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Occasionally, long URLs sent in email are broken to fit some maximum line length. I'll review one way to reconstruct the URL so it works.

It's very common and very frustrating - someone sends you a link in email, you click it, and ...

Nothing.

Or perhaps page not found.

Or maybe something else entirely.

It's not their fault, it's not your fault, and it's not really your email program's fault, although it is the email program's doing.

I'll show you one way to pull it all back together.

Long URLs

The problem is URLs or web page addresses that are too long: URLs that are so long that they don't fit on a single line when your email program displays them.

Here's a really long link to a page on one of my other sites:

http://www.forwardedfunnies.com/how_many_dogs_does_it_take_to_change_a_light_bulb_000182.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 of the 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 are no spaces?

Then, many mail programs do this:

http://www.forwardedfunnies.com/how_many_dogs_does_it_take_to_change_a_
light_bulb_000182.html

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

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.

Here's another example, taken from an email that I received this morning:

Example of a broken URL

It's broken.

Copy/Paste to the rescue

Once you have received a URL broken in this way, you need to use copy and paste to reconstruct the original URL on a single line.

Start by using your mouse to select the first line of the URL:

First line of a broken URL selected

Click-and-hold your mouse pointer just past the right-most character in the line and drag it to the left, highlighting the text as it's selected. Once you've selected the entire portion of that line, release the mouse button.

Then right-click the selected text:

First line of a broken URL selected, and right clicked

Click Copy to copy the selected text to the clipboard.

Next, switch over to your browser; click in the address bar and type CTRL+A to select all of whatever may be there. If you want, you may then press the Delete key on your computer to clear the address bar.

Now, right-click in the empty address bar and click Paste. The first part of the broken URL that you copied to the clipboard will be placed in the address bar:

First part of broken URL in browser address bar

Do not press Enter, click Go in the browser, or do anything that would cause the browser to try to load that URL. Remember, the link is broken.

Now, we need to go pick up the second part to fix it.

Back in your email message, select the second line of the broken URL:

Second line of broken URL selected in email

Once again, right-click it and click Copy to copy it to the clipboard.

Now, go back to the browser and carefully click somewhere past the right side of what we're previously pasted:

Browser address bar before pasting second line

Make sure that nothing in the address bar is selected and that what you previously pasted is still there and unmodified. Some browsers will highlight the existing contents when you return to the address bar. Place the cursor past the right end of the first part of the URL for the next step.

Right-click there and click Paste:

Paste option for the second part of the broken URL

The second line that we copied to the clipboard will be pasted after the first part, joining them into a single URL.

Now, you can press Enter or click Go to view that URL.

Broken URL fixed by copy and pasting the peices back together

Summary

When you receive a link in an email that's broken by having been split across several lines, for each line simply:

  • Select it using your mouse.

  • Copy it to the clipboard using right-click and selecting Copy.

  • Paste it into the browser address bar using right-click and selecting Paste. Make sure to clear the address bar before pasting the first segment. Once pasted, place the cursor immediately at the end of the link segment before pasting any new segments.

When done, press Enter to go to the fixed URL.

Next Steps

It's clearly a bit of work. You might want to encourage friends that regularly send you long links to use a URL-shortening service before putting that link in email. How do I post a long link in email? shows you one way to do exactly that.

Video

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Transcript

Using Copy/Paste to fix a broken link in email.

Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom for askleo.net. Earlier today, I received an email that contained a long URL to this e-card and as you can see from the image here, the link is kinda sorta broken. It's broken over two lines because the link was too long.

Now if I click on the part that's actually highlighted like a link normally would, you'll see that it goes to the appropriate server but the e-card itself doesn't work and that's simply because the id number that they happened to use for this has been cut off. So what we need to do is go back to our email and in this case, we'll use Copy/Paste to go to this link. We'll start by using the mouse button and I'm going to click off to the right of the first part of this link, hold and drag the mouse over to select the first part of that link. Now I'm going to right-click on it and select Copy. Now you can also type Ctrl+C instead of doing this right-click and Copy, but I'm using right-click and Copy here to show you and make it more obvious.

Now, we'll go back to the browser and up in the address bar (we'll pretend this wasn't already here) up in the address bar, we'll right-click again and type in 'Paste'. Now, we didn't type in paste and go we just typed in paste; we haven't actually done anything yet. All we've done is put that first part of that URL in the address bar.

Now we're gonna go back to the email program and repeat that with the second part of that link. In other words, I clicked off to the right-hand side of the second line. I'm going to click and hold and drag and all the way over to the left until everything's been selected and release the mouse button.

