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§ IE's support for mailto: links needs work

Pet peeve time.

I don't have my mail client associated with mailto: links in Internet Explorer, because the last thing I want is for random web pages or anything that might want to mail something to know what my real email client is. Not to mention that such links are out-of-style anyway in web pages due to spam concerns. Which is why I have been annoyed, since at least as far back as Windows 98, at IE's behavior when this is the case. Basically, whenever I launch a mailto: link:

start mailto:x

It causes Internet Explorer to display a dialog saying that "Could not perform this operation because the default mail client is not properly installed"... and then it proceeds to open about a hundred cascaded IE windows which all have the mailto link in the Address field and which all say "No page to display; Action Canceled." This seems to happen whenever a ShellExecute() call is made on an email link, whether it be from IE itself, Firefox's Send Page context menu item, or even the lowly start command. And then I have to wait for a hundred windows to open — which thankfully doesn't take nearly as long on today's computers as it did five years ago — and then hold down Alt+F4 until they all go away.

Now, I'm a programmer, and I know of all sorts of very strange bugs with very strange causes. However, I can't think of a cause for this one. Did someone decide that trying to launch a shell link 100 times was the way to go?

for(int i=0; i<100; ++i) {
    if (SUCCEEDED(Launch(pszLinkToLaunch)))
        break;
}

What the heck does the IE-integrated shell do that is so stupid as to launch a zillion windows on failure?

Comments

Comments posted:


This is news to me: how can a page know your default email client? And what harmful thing could the page do with this knowledge? AFAIK the mailto: link is a client side protocol only and the page (and its server) do not know anything about the email client from the link alone. And I thought I am paranoidal :] Side note: most users dislike form mailers (the only alternative to mailto: links) - I guess because they like to have a copy of the send stuff.

Björn Graf (link) - 06 06 05 - 08:38


There is no way for a web page to know what e-mail client you use. The recipient of the e-mail can probably tell, as most clients stick in some sort of "X-Email-Sent-By: The Wonderful Emailer Mark II" or similar. But not the page with the mailto: link - when you click on such a link *your* system launches whatever program is associated with them and feeds it the address. Not some random web server.

Anyway, tested here. Worked perfectly fine (Win2k SP4, using OE6 for email) here. "start mailto:x" popped up a new message box with some random To: address (using a real address filled in the To: field properly). So I tried the suicidal "remove e-mail client and run link". Find config, zap it from registry, get task manager ready in case a quick process kill is needed, and run "start mailto:(my address)" at the command prompt.

Hmm, that was impressive. I think I hit some sort of window limit, as even though there was only one IEXPLORE.EXE process, I couldn't start taskmgr.exe. Might have something to do with the insane number of USER and GDI handles iexplore was holding on to. Sod it, I can't be bothered to close that many windows. *End Process*

There, that's better. (I'm typing the comment in notepad, to copy back into the box later). /me undoes registry mangling needed to achieve this.

Anyway, I suggest you just reset the mailto: bindings. There's no security or privacy concerns involved, as quite simply a web server will never find out if you clicked a mailto: link on their server or not. Everything happens on your computer only, until you send the e-mail at which point your computer talks to whatever SMTP server you use and nothing else.

BoggyB (link) - 06 06 05 - 15:03


You're correct that a web page with a mailto: link or some basic Javascript can't tell what email client I use, only at most launch it with a preset subject. However, selecting the email client causes a link to be placed into the Registry that an ActiveX control or a local program can find. I don't want programs trying to grab my email address or send email on my behalf, although admittedly few programs are likely to be able to dig that far into The Bat!'s archives or APIs. Generally I try to hook as few programs as possible into the "standard" settings so as few things auto-launch as possible, which I hate.

Phaeron - 06 06 05 - 23:36


Maybe someone should write a dummy program that does nothing except register itself as the default email client.

Hmmm... might be a good preventative measure against email worms too.

James - 07 06 05 - 05:04


...or one could just switch to another browser, one that doesn't use the registry, and do a manual association of the 'mailto:' URL with another client.
The dummy email client could be a good idea: it could also create a blacklist of all websites and/or processes trying to access the reg key where the default email client is stored... Well, at least those trying to make use of it.

Mitch 74 - 07 06 05 - 06:52


If an ActiveX component or a program is running on your computer with enough priviliges to get the mailto: association, then it's almost certainly got enough priviliges to just find the program on your hard disk. Not that that's needed - your e-mail address is on the website, so someone sufficiently determined could just forge e-mails from their own computer (which is what most current e-mail worms do - if Alice gets hit by a mass-mailer, Bob may receive a copy of it claiming to come from Claire (and the worm will usually use its own SMTP client and ignore your email settings)).

