QR codes make it possible to scan an image with your phone’s camera to open a link. In the early days of Android, the easiest way to post links to Android apps was with QR codes, which is why older articles on this website and others often include QR codes rather than links.

You can also scan the black and white square images to open websites or other content on your phone.

Here’s how to scan a QR code with an Android phone or tablet.

All you need is an Android device with a camera and a barcode scanning application. One of my favorites is the cleverly-titled, Barcode Scanner from ZXing Team. It’s available as a free download from the Android Market and works with all versions of Android.

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In addition to QR codes, Barcode scanner lets you scan the barcodes on books, CDs, or other products. It also features integration with Google Shopper which makes it easy to compare prices, or you can just search Google for more information about products.

But back to QR codes, all you have to do is fire up the Barcode Scanner app and point your camera at your computer screen when you see a QR code. Barcode Scanner will recognize what kind of code it’s looking at and provide you with the option to open the link in a browser — which will automatically take you to the android Market where you can download the app. You can also share links via email or SMS.

Looking for a way to create your own QR code? Smarterware‘s Gina Trapini suggest using Kaywa’s QR-Code Generator which lets you encode a URL, phone number, SMS, or up to 250 characters of text as a QR code.

For instance, you can scan the QR code on the right to visit the mobiputing home page.

Update: Google has launched a web-based version of the Android Market/Google Play Store. Most users can visit play.google.com/store in a desktop web browser, sign in with their Google account, and send software directly to their phones by clicking a button. This doesn’t completely make QR codes and barcode scanners obsolete though.

First, there are already thousands of web sites with QR codes on them, and I don’t expect anyone to go through and manually update all the links. But more importantly, QR codes aren’t just for download apps. They can also be used to let you open a web site, view pictures, or explore other data with your phone.

QR codes are also used for downloading apps for other platforms such as Windows Phone 7.

If you’re looking for places beside the Google Android Market to download apps you might want to check out our list Play Store alternatives.

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