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Pre-Inserted Subject Line

I notice that sometimes when I click an e-mail link I get a new message with the subject line already inserted. Is this some kind of programming trick or can anyone pull it off?

Actually, it’s very easy to do. Below is a sample with my e-mail address inserted. When the link is clicked, a new message will start with “hi steve” as the subject.

mailto:steve@worldstart.com?subject=hi steve

Note that if the person who clicks it is using AOL or web-based e-mail that this probably isn’t going to work. Their e-mail software may start (AOL), but I’m not sure if there’s gonna be a subject line that says “hi steve”. If you use web-based e-mail this is a for sure no-go.

Anyhow, here’s how it all works with compatible software:

mailto: – This tells your web browser or e-mail client that the link you’re clicking is an e-mail link and to start your e-mail program. With most e-mail software, this “mailto” part is automatically inserted (in a sneaky, behind the scenes sort of way) when you type an e-mail address and hit enter.

steve@worldstart.com – This is just the e-mail address you want the message sent to.

?subject= – This tells the software that you want whatever comes after the “=” sign to be in the subject line of the e-mail.

hi steve – OK, here’s the tricky part. This is where you specify what you want automatically inserted in the subject line. Note that there is a space between the words “hi” and “steve”. If you type this into Outlook Express (and most other e-mail clients), you’ll find that it only links the word “hi”, not “steve” (nope, computers still can’t read minds).

So, what’s the trick? Use an “insert hyperlink” tool. Most e-mail programs will have this, and, surprisingly enough, it’s usually found under the Insert menu.

Let’s try an example using Outlook Express. Start a new mail message and hit the Insert menu, Hyperlink… Note that you can only do this from the new message screen, not the main program.


On the resulting screen, type:

mailto:steve@worldstart.com?subject=hi steve


Note that you can pull the “mailto:” part down from the little drop box so you don’t have to type it.

Click the OK button and you’re all set. When your link is clicked, the subject line you specified will be put in automatically.

What if you send in plain text and can’t insert a hyperlink? Well, it’s not as pretty, but you can use something like:


The little dash between the words “hi” and “steve” keep the string together. When your recipient gets the e-mail, their software will probably make the link “clickable” (who knows, maybe your software made it clickable when you hit Enter).

Anyhow, using this method, you’ll get a subject line that looks like:


Not too terribly bad I guess.

Happy e-mailing :-)