Firefox Extension: Mobile Barcoder

My first useful Firefox extension is a QRcode mobile barcode generator, to help zap links to your compatible mobile.

You may have noticed that every page on my blog has strange square barcode on the sidebar. This is a QRCode, which is a barcode format supported by new S60 3.0 mobile phones (eg. the Nokia Eseries/N91 phones).

Why would I want this?

If you have a new mobile phone supporting barcodes in this format, then you can use this extension rather than typing long URLs into your mobile's browser. Now you have more time to spend actually reading the content!

Usage

Once installed you can hover over a section of the status bar and a barcode for the current window's URL will be displayed. Simply 'zap' this with your S60 3.0 mobile's camera to have the URL sent to the phone. The plan is to add more and more ways of generating a barcode, read the current roadmap to see what's planned for future versions.

Statusbar appearance

Barcode appearance

At the moment the extension is using a script of my server (found here) to generate the barcodes. If you know of a way I could generate the barcodes completely within the extension, please contact me (blog [at] antimatters [dot] co [dot] uk)

Installation

The extension is now available from Mozilla's Firefox Add site.

Roadmap

I don't know when I'll have time to spend on the extension, or how much effort each feature is going to need, so I can't put any dates or promises on the features. The features are listed in some sort of priority order, but it's fairly relaxed

  • Key combination (user configurable) + hover on link or highlighted text for a barcode of it
  • Save barcode option on context menu for links, page, and highlighted text
  • Cache the barcodes
  • Generation of the barcode image completely within the extension
  • Support for multiple barcode formats (eg. Semacode)
  • Configurable options for the barcode generation (size, fault tolerance level, etc)

Comments

You just made my day with your Firefox extension. I'm looking at ways QR Codes can be used in education to link "real life" situations with information using mobile devices, and your extension is fantastic for improving access to QR Codes for this purpose. I've blogged you on my site at http://mlearning.edublogs.org/2006/09/06/qr-code-generator-extension-for-firefox/.

Well done! Can't wait to see your next version(s)! :)
Wednesday 6 September 2006 04:31 | user icon Leonard Low
I think this is just a coincidental choice of the same wordpress template as Leonard's site, I have absolutely no idea what it says on it, but there's a Taiwanese blog posting to this page.

http://people.debian.org.tw/~chihchun/2006/09/05/firefox-extension-mobile-barcoder/
Thursday 14 September 2006 02:11 | user icon Duncan Sample
People have even tagged it with del.icio.us:

http://del.icio.us/url/bbfcd4053e95009bb9e54f16f5923820
Thursday 14 September 2006 02:15 | user icon Duncan Sample
Yet another review I've managed to find:

http://smoothplanet.kaywa.com/mobile-application/ff-extension-mobile-barcoder.html

Thanks :o)
Thursday 14 September 2006 02:28 | user icon Duncan Sample
Hmmm, I think I (this post and my other, format review post) may have even been blogged (internally presumably) by Google! Now I feel special! :o)

http://big.corp.google.com/~sahuguet/mobicodes/index.html
http://big.corp.google.com/~sahuguet/mobicodes/2006/07/code-format-dilemma.html
Thursday 14 September 2006 02:38 | user icon Duncan Sample
Punit Raizada has linked here from his blog, and comments that it would be better to generate DataMatrix (Semacode) barcodes rather than QRCodes... This is one of my wishlist items, and hopefully I can make some time to adding an option to choose the format sometime soon.

