Hyperlinks are now a standard fixture in Office documents, but many users don't know much beyond how to click on them. Susan Harkins has rounded up an assortment of tweaks for fine-tuning the behavior of hyperlinks and using them for specialized tasks.
Hyperlinks reduce the task of retrieving data to a quick click. As a side benefit, they reduce typos and other mistakes you might make if you had to do the work of a hyperlink manually. For the most part, inserting a hyperlink is easy work. But you might not be using them to their (or your) best advantage. There's more to hyperlinks than a little formatting and quick access. Here are a few tricks you can use to make the most of the hyperlink functionality in Office.
Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.
#1: Control how Word follows a hyperlink
At the settings level, there are two ways to control how to follow a link. By default, when you hover the mouse over a hyperlink, the application displays a ScreenTip with the link's address and instructions to hold down Ctrl while clicking the link. Alternately, you can right-click the link and choose Open Hyperlink from the resulting context menu. Since most of us are use to a single click, you might find this configuration annoying. Fortunately, you can change it:
- Choose Options from the Tools menu and click the Edit tab. Office 2007 users should click the Office button and then click Word Options (at the bottom right).
- Click Advanced. In Office 2007, select Advanced in the left pane.
- For all versions, check or uncheck the Use Ctrl + Click To Follow Hyperlink option, accordingly, in the Editing Options section.
- With this option deselected, the application displays the white hand pointer. A single click is all that's required to follow the link. Either way, you decide.
#2: Add a custom ScreenTip
The hyperlink ScreenTip lets you check the link's address before clicking, which is the smart thing to do. Don't let hyperlinks take you anywhere you shouldn't or don't want to go.
If necessary, you can usurp the default message to display a custom message, as follows:
- Position the cursor anywhere inside the link, right-click, and choose Edit Hyperlink from the context menu. Or just click Insert Hyperlink on the Standard toolbar. Office 2007 users will find Hyperlink in the Links group on the Insert tab.
- In the Edit Hyperlink dialog box, click the ScreenTip button.
- Enter the custom text you want to use as the hyperlink's ScreenTip, as shown in Figure A.
Figure A: Enter a custom ScreenTip.
- Click OK.
Figure B: Instead of displaying the link's path, you can display a custom message.
#3: Link to a specific Excel sheet or cell
Creating a hyperlink to an Excel workbook is easy enough. You click the Insert Hyperlink tool on the Standard toolbar, use the Look In control to locate the workbook you want to link to, enter the display text, and press OK.
However, there's no simple point-and-click method to specify a specific sheet, cell, or named range in a workbook. Fortunately, that doesn't mean you can't do it. To open an Excel workbook to a specific sheet, cell, or named range, add the information to the address in the following form, respectively:
#4: Fix Outlook hyperlinks that don't work
Occasionally, the links in Outlook or Outlook Express stop working. They're not broken, they just don't work. There are a number of reasons this might happen. If you're lucky, your popup manager is the problem. Before you spend a lot of time troubleshooting, hold down Ctrl and click the link. If it works, great; if not, trudge on.
Next, check the default browser setting. If you're using Internet Explorer, choose Internet Options from the Tools menu and click the Programs tab. Check the Tell Me If Internet Explorer is Not The Default Web Browser option. Firefox and other browsers have a similar setting.
If you've recently switched browsers, your system could be confused. Check your folder options and reset the browser, as follows (in Windows XP):
- From the Start menu, choose Control Panel.
- Open the Folder Options settings and click the File Types tab.
- Select (NONE) URL: HyperText Transfer Protocol from the Registered File Types list.
- Click Advanced. Then, click Edit in the resulting dialog box.
- Check the Application control. It should contain a reference to your browser. For instance, Figure C lists Internet Explorer, IExplorer, as the current system's browser. Change the application if necessary by clicking Browse and locating the appropriate browser .exe file.
Figure C: Change the system browser.
The final problem may be a missing registry key or value. If that's the case, the fix is usually simple. From the Start menu, choose Run and then enter
Click OK and then clear the resulting confirmation message. If that doesn't fix the problem, run the following commands from Run:
#5: Avoid hyperlink text missteps
Hyperlinks have been around a while and most users are familiar with them. Effective links use meaningful text that describes the link's purpose or target. Readers should know why they're clicking and where they're going when they do. Here are a few hyperlink text don'ts:
- Don't use the hyperlink text "Click Here." Your users don't need a map to use links. In fact, you might find that people skim right over "Click Here" links.
- Don't hyperlink several sentences or an entire paragraph.