So personally I don't see where the security risk is, but that's just my opinion. Which probably isn't worth much, considering I use Microsoft's browser and e-mail client!

BoggyB (link) - 07 06 05 - 18:12


What is even worse on mailto command is missing common syntax. Each e-mail app uses his own.
P.e. M$ Outook uses mailto:aaa@bbb.ccc?subject=ssss&body=bbbbbb
LN uses mailto:aaa@bbb.ccc?subject=ssss?body=bbbbbb (various LN versions provide various results).
If only there were a common standard!!

TomK - 10 06 05 - 07:40


The wrong program is LN.
Outlook uses standard uri links.

Tahattmeruh - 12 06 05 - 16:15


that exact problem happens on my mom's computer (everytime you click a mailto: link, 60+ IE windows open with the link in the address bar). i'm computer literate and all, tried to follow microsoft's suggested fix using regedit, but no dice. also tried running msimn /reg from the run box. any other ideas on how to make it go back to opening up a new mail message? i have no idea what my mom or some virus or worm did to cause it... thanks...
david
pug@ucsd.edu

david - 22 06 05 - 22:29


How should a website handle mailto links when many people are now using yahoo, hotmail, gmail and other web based mail problems. The mailto link doesn't work then.

stillandaction - 28 02 06 - 20:06


I originally had Gmail notifier installed, and whenever I clicked a mailto link it opened up an internet window with gmail in it, which was very slick.

However, I installed Mozilla Thunderbird (email client) and accidentally set it as default email program. When I changed it back to gmail, the internet explorer problem happened

It's pretty annoying - which registry keys store data for default mail client?

Thanks, Ian - Australia

ian - 04 03 06 - 04:52


I too get the hundreds of IE pages. I looked in regestry for mailto: and found a broken key. HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTmailto

It pops up and error "cannot open mailto: error while opening key"

Its annoying!!

Dean Moore - 04 05 06 - 05:53


just a note i found what the key should say for OE6, %ProgramFiles%Outlook Expressmsimn.exe,-2. But i cant edit it, will try in safe mode later

Dean Moore - 04 05 06 - 05:58


I am having the same problem with IE opening a zillion windows with 'mailto' address when I click on an email link. I have friends with the same problem. Is there a solution out there that anyone knows of...?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanx.

Jody - 14 05 06 - 16:59


http://windowsxp.mvps.org/MailtoProtocol..
Check that out. I googled my problem (same as yours) and this is what fixed it.

April - 29 08 06 - 23:01


I went to this site and followed the instructions but could not add the string. Any other suggestions?

Shirley - 07 02 07 - 14:32


I had similar problems few years back and than again recently and above did not work for me. But I use the freeware Defaultmail 2.2

http://www.snapfiles.com/get/defaultmail..


install the program and change your default mail client to something else like hotmail and than exit.re-run the program and change to default mail client to like outlook or whatever is install on you computer.

nick - 09 05 07 - 17:25


Thanks for the link to the program on snapfiles. It fixed the problem instantly! I sent a donation to the guy in India who published the program.

Gene Tuck - 22 12 07 - 21:54


Quick fix that worked for me, in IE, go Tools > Internet Options… > Programs. Change the E-mail client to something other than the one you want, and click OK. Then repeat, to change it back to the one you wanted. I guess this ‘re-applys’ the registry settings, and fixed the issue for me.

Cheers,
Hayden

Hayden - 04 03 08 - 20:10


I've fixed mine by changing the registry keys to reflect the proper location of Outlook.exe

Previous settings showed "outlook" instead of "Outlook11" in the path:
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\mailto\shell\open\command : Name: (Default), Type: REG_EXPAND_SZ, Data: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office11\OUTLOOK.EXE" -c IPM.Note /m "%1"

AND at
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\mailto\DefaultIcon changed "Data" to: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office11\OUTLOOK.EXE",7

Kelly - 05 06 08 - 07:40


Try this: It worked for me!
Open My Computer, select Tools->Folder Options->File Types.
Scroll through list to find this one and make sure your email client is set as default:

URL:MailTo Protocol

Sort the list by File Types, rather than Extensions.
Make sure it is NOT set to open your Browser.

Bill_SF - 16 11 09 - 15:20

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