Now, I'll right-click on it; click Copy; go back to the web browser where I've got the first part; click off to the right of that, making sure that nothing is selected depending on your browser. As you can see, the initial thing it did was select the entire URL. We don't want that. Some will actually select the last part of the URL. We don't want that either. What we want is this one lone cursor off to the very end of what we pasted first then we'll right-click, type Paste and what we've done now is created the entire URL. We've reconstructed that single line that got broken in two in email. And in fact at this point, if I just hit Enter, I get the e-card I was expecting. That's all there is to it: copy, paste, put in pieces of back together back in the address bar.

I'm Leo Notenboom for askleo.net.

Article C5022 - December 27, 2011 « »

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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
Bill Koenig
January 3, 2012 9:04 AM

Leo, when I receive a "broken" link, I copy and paste both lines at the same time. I have never had a problem doing that. BTW, I enjoy the newsletter.
Bill K.

George
January 3, 2012 9:50 AM

I highlight all lines in email.
copy.
Paste into notebook.
get rid of all returns at end of lines to make one long line
copy edited line
paste into address box.

This saves pasting multiple times into address box and makes sure no characters are added or lost.

Bill
January 3, 2012 10:00 AM

One business that sends me a URL to link to always puts a period at the end of it. It took me the longest time to realize that all I had to do was remove the period and then everything worked fine.

BTW, love your newsletter; keep up the good work.

That doesn't always break, but it's annoying when it does. It's one reason I always throw a space after a URL, even if it's at the end of a sentence.
Leo
05-Jan-2012
Bob S.
January 3, 2012 10:21 AM

Leo, I have had the same experience as Bill K. in that I just select (drag across) both lines, copy, and then paste it into the browser's address bar. (I used your two line version of the URL.) Out of curiosity I then pasted it into Word and turned on invisible characters and it showed a "new line" character after "take_to_change_a_", probably due to the way it was posted on this site so that it would be split into two lines. But nevertheless, after selecting both lines the line feed was ignored and took me directly to the correct website. I then became gutsy and arbitrarily added three "carriage return" characters within the URL, making it four lines and to my surprise doing the above with all four lines, worked. I tested this in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer with the same results.

Janet phillips
January 3, 2012 10:24 AM

Can i suggest anyone sending long email links use
www.tinyulr.com What i found useful is using the link on the webpage to make a widget within your toolbar what you must do is

1. drag the link to your toolbar then press the shift button too release the ulr and a red widget appears like magic.

2. Then what you do is if you have a web page you want To send alert someone about press the widget.

3. Tinyurl opens with the ulr shortend for you To copy and paste

To give an example of tinyulr use to the uninitiated

this is an amazon page link

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=kindle&x=20&y=18

now pressing the tinyulr widget coverts this too

http://tinyurl.com/72hvza3

Which would you rather send?

I often recommend services like tinyurl to people, but for some reason they often forget or can't be bothered. As a recipient it's too late and you have to reconstruct the original long URL in some fashion.
Leo
05-Jan-2012

Nils Torben
January 3, 2012 10:24 AM

If not any link will work it may be caused by changed registry settings, this has occured to me (Win XP). Here are settings that work with Chrome-browser:
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\http\shell]
@="Chrome"
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\http\shell\Chrome\command]
@="\"C:\\Documents and Settings\\(username)\\Local settings\\Application Data\\Google\\Chrome\\Application\\chrome.exe\" %1"

Another way is to go into "Folder settings/File types" in Explorer and find
"URL:HyperText Transfer Protocol" almost on top. There you can assign which program shall open the link.

Paul
January 3, 2012 1:39 PM

When I click on a link and my browser gives me a "Page Not Found" error message, I have found that sometimes, somehow, there is a blank space that has gotten into the link text. Taking that space out and reentering can solve that problem. I don't have any idea how that blank space got introduced into the link.

Claus Enderlein
January 3, 2012 4:03 PM

I found it easiest to select the entire URL by placing the mouse pointer at the end of the last line, hold down the left mouse button and slide the pointer left and up to the beginning of the first line. This avoids having the 'hand' actually trigger the partial URL before you can paste the complete one.

Roger-Cyndy Wilber
January 4, 2012 10:05 AM

In your advice about reattaching broken email URL's you mentioned "copying to the clipboard". WHAT and/or WHERE is this mysterious clipboard? Many times as I have closed a program the screen will pop up telling me I "have a lot of information on the clipboard" and do I "want to save it?" Haven't a clue where to look to find out what/where it is.

Wrote up a new article on that: What is a clipboard?
Leo
06-Jan-2012
Nick Godwin
January 6, 2012 4:23 AM

Roger-Cyndy Wilber the following link should help explain the clipboard.

http://tinyurl.com/7af5aub

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