Outlook: Creating a hyperlink to a network file

December 1, 2008

Microsoft Outlook’s Help is not much help when you are trying to create a clickable link to a file in your email message. Those of us who have worked in—or continue to work in—networked offices often have to send a clickable hyperlink to a document stored on the company’s network. For whatever reason, we don’t want to send the actual file—it may be too big, we may not want the recipient to save it and work on it on their own machine, or similar.

Here’s how to create a clickable link to a file on your network, using Outlook 2003 (Update: This is much easier to do in Outlook 2007 and later—see the comments for different techniques):

  1. First, you must be using Rich Text Format for your email messages—not Plain Text or HTML. To set Rich Text Format, go to Tools > Options on Outlook 2003’s menu, select the Mail Format tab, select Rich Text Format from the Compose in this message format drop-down list, then click OK. (Note: You can change this setting back to what you normally use after you’ve sent your file link.)

    Rich Text mail format

    Outlook 2003: Rich Text mail format

  2. In a new email message, select Insert > File from the menu.
  3. Navigate to the file and select it. DO NOT click Insert.
  4. Now, look carefully at the Insert button. See the little arrow to its right? Click on that arrow.
  5. From the shortcut menu that displays when you click the arrow, select Insert as Hyperlink.

    Insert a link to a file

    Outlook 2003: Insert a link to a file

  6. Voila! The file link is inserted into the message.

If you want to change your mail format back, repeat Step 1, this time selecting either Plain Text or HTML as the message format.


  1. Fantastic what a neat and cool way to forward documents and wont slow the e-mail system down.

    Thank you.


  2. This did not work for me. When I go to the Insert button I only get 3 options and “insert hyperlink” is not one of them – although I used to use it all the time and now it no longer works…..

  3. You need to set your formatting to Rich Text. No other options work.

  4. Nice guide, helped us at work.

  5. This will work, but there’s an even easier way if you use Word. Set Word to be your email editor. This will allow you to use the Insert Hyperlink function (access it from the Insert menu or look for the button on the toolbar). You can create a link to any file on your network, and you can create the text you want to use to display your link (rather than using the full path/filename).

  6. I forgot to mention that you can also set your email format to HTML with this option.

  7. THANK YOU for directions I could easily understand and execute!!!

  8. […] Outlook: Creating a hyperlink to a network file (4,741) […]

  9. In Outlook 2007 you can just right mouse click while in the text input portion of the window to get a pull down menu. Select the menu “Hyperlink” and it will be inserted in the email. This appears to work no matter what setting you have for email format (HTML,Rich Text, etc).

  10. Hi JimW

    Thanks for letting me know about Outlook 2007. I’ve hardly used it, and haven’t needed to do this, so it’s nice to know that it works in all email settings, not just Rich Text.


  11. merci! Danke! thank you! so simple …. once I knew how ;-)

  12. Perfect, just what I wanted…was sick and tired of copying links from my computer…those days are gone!

  13. We’ve been using Outlook 2003 and 2007 for years now, and we’ve just discovered that when an Outlook 2007 user inserts a hyperlink into a document, the other Outlook 2007 recipients can click on it fine but Outlook 2003 users just get a line of text that’s won’t hyperlink.

    If anyone else has come across this, I’d like to hear from you.

  14. In my case, I had to exit and restart Outlook after step 1 for this to work. Before I restarted, I was only able to get the 3 options like george iftner above. After restarting, I was able to get the insert as hyperlink option. Thanks for the great tip!

  15. thanks much! now let’s see if this can somehow reduce the number of times various versions of the same spreadsheet or word doc is emailed throughout the universe! :)

  16. Extremely helpful advice. Thanks very much

  17. […] Outlook: Creating a hyperlink to a network file […]

  18. It was already “Rich Text” for me. And it didnt work.

    Go to tools –> Options –> Mail Format.
    Check the option of “Use Microsoft Word 2003 to Edit email messages”.
    Click on Apply and Ok.

    It worked for me. It might work for you as well.

    Thanks to this post.

    Happy mailing…

  19. I use Microsoft Office 2003, and have the settings to html. I just hold CTRL and press K to creat a hyperlink. It opens the explorer so that I can navigate to the appropriate web location, I select the file and hit OK.

    Much simpler than changing the format etc.

