If you’ve ever created a Web page, you probably clicked all the links to confirm that they worked properly. Over time, however, links may break as changes are made both to your Web site and its linked sites. If your site has more than a few pages, you may find it tedious to recheck all your links regularly. Braxton’s Link Tester (BLT) 1.0.1 is a new tool for Webmasters of small to medium sites. It automates link testing and provides detailed information on link failures so that you can keep your sites up to date with a minimum of effort.
The program’s basic operation couldn’t be simpler. Type in a URL (or select a local file) as a starting point and click the Check Links button. BLT attempts to reach all the URLs on the page and lists the results. (You can check just the links on a single page, or recursively check all referenced pages within a site.) Links that are unreachable are shown with icons representing the type of failure (for example, missing file, timeout, server error, and so on). Each result—good or bad—includes the HTML page and line number where the URL appears, so that you can locate bad links easily.
BLT also can filter results according to the type of link failure, making it easier to spot and fix particular kinds of errors. You select a result category by clicking on a tab-shaped control, though each one is actually a toggle, not a separate view (see screenshot); I found this slightly confusing. BLT also has a Tree view that attempts to show the hierarchy of files and folders within a site, though this view frequently shows duplicate items, making it much less useful than it could be. The company is aware of the problem and plans to fix it in a future version.
You can save all the settings for checking a particular site in a BLT file; BLT can load more than one of these files (and check more than one site) at a time. It can also export your results in a variety of formats, including HTML and comma-separated text.
If you have a site with pay-per-click ads, such as Google’s AdSense, you should exercise caution when using BLT. Because it follows all the links on a site, it will visit each of the ads as well—a likely violation of the ad provider’s policies. According to the developer, a future version of BLT will enable Webmasters to selectively avoid visits to certain URLs or domains.
BLT’s performance is generally good, though it depends largely on the number of external links within a site—and the responsiveness of the computers that serve them. The program crashed a few times during my testing, seemingly due to improperly formed URLs; the developer expects a fix to be available soon. And its documentation is sparse, consisting of a single HTML page.
Macworld’s buying advice
BLT 1.0.1 has some rough edges, but it’s useful and shows great promise. If you manage Web sites of moderate complexity, and are willing to overlook a few minor glitches, BLT can save you significant time and effort.
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The tabs at the top of BLT’s window filter your test results. Tool tips tell you what each type of error means.