Sunday, 1 November 2015

Reading QR Codes in Salesforce1 Revisited

Reading QR Codes in Salesforce1 Revisited

Overview

Back in 2014 I wrote a blot post around reading QR codes in the Salesforce1 application to automatically navigate to a record. At the time, Salesforce1 did not have a custom URL scheme to allow it to be easily opened from an external application. That all changed at the beginning of 2015 with the launch of the Salesforce1 Mobile URL Schemes.

With a custom URL scheme, there’s no longer any need to process a picture of the QR code in the Salesforce1 application. This improves the user experience for a couple of reasons:

  • The original process of take a picture, see if it looks good enough and then try to process it can be time consuming. 
  • Even with what appears to be a good picture, I’ve always found the processing to be quite slow and rather hit and miss.

A dedicated QR scanner application is much less picky about the picture quality and typically processes the code in under a second, so this seems to be the obvious way to go.

Scanners and Custom URL Schemes - Will They Ever Get Along?

Unfortunately, many scanner applications don’t handle custom URL schemes and when they see a URL that doesn’t start with http/https, throw an error.  One way to work around this is to use a URL shortener - TinyURL, for example will convert a URL with a custom scheme to one with an http scheme. This isn’t a great solution though, as I’d need to integrate with the URL shortener when generating my QR code and it introduces an additional HTTP request to the shortening service. When you are working in mobile world, the last thing that you want is to introduce additional requests!

Luckily, some scanner applications do support custom URL schemes - I used Scan when preparing this post.

Generating a QR Code

There are a few ways to generate a QR code. In the past I’ve used the Google Infographics service, but that has been deprecated for over three and a half years now so is highly likely to stop working. The most popular replacement for this is GoQR.me, which works in much the same way, generating a QR code via an HTML image element. 

The URL that the code represents needs to follow the Salesforce1 custom URL scheme to navigate to a record’s view page:

salesforce1://sObject/<id>/view

I’ve created a simple Visualforce page to generate the QR code for an Account record.

<apex:page standardController="Account">
  <apex:pageBlock title="QR Code">
    <p style="padding-bottom: 10px">
       Scan the code below on your mobile device to open the account record in Salesforce1
    </p>
    <apex:image
          value="https://api.qrserver.com/v1/create-qr-code/?size=150x150&data={!URLENCODE('salesforce1://sObject/' + Account.Id + '/view')}" />
  </apex:pageBlock>
</apex:page>

 Navigating to this page with the ID of an existing account renders the following page:

Screen Shot 2015 11 01 at 08 08 22

Scanning the Code

Scanning this with a QR code scanner application that supports custom URL schemes navigates to the record view, as shown the video below. Note that I need to be logged into the organisation that the record belongs to in order to view it.

This video shows how much better using a dedicated scanner app is versus taking a picture and processing it - as long as I’m pointing the camera in the direction of the QR code, the app barely has time to start up before it has locked onto the code and is processing it.

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