Like the game shows, there are times when you are doing online research that you want to know what is behind the link you are about to click before you click it. There are some Web sites that incorporate small pop up windows, like the one from Snap.com. The previews are interesting but may not give you as much information as actually seeing the Web address to which you will be taken.
To see the link you are about to click on, mouse over it and you should see, in your status bar, a Web site address starting with http:// and then the server and file you are going to access. All well and good, but what about the increasingly common use of Web site address (URL) shorteners? These services are tremendously handy, turning exceptionally long and perhaps complicated URLs like
into short ones like
The benefits of short URLs are probably obvious, but they are especially valuable when a URL is being shared from within a service, like Twitter or Facebook, that may limit how many characters you can use.
But then how do you know where you are going when you click a shortened link? If you mouse over a Bit.ly URL, you see that URL in the status window, not the actual URL that it has shortened, and to which you will go when you click on the link.
Link Preview Tools
There are some handy link preview tools you can use to get a sneak peek. Sometimes, it is built in to your application already. I use Chromed Bird to monitor Twitter and if I mouse over a link, it shows me the real URL.
You can also install Web browser extensions on Firefox and Google Chrome to enable you to view shortened URLs on any Web page. Chrome users can try Untiny or ChromeMUSE. Firefox users can install Expand Short URL or LongURL Mobile Expander.
Extra geeky readers, read on! Lifehacker highlighted an interesting script that will work on both Firefox and Google. Once installed, as you are reading a Wikipedia entry, you can mouse over the endnote numbers and see what the endnote text says. It is a handy way to see a reference without moving up and down between the text and endnotes. It requires a free script which will create a bookmarklet, and an extension called Greasemonkey if you are using Firefox.