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If an email program sees something that looks like a link, it will add code to underline it and make it clickable. Sometimes, that doesn't work perfectly.

I emailed myself a public link from Dropbox's public folder, but when I received it, the lettering of the URL was correct but not underlined and in blue letters like you get when you normally type or copy/paste a URL. You can normally just click on it and it will take you to that link. Now, in Hotmail, I have to select the link, right-click and go that way (presumably copy/paste). All other URLs I get in messages, especially Ad emails, seem to work. Is this normal?

In this excerpt from Answercast #45, I look at how email programs deal with links and what you can do if your links are not coming through as "clickable."

Clickable links

Normal? Yes. I'm gonna to say that it is. I don't think that there is anything is broken here.

The fact that something gets underlined in blue and becomes a clickable link is something that Hotmail (or whatever program you're using to display that email) chooses to do for you when it displays the email.

So, if it sees something that looks like a link, (in other words:

  1. it starts with http://

  2. and possibly it ends in .html or .php or a couple of other common file extensions),

Then it will say, "You know what? This looks like a link and I'm going to highlight it so that the person can click on it if they want to."

Doesn't look like a link

If it doesn't look like a link then it is very possible that Hotmail will just say, You know what...

  • This thing may start with http://

  • But it doesn't look like a link.

  • The rest of it doesn't look proper.

  • It doesn't end in the right file extension;

  • Or it has funny characters in it,

  • Or any number of different reasons.

We actually don't know the specific algorithm Hotmail (or any mail displaying application) might use to determine whether or not something should be highlighted as a link.

So the short answer is, unfortunately, to do exactly what you're doing. Use copy/paste to make that link useful. Copy it to your browser's address bar and paste it in there. Hit Return and have the browser go to it.

Short URLs

The other approach (if this is something you are sending to someone else, or something you might be getting a little bit more often) is you might consider running it through a link shortener.

  • Most URL shorteners work in Hotmail (and in other email programs);

  • In that they are typically displayed as clickable links.

So, that's the approach. I really don't think that anything bad is going on here. It's just this kind of vague and potentially inconsistent definition of what it means for something to "look like a link."

Article C5715 - August 20, 2012 « »

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?

August 21, 2012 11:01 AM

By a link shortener, I assume you mean things like I don't like those shorteners because I have no idea where people want to send me. If you want me to follow your link, you need to use the proper URL. I will then decide if it's safe.

Several of my friends/relatives (including my wife) have had their email accounts hijacked (Yahoo and Hotmail). Being able to see the full and proper URL is one of the ways that I use to make sure that the email I have received is a legitimate email.

August 22, 2012 5:02 AM

I have noticed that in yahoo mail if a E mail is
forwarded , then the link in the mail works when
But if the original message had been copied and
sent to you, then the link does not work and you
have to copy and paste to address box to get
to the site.


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