URLs are ugly – and they are also very daunting if you're new to the web. So long as they're up there in the browser and you just got to the site by clicking a heading in Google, nobody cares. Yet when you send them to someone, that's when you can put them off or you can make their life easier. It's also where you can demonstrate that you know your stuff. There is one important caveat to this but otherwise this Pointers will show you how to make emails with links that simply look better than sending someone a five-foot-long string of dots and slashes. The specific steps in this tutorial are all for Mail in OS X Yosemite.
First get your link
Select a website address or anything you want to link to like an item in a Dropbox folder and copy it to your clipboard.
The odds are that it's a very long link, especially if it's a Dropbox one, so you could use a shortening service like bit.ly but this tip works with even the longest URLs.
Write your email
Write what you would write normally but with one exception. Where you might typically tell someone what you're sending them and then say "here's the link for it", you can be more descriptive, more friendly. Rather than "Here's the link for last year's financial reports" followed by "http:whatever.on.and.on", write this: "I've got the financial reports you wanted and they're here when you need them."
Now you need to pick what part of that sentence you want to turn into a link. At the very least we'd say select the word "here" but we'd probably go for selecting the whole "they're here when you need them" part. The reason for this is that "here" is quite a short word so clicking on it takes a tiny bit more precision. Only a tiny bit but it's also just a tiny bit harder to spot that "here" has been as a link. Selecting a longer fragment of the sentence makes a bigger target and it also just feels more friendly.
Create a link
Once you've selected some text, press Apple-K. Alternatively, you could choose Edit/Add Links… from the menubar. A dialog box opens asking for the URL: just paste in the one from your clipboard and press OK.
You can do this with any URL and you can turn any text into a link. For instance, we could write "Get the latest Apple news and reviews on MacNN: http://www.macnn.com" or we could write "Get the latest on MacNN". Which is easier to read and which looks better?
There's nothing to stop you typing the URL if you remember it. Note that you don't have to bother with the "http://" bits, OS X fills those in for you when you close the dialog box.
One further tip: we have many URLs setup as TextExpander snippets so we'll often press Apple-K and then just type a short code that automatically expands out to the link we want.
If you change your mind and want to put a different link in or have no link at all, click once on the link text to put your cursor in it and then press Apple-K again. There's a button called Remove Link.
The important caveat
This works when you're sending an email directly to one, a few or many, many people. However, if you want them to send it on to other people, you can't use this: the Apple-K link does not survive being forwarded. Only the text gets sent on.
-William Gallagher (@WGallagher