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How to make hyperlinks in your documents: Copying and pasting hyperlinks

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Almost whichever word processor you use you can copy and paste hyperlinks from a web page to a word processing document (the exception is Pages for iCloud Beta which, as we saw above, doesn’t do linking at all at the time of writing). This allows you to grab any single link or, very valuably, a related group of links such as the navigation section of a website.

For an individual link you just highlight it then copy it. This can be tricky as the browser will often interpret your attempt to highlight as a request to travel to the link’s target. The solution is to click in the space that precedes the link and drag over the link. This shouldn’t invoke the link itself.

To copy a list of links you need to be aware of another problem that derives from the underlying structure of some web pages. When you click and drag over a list of links on one side of the page you often end up selecting other unwanted material as well, as seen in the illustration.

Screenshot showing the difficulty in highlighting part of an html page

Screenshot showing the difficulty in highlighting part of an html page

The attempt to highlight the links on the right has resulted in a selection that includes the text on the left. The solution is caret browsing.

Caret browsing provides a cursor (sometimes known as a caret) that can be controlled by the arrow keys on your keyboard. Pressing F7 in Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari invokes a dialog box where you confirm that you want to use the technique. Then you can click your mouse at (or just before) the first link and use Shift and the arrow keys to move down the list selecting just what you need.

Screenshot showing how the selection difficulty is solved with caret browsing.

Screenshot showing how to make a selection with caret browsing.

Copy and paste this into your word processed document and you can use the links to access the material at the precise position you wish. The links are separate so you can type your notes to a page beneath its link, potentially expanding the document to be a comprehensive commentary on the site and a valuable revision aid. While they’re still highlighted you could give them each a heading style, then you’ll then be able to hyperlink to each section.

One thing to watch out for is that, in many navigation systems, the entry in the list for the page you are on is not itself a link. In the example above we were on the page Submitting a TMA so that entry isn't a link and it shows in the document as plain text. The solution is to travel to one of the other pages in the navigation. This page will have a live link to Submitting a TMA that you can copy and paste over the plain text non-link.

Chrome doesn’t offer the caret browsing facility. A workaround is to copy the enlarged selection, complete with all the unwanted material, and paste it into a spreadsheet rather than a word processing document. Usually the navigation links end up in a range of cells one above the other. You can then select just those cells and paste them into your word processor.

If you want to it’s much simpler to copy and paste links from one word processed document to another because the link is only invoked if you Ctrl-Click on it, not if you Click on it. This makes highlighting and copying much easier.

Sending hyperlinks in emails and texts

Hyperlinks work very efficiently in emails. If you want to draw your correspondent’s attention to a particular webpage you can copy its address from the address bar of your browser and paste it into an email. If you want to attach it to text as outlined above you can expect the Ctrl-K (Cmd-K on a Mac) to work in most email programs.

This is the technique you should use if you’re trying to explain to your tutor where exactly you’re having a problem in the module material. The online-only modules have no page numbers, but every page in the module has its unique address that you can paste into your email.

If you and your tutor are using mobile devices you can paste the copied web address into a text message. Any smartphone or tablet will recognise it as a link and tell the device’s web browser to go to that address. On most smartphones you can even do this while you’re having a phone conversation with your tutor.

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