- Don't hyperlink verbs.
- Don't issue commands. ("Click Here" is a command.)
For instance, "More information on creating good hyperlinks is available" is much better than Click here for more information on creating good hyperlinks or More information on creating good hyperlinks is available. The first example is succinct and clear.
#6: Hyperlink to open a new document
Opening a new document is simple enough, but you can make the task even easier with a hyperlink:
- Choose Hyperlink from the Insert menu or click Insert Hyperlink on the Standard menu. Office 2007 users will find Hyperlink in the Links group on the Insert tab.
- Click Create New Document.
- Enter a name for the new document, worksheet, or presentation.
- Check one of the edit options.
- Click OK.
- Click the hyperlink to open a new document.
You might add this type of hyperlink to a custom template or a document that doesn't display the standard menus and tools. Users who are unfamiliar with the application will also find this hyperlink useful.
#7: Move and hyperlink at the same timeYou can both move and define text as a hyperlink with one purposeful effort. Simply select the text and right-click it. (In Excel, right-click a cell border.) Then, drag the text to a new location and release the mouse button. When you do, the application will display the menu shown in Figure D. Choose Create Hyperlink Here. To edit the new hyperlink, right-click it and choose Edit Hyperlink.
Figure D: Right-click to move and define text as a hyperlink.
#8: Stop hyperlink hijacks
If your browser is open when you click a hyperlink in another application, Windows sometimes dumps the current page and opens the hyperlinked page. You can click Back or you can alter Internet Explorer's behavior — this is really an IE problem and not a hyperlink problem. If you want Internet Explorer to open hyperlinks in a new window, reset the Reuse Windows For Launching Shortcut setting as follows:
- Choose Internet Options from the Tools menu.
- Click the Advanced tab.
- In the Browsing section, uncheck the Reuse Windows For Launching Shortcut (When Tabbed Browsing is Off) option.
- Click OK.
#9: Control the link instead of browser settings
You can't always control the browser, but you can force the issue by including appropriate instructions in the link itself. Doing so takes a bit of work, but it's worth it if you need the control. To enter a hyperlink that opens in a new window, do the following:
- Enter this field code: HYPERLINK "http://URL"no
- Highlight the entire field code.
- Press Ctrl + 9.
- Click inside the code.
- Press F9.
Figure E: Force the default browser to open a link in a new window.
#10: Stop address formatting
By default, Office applications format a URL or e-mail address as a hyperlink. This setting is helpful to most users. This setting can be annoying if you don't want the address formatted. To undo the format, you can press backspace or Ctrl + Z. If you unformat links most of the time, disable the setting as follows:
- Select AutoCorrect from the Tools menu. If you're using Office 2007, click the Office button and then click application Options (at the bottom right). Select Proofing in the left pane and then click AutoCorrect Options in the AutoCorrect Options section.
- Click the AutoFormat As You Type tab.
- Uncheck the Internet and Paths With Hyperlinks option in the Replace section.
- Click OK.
This is an all or nothing feature, though. If you disable it, you'll have to format hyperlinks manually.
#11: Automate e-mail responses
Clicking an e-mail address hyperlink opens the default e-mail client and fills in the address. You can also fill in the subject and even the body of the message from the hyperlink using a few HTML tricks. Doing so is helpful when you want to control responses. The form you're used to is a simple e-mail address:
To control the subject text, use the following form:
Enter message text using this form:
Unfortunately, you can't reliably use space characters. Replace all space characters with %20. If you don't, the link stops at the first space character.The following hyperlink, when clicked, displays the window shown in Figure F:
Figure F: The hyperlink filled in the address, the subject, and entered a short message.
#12: View Outlook contacts
You can use a hyperlink to quickly display contact information in Outlook from other applications. For example, the following form opens contactname in Outlook contact's window:
For more codes, search Outlook's Help on "Types of Hyperlinks."
#13: Quick hyperlink toolbars in Outlook
Outlook has a neat hyperlink trick — you can hyperlink any file, application, Web page, or e-mail address from the toolbar. To add a hyperlink toolbar button, do the following:
- From the Tools menu, choose Customize and click the Commands tab.
- Drag any button (not menus) to the toolbar.
- Right-click the button, choose Assign Hyperlink, and then select Open.
- Enter the path to the hyperlink's destination and any other hyperlink properties you like.
- Click OK and then close the Customize dialog box.
Generally, you'll want to use a button image that represents the hyperlink's task. If there's no image, use a ScreenTip or the button's Name property to display meaningful text.
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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.