This works great, thanks for writing the article. I have a couple of questions... one is out of curiosity, one is important.

  1. Do we know which QR code generator Shortcuts actually calls? It seems to be built in, but I find it odd that the only place it is visible is in Shortcuts. I would think it would also be available in Safari etc. Is the internal QR library documented somewhere?
  2. I used it to generate a QR code for my (very simple) personal URL. I could not find it in Photos a few days later - I moved it, but not sure where. So I generated it again. The second QR code image works but is not the same as the first. Various web sites say QR codes for the same string could differ if the error correction code is at a different level. But... why would that occur using the same Shortcut, calling the same library, with the same clipboard content, just on a different day?
  3. It's important to know whether this is using an internal Apple library which is only encoding the provided string. Some third-party QR generators actually encode a string which includes the string, but passes it to their own web site to be resolved and passed back to the user's app/browser. This raises two risks:
  4. The 3rd party snoops on the users who scan the QR code, e.g. capturing their browser information. Some promote this as a "feature", enabling you to go to their web site and track your users. Others don't disclose that they do this.
  5. The 3rd party can go out of business and take down their service, which renders the QR codes useless. Users need to generate new QR codes and replace them wherever they are used... which is not possible in printed materials. "Pure" URLs encoded into QR codes don't have this risk.

Thanks.

Posted on February 14, 2024

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