Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Long URLs or Links can cause problems when sent in email programs, since many email programs try to be helpful by forcing text to fit a fixed width.

I tried to email a web page link to a group of my friends, but none of them could click on it and have it work ... it always said "page not found" or something like that. And yet the link works for me.

The link is a little lengthy, so I certainly can't expect them to type it all in. Why can't they just click to open that link, and what can I do to make it work for them?

The link broke.

No, seriously, the link was literally broken - either by your email program, or the recipients.

Here's what I mean:

Here's a really long link to a page on one of my other sites (I'll explain why I had to use another site in a moment):

http://www.forwardedfunnies.com/how_many_dogs_does_it_take_to_change_a_light_bulb_000703.html

At 94 characters long, that's a fairly lengthy URL.

In fact, it's too long for many email programs. Many email programs attempt to force the text in your message to be no wider than some number of characters. For example an email program might force all text to be no wider than 72 characters. For words, that's not a problem - the text is reformatted, breaking lines at the spaces between words.

What if there's no spaces?

Then many mail programs do this:

http://www.forwardedfunnies.com/how_many_dogs_does_it_take_to_change_a_
light_bulb_000703.html
"Notice how the URL has been literally broken into two at column 72. And I do mean broken."

Notice how the URL has been literally broken into two at column 72.

And I do mean broken.

The problem is that even though the first 72 characters are highlighted as a link, they are incomplete. The link won't work because it doesn't include the part that was placed on the next line.

I'm almost positive that's what's happened to your links.

So, what to do?

There are a couple of services you should know about on the internet: tinyurl.com and snipurl.com. They both do, essentially, the same thing. They let you set up a short URL that you can use in place of the longer one.

Let's use TinyURL to fix this one.

If you visit tinyurl.com you'll see on the screen this box:

Tiny URL Entry Field

So instead of copy/pasting that long URL into our email, we'll copy/paste it here:

Tiny URL Entry Field with Data

Note that the URL is so long that only the end of it shows after the paste, but that's ok. As long as the entire long URL has been pasted in there, we're ready for the next step.

Push the Make TinyURL! button to get this:

TinyURL Results

Now, you have a much shorter URL you can use:

http://tinyurl.com/5py6el

Use this instead of the long link. Once you've set it up this way, it'll take you to the exact same place as the longer URL.

And it won't break when you send it in email.

So, why didn't I use a page on Ask Leo! as an example? Simple: I've designed the web site to be "broken link tolerant". As long as the URL has enough information that I can tell what page you're looking for, that's where you'll land. For example, these all take you to the same place:

http://ask-leo.com/internet_safety_how_do_i_keep_my_computer_safe_on_the_internet.html
http://ask-leo.com/internet_safety_how_do_i_keep_my_
http://ask-leo.com/internet_safety

Note: most sites do not do this! That means you need to use the tinyurl/snipurl solution I've described above.

Webmasters: you can read more about the technique here: Tolerate Broken URLs out on Movable Type Tips. (You don't have to be using Movable Type for this technique to work.)

Article C3377 - May 11, 2008 « »

A version of this article that can be republished without cost is available at ArticlesByLeo.com terms).

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

10 Comments
Arthur
May 13, 2008 3:57 PM

For me this article was an eye-opener! It explains why some of my e-mail recipients can open a long newspaper link while other recipients cannot do so. Even better, the article explains the PURPOSE of tinyurl. I had seen references to tinyurl but I couldn't figure out the value of it. I just visited tinyurl.com and it works well. Live and learn....

Carl R. Goodwin
May 13, 2008 5:55 PM

I use a Firefox Extension called "Send Link". Works great - ALL THE TIME!

Bhavani.S
May 14, 2008 5:43 AM

Thank you so much for the detail explanation for the lonk web link gettting broken and not working when clicked in email.
Along with copying and pasting tinyurl we can also inform the customer by giving a note and telling him that the web link would be longer when not converted it to tinu url.

Kerry Lund
May 20, 2008 1:39 PM

My email client, Eudora, tells me to place around the address. I place That makes it one word. This also usually makes it a link.

This may not work with a web based mail or any other mail client

Kerry

TimR
May 21, 2008 12:08 AM

Another alternative I use is to copy the link and insert it as a Hyperlink in my Outook 2003

1. open Outlook 2xxx or any email program* that uses Hyperlinks (* please note that some programs cant use the long links embedded under titles like Outlook Express)

2. make a new email message
3. copy the long link
4. (in Outlook) "Insert" > "Hyperlink"
5. insert long link in the address field
6. Type a short title in the "test to display" field
7. click ok and send your email as usual :)

TimR

Fun Dreamz
July 14, 2008 7:50 AM

I have been using tinyurl & snipurl for a long time and happy with the result. The only issue is that the url is difficult to remeber.

Few months back I came accross another website that offers free service like snipurl with customisation i.e. user can put his own words instead of using random characters used by snipurl.

Unfortunately I am unable to recollect the website name. If anyone know about it then please let me know.

Ernie
August 12, 2009 9:47 PM

At work we can only use Outlook in text format.
We had the same problem with long URLs. They recently did something "magic" (I assume added a patch). Long URLs now work. But even the IT people I know have no clue what they did.

Marc
September 16, 2009 1:54 AM

I have another URL shortener named lost.in: http://lost.in

I hope you like it!

bill F
May 10, 2011 9:27 AM

If I have a long URL, I send the message with HTML encoding on. It then sends each paragraph as one long line that resizes to fit the screen and doesn't add line feeds to break up the URL.

That's "OK", but it actually doesn't work on many recipient email programs and systems.
Leo
10-May-2011

Leslie Smith
May 10, 2011 1:14 PM

These steps work with IE9 and Windows Live Mail.
On the web page you wish to send a link for, click the down arrow next to the page icon then click the "Send link by e-mail" the default Windows Live Mail opens on the send window The subject is the web page information. In the body of the E-mail. Now place the cursor at the end line for the web page URL and press "ENTER" The link now changes to HTML. This works with as many lines as the web page URL addres requires.
Enter the send to, and send.
The E-mail recipent, simply clicks on the HTML link in the body of the recieved E-mail.
No copying or pasting and it works.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.