Sending a Web Page in an Email Message

Those who'd like to break up Microsoft probably don't want to hear this, but I wish that the teams responsible for Outlook, Windows XP, and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) would talk to each other more. They've made it just about as hard as it can possibly be to send a Web page that's open in IE to another person in an email message, either as a link or as a complete page.

The worst case occurs with the combination of Outlook 2000 or Outlook 98 with the Email Security Update and XP, which includes IE 6.0. On a system with that configuration, when you're in IE and you choose File, Send, Link by E-mail, a new message opens that contains a .url file but no text representation of the link in the body of the message. (Instead, the body of the message contains the not-very-helpful text, "Your files are attached and ready to send with this message.") The .url file presents two problems. First, secure versions of Outlook block .url files by default. You can't remove the .url file from the message, and secure Outlook recipients won't see the .url file, much less be able to open it. Second, the .url file will work only for recipients with Windows (and unsecure versions of Outlook or another email client). It won't work for recipients with Linux, Macintosh, or a handheld device.

Equally ridiculous is the requirement that, if you want to send a Web page as an email message--not as a link but with the page content as the message--you first must make sure that the default message format for Outlook is HTML. Even if HTML is the default, the behavior of IE's File, Send, Page by E-mail command is unpredictable. If the Web page is too complex, the resulting message will include the Web page attached as a file rather than embedded in the message. However, you can't tell in advance whether a particular page is over the complexity threshold. You just have to experiment. Wouldn't it be nice if IE offered a pop-up dialog box that said, "This page is too complex to send in an embedded message. Would you like to send it as an attachment or a link instead?"

I propose that Microsoft completely overhaul IE's File, Send commands. Abandon the .url file attachment, which has no place in a world of wireless email devices and other non-Windows OSs. Instead, have the File, Send, Link by E-mail command insert a text link in the body of the message. Also, make the File, Send, Page by E-mail command intelligent. If I tell IE to send a Web page in an email message, I obviously want the message to be in HTML format; the command should automatically create an HTML message. Finally, add a Page by E-mail (Attachment) command for those people who prefer to send Web pages as attached files rather than embedding them in email messages.

In the meantime, here's how to get the best results from the commands that IE has today:

To send a Web page embedded in an email message, determine whether your default Outlook message format is HTML. If it isn't, select Tools, Options, then change the format on the Mail Format tab. Then, in IE, choose File, Send, Page by E-mail and hope that the page isn't too complex to be embedded.

To send a Web page as an email message attachment, set plain text as your default Outlook message format. Then, in IE, choose File, Send, Page by E-mail.

To send an email message with a link, use the free MailTo_URL add-in for IE, developed by Exchange MVP Siegfried Weber. This tool adds an E-mail Page command to the right-click context menu in IE. The command creates a new mail message with the title of the Web page as the subject and puts the title and the link in the body of the message.


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