http://punitraizada.blogspot.com/2006/10/firefox-extension-mobile-barcoder.html
Tuesday 24 October 2006 13:41 | user icon Duncan Sample
Hey there - just having a play with the QuickMark QR Code Reader and your very excellent Firefox extension; I was wondering if you'd possibly consider providing the user with an option as to how long the barcode pops up for in a future release? The Quickmark reader sometimes has trouble recognising the data before the barcode popup disappears. :( Being able to configure this would be very handy! Thanks Duncan, keep up the great work!!! :)
Wednesday 8 November 2006 01:57 | user icon Leonard Low
Hey there - just having a play with the QuickMark QR Code Reader and your very excellent Firefox extension; I was wondering if you'd possibly consider providing the user with an option as to how long the barcode pops up for in a future release? The Quickmark reader sometimes has trouble recognising the data before the barcode popup disappears. :( Being able to configure this would be very handy! Thanks Duncan, keep up the great work!!! :)
Wednesday 8 November 2006 02:13 | user icon Leonard Low
i have used this barcoder extension,but i donn't think it is useful becouse the web site and wap site is different,the QR code which indicates current pages cann't be display in the mobile phone.
I have a suggestion about the barcode extension :
the function can do that:change the text which selected in current page into barcode,then,the mobile phone which has barcoder reader function can read the text directly from the barcode.

My English is not good,sorry ,may be you can understand what i say.

Tuesday 14 November 2006 16:18 | user icon oliver
Am interested in helping programming if possible. What language? Decode when pop up? Pls contact me at email provided. Thanks
Friday 17 November 2006 06:04 | user icon QRFan23
hey cool plugin, would be good if u could make it click to display.
The problem with the hover is that often my phone will take to long to decode it and it will disapear.

Still cool idea, thanks
Thursday 1 February 2007 11:30 | user icon Chris Heazlewood
no doubt this one adds to my list of favorite firefox extensions <the best extensions>. well eagerly waiting for the updated version as chris said me too facing same problem as my nokia phone does take some time decoding and by that time ...wuuufff.....disappeared so if you find some time makin the new extension please take care of that...just cant wait for the new one!!!!
:):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):
Monday 5 February 2007 16:14 | user icon CHANDRASHEKAR S
Duncan,

I have had lots of fun with your extension. I use your extension to visit wap sites quiet often but thats cause I have an application that can do that.

I dont know how much time you can put into this plugin, but in case you are looking into it, here is my wish list.

1) Support for Data matrix, the semacode app is free and has created a buzz as far as free use of barcodes is concerned. The ideal extension would allow me to choose the format: QR or DataMatrix.

2)If the URL belongs to a blog, can we connect to the RSS feed? I am not sure how accurate we can make this.

I am a developer myself, so if you are looking into expanding this plugin, get in touch with me and I can help.

- Awesome Plugin Dude!!!

Regards
Saturday 10 February 2007 14:15 | user icon Punit Raizada
This is pretty cool,incredibly easy to add favourites to my phone.
Just 1 minor problem,(isn't there always). Is it possible to have the code a bit further up the screen.I am trying to use it with a laptop and the the base of the phone touches the laptop so i cant get the code in the cameras view.I can get around this using the phone a bit further away with the zoom but it's a bit unreliable.(the screen won't tilt further back)
Sunday 4 March 2007 22:52 | user icon John
Agreed, I would like to see DataMatrix supported
Friday 11 May 2007 14:50 | user icon Noah
Open the XPI (using WinRAR) and look for mobilebarcodeOverlay.xul (it's in the Chrome folder) and edit it.

Change the line:

<tooltip id="mobilebarcode-tooltip" onpopupshowing="mobilebarcode.getBarcode()">

to:

<tooltip id="mobilebarcode-tooltip" onpopupshowing="mobilebarcode.getBarcode()" noautohide="true">

save the change and install the extension again (you may have to remove it first, I don't know as I modified the extension directly in my Firefox profile). When you restart Firefox the barcode image will remain for as long as the mouse is hovering over the status bar.

** hopefully the above code will appear okay in the comment **
Friday 11 May 2007 15:40 | user icon Taomyn
Taomyn: Thanks for the tip. I'll add this to the extension as soon as I can.
Monday 21 May 2007 10:21 | user icon Duncan Sample
No problem, I assume the latest update has included it? Thanks.

