What do you call the square brackets used to target a barcode/QR scanner? I thought this would be called "reticle," but when I Google the term, all I see are circles with crosshairs. Is there a more precise term, especially in the context of a digital device/camera, or is reticle the word?

scanner target

  • 1
    Seems more like a question for english.stackexchange.com When I search Google for "rectangle crosshairs" I get "Crosshair box". Jun 7, 2012 at 19:19
  • I'd refer to it as a Viewfinder, though technically that could refer to the whole visible "view" you get on the phone.
    – Ben Brocka
    Jun 7, 2012 at 21:06
  • So, how do I migrate it to english.stackexchange.com?
    – Taj Moore
    Jun 7, 2012 at 21:23
  • I don't know, you could repost there and close this. Jun 7, 2012 at 21:27
  • 1
    No, don't cross-post to another SE site. If the mods on another site agree its more suitable on their sites then the mods on this site will migrate the question. However I think it's fine on UX as its an interface terminology question.
    – JonW
    Jun 7, 2012 at 21:51

6 Answers 6


I think the best term is "reticle." Businesses that make the glass used in cameras call them reticles. See the images on this site: http://www.reticles.com/reticles_kr900.htm.

  • Non of the top search results for "reticle" (including definition and images) seem more relevant than the top search results for "crosshair". Jun 7, 2012 at 19:22
  • 3
    "crosshair" refers to two perpendicular lines that intersect. If you look at the image provided, no such lines exist. thefreedictionary.com/cross+hair thefreedictionary.com/reticle
    – mawcsco
    Jun 7, 2012 at 20:01
  • Strange that this got voted down (not by me) and the later answer (with the same term) didn't. Jun 7, 2012 at 21:15
  • Perhaps because the other one included a reference to back up the assertion, while this one is simply a matter of personal opinion (downvote not mine).
    – Taj Moore
    Jun 8, 2012 at 14:35
  • Good job finding that reference. That alone gives me the confidence to use the word "reticle." Although, I might still say "focus frame" to be more colloquial, since most people will not know what a reticle is.
    – Taj Moore
    Jun 11, 2012 at 15:29

Colloquial: Target Area, *Focus Area,* or Focus Frame
It looks like "target area" is the most straightforward term. "Focus frame" is the best colloquial phrase from photography, given that it is often referred to as an "AF (autofocus) Frame" or "focus frame" in camera manuals and discussions. There is some reference to "focus area," which is also descriptive and easy to understand:

  1. http://qrganize.com/features.php
  2. http://www.butkus.org/chinon/chinon/cp-9af/cp-9af.htm
  3. http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1020&message=41383138&changemode=1
  4. http://www.sds.com/mug/9xi_vfdr.html
  5. http://www.scoop.it/t/fuji-x-pro1/p/1758069851/do-you-read-the-manual-tip-3-focus-frame-to-center-fujifilm-digital-camera-x-pro1-owner-s-manual
  6. http://www.scoop.it/t/fuji-x-pro1/p/1884969260/do-you-read-the-manual-tip-7-corrected-af-frame-fujifilm-digital-camera-x-pro1-owner-s-manual
  7. http://www.sds.com/mug/700si-inf3.html
  8. http://www.sds.com/mug/9xi_vfdr.html

Technical: Reticle or Crosshairs
Reticle (or "crosshairs") is a term originating with telescopes, microscopes, and oscilloscopes, to name a few. Because scopes are round, "reticle" generally implies a circular view with cross hairs. However, the term is technically accurate when describing focus areas in cameras (credit goes to @mawcsco for finding the reference): http://www.reticles.com/reticles_kr900.htm. Here's another interesting reference: http://www.techniquip.com/manuals/DCG-200MManual_r3.pdf.

Alternative Colloquial: Crosshair Box
Although I believe the above terms to be more generally understandable in reference to cameras, scanners and similar apps, the term "crosshair box" does show up colloquially as a reference to the "pick box" in AutoDesk's product AutoCAD, for virtual cameras in gaming environments, and in one found reference to the reticle on a telescope:

  1. http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/u/gsearch/results?siteID=123112&catID=123155&id=2088334&qt=crosshair+box&x=0&y=0
  2. http://www.garagegames.com/community/forums/viewthread/48233
  3. http://www.astropix.com/HTML/I_ASTROP/TRACKED/MANUAL.HTM
  4. http://community.bistudio.com/wiki/Camera.sqs

iOS Term: Focus Indicator
Apple uses a similar element called the "focus indicator" in the camera app, however this square moves to indicate where the focus is, rather than form a fixed frame in the viewfinder.

