URL Magic Tricks

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Literally thousands of new Web sites pop up on the Internet every day. Unfortunately, at least half of them seem to end up getting bookmarked on my computer. The result, of course, is a mess: huge lists of bookmarks; unwieldy, disorganized browser menus; and dozens of stray URLs in documents randomly scattered all over my system.

With Web and e-mail addresses coming at you from every direction, it's good to know that there are plenty of powerful URL-management shortcuts built right into the Mac OS. If you know the right tricks, you can wrangle, redirect, and reorganize those URLs with a few simple mouse-clicks.

The best way to extract URLs from documents of any kind is by using Apple Data Detectors (ADD) 1.0.2, an incredible free utility from Apple that helps you find, save, and connect to Internet addresses located in documents anywhere on your system. If you're not already using ADD, you should be. To download it, go to http://asu.info.apple.com and search for Apple Data Detectors. (You can use ADD with System 7.6 or later.)

With ADD installed, you can simply control-click on a selection of text in a document to create a contextual pop-up menu that lists the URLs in that selection. The pop-up menu also lists a number of options for launching or saving the URLs. The detector can recognize e-mail addresses, Web sites, newsgroup names, and FTP site addresses. You can, for example, use ADD on a word processing document to find a Web page's address, add the address to the list of bookmarks in Netscape Navigator, and then launch your browser and open the page–all from one pop-up menu right in your word processor.

One note about ADD: the pop-up menus provide more options than you probably need; the View In Cyberdog option is one you probably won't use, for example. So after installing ADD, make it a point to visit the Apple Data Detectors control panel, where you can turn off commands you don't plan to use.

Even without ADD, Mac OS 8.5 has become quite smart about sniffing out URLs and helping you organize them. For example, you can now create two new kinds of text clippings: Web-page locations and e-mail addresses. Simply select a URL (such as http://www.macworld.com ) or an e-mail address (such as joe@macworld.com) in the text of any drag-and-drop-aware application, such as Microsoft Word or AppleWorks, and then drag the selection to the desktop (or anywhere else in the Finder). The resulting text clipping becomes a document you can double-click on to launch your default Web browser or e-mail program, which then connects to the designated Web page or creates a preaddressed piece of e-mail for you.

Once you've created Web-page-location or e-mail-address clippings, there are a number of different ways you can use them.

•Drag a Web-page-location clipping directly into a browser window to connect to that Web site immediately. If you drag the clipping into Microsoft Internet Explorer's Address bar (instead of into the window itself), the URL appears in the Address bar, although you won't actually connect to the site until you press return.

•If you want to be able to access a clipping from the Favorites submenu in the Apple menu, control-click on a clipping and choose Add To Favorites from the contextual pop-up menu. This places a copy of the clipping in your system's Favorites folder.

•You can change the name of a clipping without altering its contents, even though by default these clippings have the name of the URL they contain.

•You can drag the clippings into any drag-and-drop-aware application to insert them as text.

•Drag clippings into Internet Explorer 4's Favorites folder to automatically add them to Explorer's Favorites list. Even cooler, drag them straight onto the Favorites bar and they appear right on the bar. This little trick doesn't work with Netscape Navigator, by the way.

•Double-clicking on a clipping launches your default Web browser or e-mail program. You can change these defaults by opening the Internet control panel and choosing new default applications in the E-mail and Web panes.

If you generally keep your Web browser running, here's another way you can create shortcuts to your favorite Web sites from URLs you may come across in e-mail and other documents: You can treat a URL within text just as you do a Web-page clipping file. Select the URL, and then drag it directly into the Favorites folder in Internet Explorer–bypassing the Finder completely. The URL instantly becomes available in Explorer's Favorites list. Or, you can drag the selection right onto Explorer's Favorites bar to install a shortcut button right on the bar itself.

You can do essentially the same thing in Netscape Navigator by dragging a selected URL into Navigator's Bookmarks folder.

Of course, even with these techniques, you still have to sort through your collected URLs, organize them into manageable lists, and periodically, weed out the waste. For that job, alas, no one-click tool exists.

Macworld Mac Secrets

April 1999 page: 87

Both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator provide a number of shortcuts for opening your favorite Web pages, but have you noticed that there's no obvious way to navigate to frequently visited sites using only the keyboard? Generally, you have to click on a button or pull down a menu or submenu in order to get to a bookmarked location.

However, both Web browsers do allow mouse-free access to the sites you've already added to the Bookmarks (Netscape) or Favorites (Internet Explorer) list. Just use the commands in the figures below to perform such tasks as opening a folder of bookmarks, deleting a bookmark, and going to a favorite site.

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