If you can at some point replace the "Barcode" in the status bar with an icon (a 3d barcode might be appropriate), it would make a huge difference as it currently uses too much real-estate.
Tuesday 22 May 2007 12:47 | user icon Taomyn
Extreme sports mobile TV company Yamgo (www.yamgo.com) has signed a deal with Tom Horn to launch a WAP-based mobile video sharing service. Yamgo customers can create their own mobile video page and upload videos directly from their mobile phone(http://yamgo.mobi) or over the web (www.yamgo.tv). Videos can be shared with friends on any mobile network (with WAP access).
Wednesday 6 June 2007 10:43 | user icon Yamgo
I don't know if anyone reads this, but adding semacode (Data Matrix) format should be fairly easy. There is a Data Matrix encoder in javascript for firefox at http://sohne.net/projects/semafox/ . The page itself is terribly bad, but the JS code that does the trick is very nice and clean. And of course GPL. It's at /projects/semafox/javascript/semafox.js . You may want to look at this page also: http://sohne.net/projects/semafox/formats/xhtml-css?hide=1&title=&url=http:// . As it is the actual encoding application. Oh, there is actually an extension... (just found) :) http://sohne.net/sections/downloads/
Thursday 28 June 2007 17:59 | user icon atleta
duncan,

I've often thought that it would be quite useful to have a 2d code for urls, which, like your idea, would be the general way to share them. I envision an ad page for ex., and instead of only a url, a 2d barcode representing the resource as well. Then it would be a simple matter to develop a reader for a pc, [maybe even a webcam would work, perhaps a free webservice server, to allow users to create unique codes. Perhaps It would be useful to have the ability to store created codes in this way, and a FF addin could tell users:

1. code exists for url [root]?
2. code exists for exact page
3. create code for resource
4. [my fav], dload listed links to bookmarks, tie in to bookmark here type code, make new folder, del.icio.us, etc
5. take user to request for material page, etc.

Really anything you'd want to automate could be done. Here's the real drag. Every month i spend too much time doing the thing the human brain does better than any other thing in the universe so far...determining relevance. It would be a multi million dollar baby to allow me to not have to type urls from magazine adds with one hand, holding some mag in the other. I would LOVE, [and pay], to be able to just hold a mag up to a $20 cam of some sort, and get the urls i want to peruse, [at my leisure]. I know in less than 1/10 of a sec whether something i see i of interest. Why should it take 5 minutes to get the query into my browser?

Hell, for that matter, i suppose a vendor could subscribe to a service :) i'm always thinking cash... that let them throw up a temporary url for the months advertising, and give the readers some options to get into the urls quickley. Did you ever notice that publishers haven't after all this time understood that users love ad? We just hate having to eat them on other peoples schedules. I have mags i pay for ONLY because the 1/8th page section in the back is worth 10 time the editorial content...

thanks
Sunday 8 July 2007 21:02 | user icon william maynard
Free extreme sports videos always and anywhere with you. Simply type http://yamgo.mobi in your mobile phone's internet browser. Yamgo has signed a deal with Tom Horn to launch a WAP-based mobile video sharing service. Also upload and view videos over web at www.yamgo.tv. They have made it really easy to start watching your videos on phones.
Wednesday 11 July 2007 14:00 | user icon yamgomobile
A nice idea, but I think you have not thought about industry applications...

If I'm viewing a page on the web and the tool creates a QRCode for me to send that page to my mobile, I'm not going to be happy reading a web page on a mobile, unless of course you have formatted the whole site with enough CSS so that the pages render differently on my mobile.

Mobile sites and web sites always tend to be different both in design and content, and for very good reasons.

If this application could create a QRCode on the page that references an equivalent page on a mobile site then that would be cool.

A good start I have to admit, but some more work is needed.

PS. Don't slate IE browsers! The vast majority of users out there are still using them. Just because developers and coders like to use FireFox over IE makes no difference. Design and code for the mass market, not just yourself. Just looked at some stats for sites for clients we work for and the figures show that IE is still 85% usage, FireFox comes in second but only 10% with all the rest making up the numbers.

