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More e-mail tips and tricks
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
Simple gray rule


More e-mail tips and tricks


Bit Player for Oct. 25, 1998

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers

Ever go to a Web page and click on a link to send e-mail to someone? If so, you've used a "mailto" link. It can be very handy off the Web, too.

A "mailto" link is one of many HTML codes. HTML, which stands for HyperText Markup Language, creates everything on a Web page. It's the language of Web-page design. (As you no doubt have seen, it's also the typical "file type" for a Web page. The page usually will have a name ending in HTM or HTML.)

A "mailto" link tells your Web browser to run your mail program and address a letter to the name given in the "mailto" link. Or at least that's the way it works normally. Today we'll see how Windows 95 and 98 can turn "mailto" links into something fancier.

The form a "mailto" link takes is simple: mailto:jsmith@domain.com (meaning address a letter to the user whose e-mail address is "jsmith" and whose domain, or Internet provider name, is "domain.com"). When I created my main introductory page on my Web site, I placed a "mailto" link at the bottom so visitors to my site could send me a note just by clicking on the link.

Old-fashioned e-mail programs might not know what to do with a "mailto" link, but most modern ones work fine. I've had good success with "mailto" links with Microsoft's Outlook Express, Netscape Mail, Eudora Light and Eudora Pro, as well as with the quadruplets of heavy-duty mail from Microsoft—Exchange, Windows Messaging, Outlook 97 and Outlook 98.

To Windows 95 and 98, a "mailto" link is not just an Internet address tacked onto a short bit of code. It's also a shortcut. Because of the way modern versions of Windows work, a shortcut can point to practically anything. A shortcut doesn't have to be a pointer to a file or folder, as most Windows users think.

You can see what I mean by creating a shortcut to the Syracuse OnLine Web site right on your desktop. Put your mouse pointer on an area of the desktop not occupied by a window and press the right mouse button. Choose "New," then "Shortcut." Type the following (without the quotes): http://www.syracuse.com and then press the Enter key. Don't touch your mouse. Just type "Syracuse OnLine" next (no quotes) and press Enter again. You'll see an icon on your desktop named "Syracuse OnLine."

If you double click the left mouse button on that icon, or click once and press Enter, your Web browser will connect to the home page of Syracuse OnLine. The Web-address shortcut does the same thing that a shortcut to a document on your hard drive does—it opens something onto your screen. This is the beauty of Microsoft's shortcuts. They'll do just about anything.

Now that you see how a Web site can be represented by a shortcut, you'll find it easier to understand how you can make a "mailto" link do a couple of tricks.

Here's the first. Make a "mailto" shortcut the way you made the Syracuse OnLine shortcut. Type "mailto:" followed by your own e-mail address in the form that comes up. In the next part of the form, give it a descriptive name such as "E-mail to myself." (This is just a test, so humor me.)

Now double click on that new icon. Your e-mail program should open up with a letter already addressed to yours truly. Neat, eh? Obviously, you're not likely to write many letters to yourself, but you can see how handy an icon like this would be if the "mailto" line had the e-mail address of someone you write to a lot. You could create as many as you like and put them anywhere—on your desktop, in the Start Menu or in a folder.

But suppose you'd just like to be able to have your e-mail program open up with a letter ready to write—to anyone? Ah, here's the second trick. Just leave the username and address off the "mailto" link when you create the shortcut. When you double click the shortcut, your mail software will open a blank letter, ready for your purple prose.


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