  20. Just a comment:
    the ctrl+k only works if your e-mail editor is already set to MS Word (the e-mail format really doesn’t matter in this case, it could be both html or rich text).

    Thanks to everybody for time tips – with at least two workable ways to insert the hyperlinks, it is a time and space saver!

  21. I’ve been trying to do this for weeks, and am so glad to have finally used the correct verbiage in Google’s search to find this blog. It worked!

    Thanks very much!

  22. Hi,

    We like to create a link to a folder.
    How to set it up without getting the error “The system cannot find the file specified”?

  23. Hi JP

    PLEASE NOTE: With either method listed below, the folder path will only be available to a mail recipient who has access to that folder on your network. People outside your network without access WILL get an error message of some sort.

    Linking to a folder is much easier to do in Outlook 2007 and later than in Outlook 2003, though you can do it in Outlook 2003.

    Outlook 2007:
    1. Open a new Outlook 2007 message
    2. On the Insert tab, click Hyperlink
    3. Navigate to the folder and select it. The folder path should display in the ‘Address’ field.
    4. Click OK.
    5. Complete the message and send.

    Outlook 2003:
    1. Copy the folder path from Windows Explorer.
    2. Open a new message in Outlook 2003
    3. Change the format to HTML (Format > HTML) — it doesn’t work in Plain Text or RTF.
    4. Click Insert > Hyperlink.
    5. Change the Type to ‘(other)’.
    6. Paste the copied file path into the URL field, then click OK.
    7. Complete the message and send.


  24. Rhonda,

    That is exactly we did at our Outlook 2007. When clicking the link the folder opens correctly but also an error message appears. “General error ‘path’ The system cannot find the file specified.”

  25. All though the menus Outlook 2010 are different changing to RTF plain setting worked fine. (File-Options-Mail-Compose messages—–choose Rich text from menu)

  26. Thanks for this. I’ve been using Outlook 2010 for the last 2 months and have been right-click dragging from Explorer to get a hyperlink.

    Right clicking within in a message and selecting ‘Hyperlink’ works but the URL is based on my mapped network drive e.g z:\files\document.docx. Is there a way of getting it to insert the full network address e.g. \\NetworkLocation\files\document.docx – people map network places to different drives

  27. Hi Mike

    Not that I could see. In the brief tests I did, it kept the mapped drive — just as you’d found out.

    Another option you can use for Outlook 2007 and 2010 is to right-click in the address line in the file explorer, then select ‘Copy Address as Text’, then paste that into Outlook. As soon as you press Enter etc. it converts into a clickable link. However, that method also keeps the mapped drive letter.

    You might need to see if this has been asked and answered in the Microsoft Answers forum (http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/outlook) or ask your question there. If you do find out the answer, I’d appreciate it if you could share it here too so that others can use it.



  28. Hi Rhonda and Mike,

    You could create first a ‘shortcut’ of your folder stored in your network, put it on your desktop. Use it to navigate your desired file you wish to hyperlink.


  29. This was great — thanks so much!

  30. Very nice consise tip!

  31. Very helpful! Thank you!

  32. Thank you so much!!

  33. Brilliant tip, one I have been looking for a long time!

  34. FILE://path should work

  35. I’m using Windows 7 with Outlook 2010. Like MikeP, I just drag the file from Explorer into the email window using the right mouse button, release, and choose hyperlink. Even though it’s from a mapped drive, the hyperlink reads as \\machine\folder\file, not X:\folder\file.

    Also like MikeP, if I insert the hyperlink from the Insert menu, it shows the mapped path, not the \\machine\ type path.

  36. awesum

  37. Please recommend if you have other way that people outside network can access too

  38. Hi Rina

    I don’t think there’s any way someone outside your network can access a place on your network without specific permission.


  39. Is there a way I can paste the complete file path into a User Field in Outlook 2014 and Hyper link to a file in my computer (as I do in Excel)?

  40. When viewing mails in Outlook 2010, a file-uri that has a #anchor at the end of the URL, doesn’t work. e.g. a link like file://myhost/mydir/myfile.htm#myanchor doesn’t scroll to myanchor. With http URLs it works fine. Is this a bug?

  41. This didn’t work when I tried to link to a pdf in my network folder. The Hyperlink search didn’t even show pdf’s.

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