To be honest I can not understand why Microsoft have not made IE7 100% CSS compliant. Kind of shooting themselves in the foot really...
Friday 7 September 2007 10:34 | user icon Scott Westbury
@Scott - Thanks for the comments. I would like to be able to create a barcode for a mobile version of the site being viewed, but unfortunately there are no standards (at least that I know of, that people actually use) about how to specify where the mobile site is. I would suggest (and it's probably been mentioned elsewhere by others) that sites add a meta tag to indicate the 'handheld' content.

I know I shouldn't slate IE, and I will eventually redesign this blog so it looks the same in all browsers. I did add a 'just get rid of this warning' link, which is more than I did have. When I initially designed the template I thought I'd do everything standards based for XHTML and CSS2. That wasn't the real problem for IE though, the real problem was the PNG images with transparency. It would show a grey background anywhere there was meant to be alpha blending of any kind. Anyway... Let's not let this turn into a browser flame war :o)
Monday 10 September 2007 12:21 | user icon Duncan Sample
I've been looking for a catchy way to give my English as a second language learners mobile homework. This seems ideal. Thanks.
Tuesday 2 October 2007 02:08 | user icon Jim
I can't believe it, I was just browsing and stubled upon a site for the 28 Weeks Later DVD that has a QRCode on it. That's not the exciting thing though... What's more exciting (for me at least) is that they link to my Firefox extension!

http://www.28weekslaterdvd.co.uk/QRcode/
Monday 12 November 2007 23:04 | user icon Duncan Sample
Great extension and a quick and easy way to get URL's into my Nokia E90, although I can always bookmark them and then sync my laptop and phone!

What would be really great is the ability to save them or at least copy/paste so I can add them into document, web pages and blogs!

Keep up the great work and thanks!
Thursday 7 February 2008 20:53 | user icon Adrian
Adrian, you can do all the things you mention (save the barcode image) using a generator site such as http://mobilecodes.nokia.com

The extension I've made is intended for quick transfer, and as you say, you can synchronise bookmarks, but this extension works without the need of a tool like Nokia PC Suite, and it's also cross-platform.
Monday 17 March 2008 11:14 | user icon Duncan Sample
That is the best tool i installed in my browser! And since i can make Codes from every text (new version) i use it not only for links. Now i can mark some Text and catch it with my phones qr-code-reader and store it on the phone. Fine!

Not all visitors of my site ( www.skate-trainer.de )have Firefox and so i have to make the QR-Codes manualy for them. Is there a tool for other Browsers like Mobile Barcoder? So tell my please.

Sorry, my englisch is bad, but every one will understand this:
THNK YOU FOR THIS USEFULL APLICATION!

Scotty
Monday 7 April 2008 18:27 | user icon Scotty
Scotty: You can use one of the free barcode generators which allow you to link the generated code/picture directly.

Here is a site where you can add it to your own site.

http://www.barcodelink.net/
Tuesday 8 April 2008 13:05 | user icon Samir
Really useful add-on, thanks!

Barcodes can be used to code also phone numbers. It would be great if I could
1. highlight a phone number in browser
2. the phone number would be shown as barcode
3. me cell phone would read the barcode and call to that number
Friday 27 June 2008 19:43 | user icon Niko
At risk of sounding like a Mac Fanboi - which I most assuredly am not - I'm gonna go ahead and throw out there that I think it'd be pretty effing awesome, and relatively easy, to have an iPhone app that works in conjunction with this application.

Main screen would have two options, I suppose: parse URL from barcode, and parse phone number (if you were to take the comment above mine to heart) - both of which would invoke the camera and take a snapshot, then parse the picture to extract the barcode.

