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Create Your Own Download Links
by: Mark Meshulam
One of the great features of working with the web is the ability to download a file by clicking on a link. As most earthlings know, a link is most frequently visible as blue underlined text displayed on a website, or on an HTML email. Links can also be presented as hot spots on an image, or a button which can be clicked.

Sometimes when we click on links, we are magically transported to a new web page. Behind the scenes, we are actually receiving new files from a web server, and our browser software is "rendering" the files on our screen according to instructions contained in the files.

These new files could be served up by the same web server which served up the previous page, or with equal ease we could be receiving files from a totally different location, possibly from halfway around the world! Such are the wondrous ways of the web.

Other times when we click on links, we get a different experience. Our browser offers to download a file and patiently awaits our answer. When we accept and possibly tell our browser where to file the download, the web server sends the file to our computer and a download takes place.

The usefulness of this functionality is obvious. We don't always want to see the information painted on our screen, sometimes we just want to use it. Consider a spreadsheet file as an example.

If I want to share my spreadsheet with you, I can easily send it to you as an email attachment, but what happens if the file is too large? Chances are, your file attachment could hit a bottleneck somewhere in your, or your recipient's email system and may never deliver.

However, if I send the file as a download, email system bottlenecks are bypassed and the pipe is wide open. Here's how it works:

1. First, I upload my large file to a web server somewhere.
2. Then, I place a download link to that file in my email to my pal.
3. When he receives the email, he either clicks on the link or pastes it into the address bar of his browser.
4. He easily downloads the file.
5. He is incredibly impressed.

To do this, here is what you will need:
1. Rights to a web server to host your file - many web hosting companies offer this.
2. Software for uploading your file - for starters you can actually use Windows Explorer.
3. Knowledge of the correct "path", or URL which will allow your recipient to access the file. This should be available from your web hosting company.

The format of the URL will look like this:
Where "domain" is the domain you have registered for your use, which is targeted at a folder on a web server, which has a subfolder named, for example, "downloads".

Your example filename, in this case, "myspreadsheet.xls" should match the actual filename exactly. Filenames should not have spaces or odd punctuations.

In case the above steps seem too intimidating or labor intensive, there is a software/webhosting package available called Personal FTP available at

The software uploads your large files to your private webspace on the Personal FTP server, opens a new email, and places a download link onto the email, all in a few clicks. In addition, you receive a subdomain which adds your identity to the link and enhances the reliability of the download.

About the author:
Mark Meshulam offers Poingo Productivity Suite, unique & inexpensive software which speeds your work and makes it more fun. Includes:

Send files using FTP. Email tickler system. Create JPGs and PDFs. Edit images in Outlook. Timestamp filenames. Hotkey shortcuts to anything. Cropped screen capture. Much more.

See Mark's blog, educational ruminations on people and technology in the workplace.

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