How to Create Foolproof QR Codes to Send Emails with Subject and Body


Did you ever try to create a QR code to send an email to a defined recepient including a subject line AND some message already entered in the body? I did and it took some time until I finally figured out how to make it work as I wanted. Let me show you how I did it.

„But wait,“, some wise guy might shout, „there are enough QR code generators where you can enter emails directly! Why should I read this boring post?“ Thank you for your question. I found out that these QR codes do not work properly with several QR code scanners you can download to your smartphone. Doing it my way should work with every device you can get. At least no one told me the opposite.

So, here we go:

First, create a mailto link with the receiving email address.

mailto://matthias@domain.tld

The subject line is then appended to the mail address using a question mark, the key work „subject“ and an equal sign.

mailto://matthias@domain.tld?subject=Important

For spaces you need to use the percent-encoded representation i.e. %20.

mailto://matthias@domain.tld?subject=The%20answer%20to%20life

Then follows an ampersand, the key word „body“ and again an equal sign and the message itself. If you want to have several paragraphs within the message you can use %0A or %0D or %0D%0A representing a newline.

mailto://matthias@domain.tld?subject=The%20answer%20to%20life&body=Arrr,%0A%0ACarouser%20lass%20quarter%20boatswain%20avast.

If you copy the resulting link to your browser’s address bar and hit enter your email client should pop up with all the information right in place. Easy. However, if you want the link to be usable in a QR code or you want to have some usage statistics you might want to shorten it.

There are enough services around like https://bitly.com/, https://goo.gl/ or http://tinyurl.com/. However, both Google and Bitly don’t recognize the URL as valid whereas TinyURL will create the short URL but using it will create an email without the body. Boooh!

I found an alternative which seems to be working quite well for me: http://is.gd/. Although it might not be that fancy it does what it has to do. Shorten the URL it is.

OK now, having this short link it’s time to create the QR code. You can use any service you prefer for this. I used http://www.qrcode-monkey.de/ as it is free, you can add effects to your QR code and you can include logos, images and any other fancy stuff. Makes it more personal. Just paste your link in the respective field and hit the create button.

Download the PNG, SVG, PDF or EPS file and use it for whatever you wanted to use it. I designed a leaflet, added the QR code, printed a bunch and distributed them evenly around my neighbourhood. That’s it. Hooray!

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