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dot slash ~ keep your URLs trim
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dot slash ~ keep your URLs trim

Paola Kathuria

Don't you just hate it when "index.html" appears in the page location when you're exploring your own web site?

Most people now know that although their home page is called something like index.html, they can get to and advertise the home page by using the web address www.site.com. It's (thankfully) quite rare that web site addresses are advertised as www.site.com/index.html.

If you go to a site using www.site.com and then click back to the home page, the page location is often shown as www.site.com/index.html.

There is a very simple way to stop this from happening on your own sites.

I've listed the HREFs to use to link to the home page or to other default pages in directories so that index.html won't appear in the page location. The first list describes relative links, the next absolute.

Home page (same directory)
If you want to link to the home page from another web page in the same directory, use the HREF "./" (dot slash)

Use this method to make a link to the default page within any directory. For example, a directory called articles may include individual articles and a page listing all the articles. It makes most sense for the default page name, e.g., index.html, to be used for the article index. Each article will likely include a link back to the index (that is, the default page in the same directory). Use the HREF "./" to create the link to the article index from each article.

I know that the "./" HREF works on Unix and Linux web servers. I haven't tried it out on PC-based web servers.

Home page (relative)
If you can't use absolute HREFs and the home page is a level up from the current web page, use the HREF "../" - if two levels away, use "../../"

Each "../" means "go up a directory". The downside of this approach is having to change all the relative links if a web page is moved up or down in the file system.

Directory below (relative)
To link to the default page of a directory below the current position, use the HREF "articles/" (no slash at the beginning).
Directory above (relative)
To link to the default page of a directory above the current position, for instance if the current web page is in a sub-directory archive of our example articles directory, use the HREF "../"

An example of a web site which uses relative links in this way is my personal web site.

Absolute links

Alternatively, if the home page of your live web site is in the root directory, use absolute links.

Home page (absolute)>
Use the HREF "/"
Directory (absolute)
To make a link to the default page in a directory, for example www.site.com/articles/, use the HREF "/articles/" (and use "/articles/archive/" for the sub-directory).

The advantage of absolute links is that you use the same HREFs to link to specific pages regardless of where on the web site the pages are which include those links.

The disadvantage of absolute HREFs is when your local development copy of the web site isn't in the root directory. Using links then becomes impossible.