QR codes are all the rage. Even if you don’t know what they are, you’ve probably seen them in magazines, books, mailers, flyers, photos, and videos. You can create your own QR code for any given URL (or string of text) imaginable. Did you know that all bit.ly and goo.gl short links automatically generate QR codes for themselves?

“QR” is short for “Quick Response” — and that’s pretty much what a QR code does in conjunction with an associated action after it’s been scanned by compatible software. You can get a QR code scanner on most popular mobile platforms if the feature is not supported natively. My favorite iPhone app is called (of all things) Scan — and it works very well.

So, to clarify: you can generate a QR code, place it anywhere, and then people who use compatible scanning software (likely on their mobile device) can snap a picture of the code and be whisked away to a web site or shown a bit of text immediately. It’s a great way to get someone to do anything from a static piece of media; instead of keying in a potentially-clunky URL, it’s much easier to snap a still image with a smartphone and have the software do the job for you.

I finally generated a QR Code that I’d want to place on a business card:

How to Generate a Vanity QR Code for Free

See that? I’ve got a custom string of text sitting inside the QR code — not something easily done without the proper tool. If you arrange those blocks incorrectly, the resulting QR code may become broken. The object is not to confuse the user, but to help them get to where you need them to go.

Enter MOJI-Q — a service scripted in Japanese, but perfectly functional if you’ve ever walked through a Web form. With it, you can define the text you wish to use (including a URL prefaced by ‘http://’), the text you wish to display within the QR code itself, the position of said text, colors, QR code size, and image angle. From there, you can save the image locally (by dragging and dropping it out of your browser window if you so choose).

I cropped the image in an image editor (any with a cropping tool will suffice), then shared it with the world by way of a few Google+ updates — this one generated a bit of pre-article buzz. It all started with a more personal QR code update. Everybody wants one — even if you don’t.

Many thanks to Matt Wakefield, a geek who told me about this service the other day at a Seattle gdgt event.