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Link text is basically any text — words, numbers, or symbols — on a digital document that provides a hyperlink to some other document, webpage, or Internet site. The text essentially acts as a bridge, or link, from one place to the other in cyberspace. Users typically have to affirmatively click on the link to activate it. Simply reading it or encountering it won’t cause any action on its own. Creators usually have a bit more work to do, and must usually manually insert the address of the file to be linked into the coding of the document itself. Sometimes this is an Internet address, though it can also be an index location on a fixed hard drive or share drive. Most web creation software and word processing programs have “wizards” or simplified processes to take some of the complexity out of link creation, though it generally does require at least some technological savvy.
Links, sometimes also called hyperlinks, are often thought of as “stepping stones” through the vast web of information available online. Users can swiftly navigate from one topic to the next, creating what is in a sense a unique trail of data, simply by clicking on various links. Most of the time, these links are created out of what would otherwise be normal text; words, passages, or numbers, particularly footnotes, are “linked” to other, usually related, documents or sources. The words or passages that make up the link are known as link text, and are usually immediately recognizable by their bright color and underline.
One way to think of this text is like books popular with young people that allow the reader to choose what the character in the story will do. Following link from one webpage to another is similar to those stories: clicking is what allows users to navigate the Internet, via a web of connected links.
Links within text are one of the many useful tools at a digital publisher's disposal. Search engines use them extensively — each suggested hit is usually a link, for instance — and they're also very common in news stories, on scholarly sites, and in blogs. Links can be used to reference prior stories, other information on a similar topic, or to cite reference material, among other things.
In many respects they also make surfing the Internet much simpler. They’re often seen as a quick alternative to typing the full address of a destination on the web. The time involved in manually entering reference sites would add up quickly, thus reducing the available time online and probably also detracting from the enjoyment of the experience overall. Having the ability to click from one site to another makes life simpler in many cases.
One of the most distinctive features of linked text is its color. In most documents and on most sites, linked text is blue and is underlined, which immediately sets it apart from the rest of the text in a paragraph or sentence. Usually if a person hovers his or her mouse over the text, a small box with the linked address or a short description of the linked document will appear. In most cases the color will change to purple once clicked, which can help remind users which links they’ve clicked in the past.
Creating links usually requires at least a bit of technological know-how, though many modern web-building and word processing programs have shortcuts and other tools to make the process easier. In the simplest of situations, a link builder needs only to highlight the text that he or she wants linked, then enter the target address into the building tool. What these tools are doing beneath the surface is usually writing code that will direct web browsers to specific locations. In the Internet context, “code” is usually understood as a series of digits that serve as the digital backbone of the Internet and that allow various programs to run, connect, and “talk” with others. Links use code to direct users from one place to another.