Other Camera Terms
Cameras use "viewfinders," for the entire viewable area, "bright line frame" and "frame finder" for the area inside the viewfinder.

  • 2
    The references in this answer include Asian language translations. I don't think Asian translators are the authority on the correct word. The people that actually make the glass etching that goes into cameras call them reticles. reticles.com/reticles_kr900.htm
    – mawcsco
    Jun 11, 2012 at 13:46
  • Refactored answer to include numerous references and differentiation between colloquial and technical terms. Bounty awarded to @mawcsco for finding a good reference to reticle.
    – Taj Moore
    Jun 12, 2012 at 16:16
  • Thanks to @dannyvarod for making the case for "crosshair box" as a colloquial term.
    – Taj Moore
    Jun 12, 2012 at 16:16

Well going to the actual source of QR codes - the company who invented them (Denso Corporation) don't seem to have given that a particular name at all.

The products that they sell refer to that roughly in equal measure as the 'Reading Area' or the 'Scanning Area'.

Even the actual patent for QR codes: (Optically readable two-dimensional code and method and apparatus using the same) doesn't detail the actual guide lines, only going as far as to state that it is an 'image pickup device'.

You could possibly refer to it as a 'CCD Area', as a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) is the type of image sensor that QR codes use (see this patent: Optical information reading apparatus - also from Denso) but that's not really the most intuitive term.

So basically, it seems like the specific term is still up-for-grabs. Reticule, 'Reading Area' or 'Guidelines' or whatever makes the most sense to the user really.

  • CCD is a type of image sensor used in many digital cameras, however, it has nothing to do with the marked area - the entire picture (including the area outside the boundaries of the marked area) is received from an image processing result above the energy measured by the CCD. Jun 11, 2012 at 17:53
  • @DannyVarod yes, it's possible I misinterpreted the term there. The 'CCD area sensor' I took to mean as the CCD sensor scans the area in which the data is held, hence 'CCD Area' but that may be bad interpretation on my part.
    – JonW
    Jun 11, 2012 at 18:56
  • 1
    So reading or scanning or viewfinder or crosshair - area or box are the common terms. Only 8 combinations. :-) Jun 11, 2012 at 21:06
  • Haha, yeah it doesn't seem like there is a proper term for it. If even the developers of QR codes have (at least) two terms for the 'reticule in the scanning reading area box' then i think it's just whatever makes cognitive sense that can be used. Whatever takes the least amount of explaining to the people you're presenting it to.
    – JonW
    Jun 11, 2012 at 21:33
  • 1
    I doubt "reticle" will ever catch on - it just doesn't sound right. Some people can't even remember how to spell it :-) (Referring to your last comment.) Jun 11, 2012 at 21:45

According to ehow it is called a reticle. But I usually just hear it called the QR reader.


Cross hairs are meant for aiming (centering) and are not usually interactive.

The rectangular visualization's primary purpose is not centering of focus, but selecting the relevant part of the image for scanning. Theoretically user can change both size and location in the screen, therefore this is not a common cross hair.

The rectangular visualization enables the user to see and modify the "region of interest". (See definition of "region of interest" or ROI here [Wikipedia], [Mathworks], [Wolfram]).

I found that this rectange is refered to as "viewfinder box", "viewfinder rectange", "viewfinder area", "crosshair box" (or "annoying yellow box around crosshair" in non-QR usage), however a more correct term (which is commonly used in image processing) would be "region of interest".

Relevent queries:

viewfinder box
viewfinder rectangle
viewfinder area


I've written a number of QR code-reading apps, and have always called it a "reticle" in my code, because (son of a photographer here) I was always taught that any lines, grid, crosshair, or indicia overlaid on a view (like a viewfinder in a camera) were all called reticles. Hence, it's a general term: a crosshair overlaid on a view is also a kind of reticle. I can see why it's not such a good user-facing term however, as it's not a simple, common English descriptive term. So for user-facing purposes, I'd go with Apple's usage and call it the "Focus Area," even if it's not literally used for focusing the lens— the point is it's directing the user where to put the focus of their attention.

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