The biggest hurdles for accomplishing this, I surmise, would be a.) coding anything like this for the iPhone - which I would recommend looking into the iPhone application "collage" which is open source for seeing how to code an application that invokes the camera function, and b.) writing image-parsing code for detecting the presence of the barcode. For this, I can't really provide any pertinent links, but I know there's code out there that does far more difficult image-recognition things than parsing a high-contrast barcode. Look into the "convolution" concept - since that is, in my experience, the digital image processor's greatest tool for image manipulation/processing.

http://www.dspguide.com/ch24.htm

Anyway - excellent idea for a plugin nonetheless!! Great job, guys!
Monday 7 July 2008 16:34 | user icon Rory Kiefer
Strangely, it does not work on Vista, although does on XP. Why? Thank you.
Wednesday 23 July 2008 21:07 | user icon Boaz
The add-on doesn't work on Vista. Thank you.
Wednesday 23 July 2008 21:11 | user icon Eve
Hey Niko, there is such application (QR reader/ parser) for iPhone available for free:
http://www.imatrix.lt/

and it's very complete and functional - only bug I've found is it does not parse some URLs (i.e. it parses www.novaprint.com but it does not parse www.novaprint.com.ar)
Saturday 16 August 2008 16:48 | user icon Roberto
Hi! This is a cool add-on, but it has one flaw: really long urls (more than approximately 256 characters) are not encoded (on the mac - on windows I have not tried yet). In such a case, only an empty white square will be shown. To verify this, go to this online-shop www.otto.de and search e.g. for PS3, then click one of the pictures.
Friday 21 November 2008 06:48 | user icon Magnolia
@Magnolia, I'm aware that huge links are either not displayed (as you have noticed) or are displayed as huge, probably unscannable barcodes. The next version will have TinyURL support to make sure the links are short.
Friday 28 November 2008 01:37 | user icon Duncan Sample
www.topmobilesbank.com is a wonderful site, full of useful info on all best mobile models. Although www.latestmobilesmart.com is also informative but www,topmobilesbank.com is too best.
Saturday 22 August 2009 06:04 | user icon Isolinx
I got this working on Vista but for some reason had to install it twice. Anyway, it's fine. Nice app! I'm sure it'll be handy from time to time.

I've just launched a site called Barcode Posters which prints QR code posters from RSS feeds. Check it out:

http://www.barcodeposters.com/
Saturday 3 October 2009 14:32 | user icon Adrian Short
Great plugin that does exactly what i'm looking for and in an un-obtrusive way! If there was one thing i would like to suggest from a user's perspective is sometimes you want to make use of the barcode in another way, say perhaps by putting on your web page or blog to help others get to the URL. What i was thinking would be nice is if it acted the same as now, but if you hovered over and clicked on the image itself it would copy the image to the clip board and you could then use that in your img manipulation program, email, etc right away! At the moment i think it will involve going the screenshot route which is kind of a pain.
But just a suggestion, thanks for the good work!
Monday 19 October 2009 10:17 | user icon Elliot
Hi, my version of Linux - Mint Maya - doesn't show a status bar at the foot of firefox. Can I view the Barcode link, say, from the ff menu?
Tuesday 11 March 2014 13:08 | user icon ChrisA
@ChrisA There is a standard Firefox menu icon, it just doesn't add it to your bar automatically. Just go to 'customize' on the menu bar and drag the square target icon to your menu to get the same functionality as ever.
Thursday 24 April 2014 22:48 | user icon Duncan Sample

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About the author

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On weekdays I'm a Technical Lead at Comparethemarket.com, having previously been a Solution Architect at Nokia & Nokia Siemens Networks, creating creative software solutions for mobile operators around the world.

In my spare time I'm an avid new technology fan, and constantly strive to find innovative uses for the new gadgets I manage to get my hands on. Most recently I've been investigating Mobile Codes, RFID and Home automation (mainly Z-Wave). With a keen eye for usability I'm attempting to create some cost-effective, DIY technology solutions which would rival even high-end retail products. The software I develop is usually released as Open Source.

I have a Finnish geek partner, so have begun the difficult task of learning Finnish.


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