TinyURL Service

Sending URLs—to funny sites, entertaining videos, or important information—via email has become almost a national pastime; who hasn’t sent someone to a Web site? This simple task has dramatically changed how we share information: you just paste an interesting URL into an email (or, even more convenient, use the “email this link” feature of most Web browsers, which automatically opens a new email message and pastes the link) and send the message; when the recipient view the message, a simple click on the link takes him or her to the must-see site.

But anyone who’s ever received such a message via email knows that it doesn’t always work as planned; often the URL is so long that it spans more than one line, and many email clients, and even Web-based email services, have trouble figuring out where the URL ends and regular text begins.

One solution is for the sender to always include the full URL (including http:// ) and to enclose that URL in angled brackets (

<
and
>
); for example, instead of typing www.macworld.com , type <http://www.macworld.com> . According to email standards, these brackets tell the email client where a URL begins and ends. Unfortunately, not all email clients fully support brackets around URLs—even today, years after this method was laid out in an RFC (RFCs are documents that detail standards for many Internet-based technologies). For example, if a URL includes a question mark, Microsoft’s Entourage has a tendency to drop everything after the question mark, even if the sender has included brackets to designate the actual URL.

As a result of all this hassle, many people turn to TinyURL.com when sending links. You paste your long, convoluted link into a form on the TinyURL site and click on the “Make TinyURL!” button, and the site gives you a URL short enough that it’s guaranteed not to break across multiple lines. (When someone clicks the URL, they’re automatically redirected to the Web site to which you intended to send them.) For example, using TinyURL.com, this:

	http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=1+infinite+loop,+cupertino
	,+ca&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=49.444078,77.958984&layer=&ie=UTF8&
	z=16&om=1&iwloc=addr
	

becomes this:

http://tinyurl.com/2zzypk

(You can instead send the “preview” form of the URL, http://preview.tinyurl.com/2zzypk, which takes the recipient to a page on the TinyURL site that shows where the link will take them; they can then decide whether or not to proceed to it.)

TinyURL is a clever resource that takes the hassle out of sending URLs via email. Unfortunately, it adds hassles of its own. You have to copy the destination URL, go to TinyURL.com in your browser, paste the URL, click on the Make TinyURL button, copy the resulting “Tiny” URL, and then paste that URL into your email message. Not a horrible procedure, but certainly not a smooth workflow. Rachel Blackman (a.k.a., Riverdark Studios) has made the process much simpler with TinyURL Service 0.2 (   ; free). (Thanks to Scott at MacUser for finding this one!)

As its name implies, TinyURL Service is a Mac OS X Service; to install it, you drop it into /Library/Services (to make it available to all users on your Mac) or ~/Library/Services (to restrict its use to only your own account). After logging out and then back in, TinyURL Service will be available to all Services-aware applications.

You use TinyURL Service in one of two ways. If you’ve already pasted your too-long URL into an email message (or any other text field), you just highlight the desired URL and then choose Application Name -> Services -> Shrink URL; after a couple seconds, the full URL will be replaced by the Tiny version.

Tiny URL Service

Alternatively, you can save the step of pasting the URL in an email message first by highlighting that URL in, say, your Web browser’s address field, and then choosing Application Name -> Services -> Shrink URL to Clipboard; this converts the URL to a Tiny version right then and there, and then copies the Tiny URL to the Clipboard for pasting anywhere you like. (The basic Shrink URL command has a keyboard shortcut, Shift+Command+T, but I wasn’t able to get it to work; you may have better luck by assigning your own shortcut—to either or both commands—using Service Scrubber.)

Unfortunately, the way Services work, TinyURL Service can’t “Tiny-fy” a URL that’s on the Clipboard; it has to be highlighted text in a Services-aware application. But TinyURL Service is still a handy add-on for letting you make sure your email recipients can easily visit the links you send—without requiring you to copy/paste/surf/copy/paste to do so.

TinyURL requires Services-aware applications and is a Universal binary.

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