My users insert hyperlinks to files on network drives into their Outlook messages, but the links in received messages arrive as regular text and aren't clickable. How can I get such links to work consistently?

When users compose Rich Text Format (RTF) messages with WordMail in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2002, they can insert a file hyperlink into the message text by clicking Insert, File, then choosing Insert as Hyperlink from the drop-down Insert list in the Insert File dialog box. The resulting link looks fine in the text of the unsent message, but as you've seen, when the message arrives at its destination, the text that contains the path to the file is no longer an underlined link and isn't clickable.

Oddly enough, if Microsoft Word isn't the email editor, the inserted hyperlink in the text gets an explicit file:// prefix and works fine. Therefore, one workaround is to turn off WordMail in Tools, Options, Mail Format.

If you want to stick with WordMail, another workaround is to create the link in an RTF message, then switch the message format to HTML and make the link an explicit file:// hyperlink. Try these steps:

  1. Create an RTF message and insert the file link as you typically would (click Insert, File, Insert as Hyperlink).
  2. Choose HTML from the Message format drop-down list on the message toolbar to change the message format from RTF to HTML.
  3. Right-click the underlined link and choose Edit Hyperlink.
  4. In the Address field of the Edit Hyperlink dialog box, type file:// before the path to the file, as Figure 1 shows. You can delete file:// from the Text to display box or even change the display text to something completely different. Click OK.
  5. Do not choose Rich Text from the drop-down list on the toolbar to return the message to RTF; if you do so, you'll lose the hyperlink.

This is one feature that Microsoft could improve by making Outlook behave more consistently. Insert as Hyperlink isn't an option when you compose an HTML or plain text message; it's available only with RTF format. Given that Outlook by default blocks Windows shortcut files that have the .lnk extension, you'd think that Microsoft would want to make it easy for users to send text hyperlinks to network files (instead of shortcut files) to others in their organization, no matter what the user's message format might be.