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Why is Microsoft Word turning URLs into title tags?


Why is Microsoft Word turning URLs into title tags?

Last week, I discussed a change to the Microsoft Word spellcheck that we didn’t like at Engage Web, and how you can get rid of it. In this latest of what’s likely to become an ongoing series of blogs about annoying Microsoft changes and how to reverse them, we’re going to look at a recent Word issue that’s caught us unawares.

The problem came to light here because we always ask our writers to send us their sources for their work, and we noticed that some were copying and pasting what looked like descriptions of pages, rather than URLs, and sending them over to us. A handful of writers were doing this, which suggested it wasn’t just an individual error, but some sort of issue or change, perhaps with a browser or word processing tool.

A bit of detective work revealed that this is down to something Microsoft has done to allow its browser, Edge, to “talk” to its word processing program Word. When you copy and paste a URL from the address bar in Edge into a Word document, it automatically converts the URL into not only a hyperlink, but the title tag of that page. This means that if you were to copy the URL for the Engage Web homepage from Edge and paste it into Word, the document won’t display www.engageweb.co.uk, but instead “Engage Web | Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Engage Web”. This is the title tag of our page – what Google displays in its search results for us.

Exactly why Microsoft thinks this is a beneficial feature is beyond me. Yes, turning a URL into a hyperlink automatically is useful, and yes, it’s usually smarter to put a hyperlink in an article than to stick a URL in there, but this automated feature is just inconvenient and problematic. For a start, a title tag is rarely a good written description of a page to present to a human, as it’s there for search engine optimisation purposes. If you wanted to put a link to the Engage Web homepage into an article, you wouldn’t type in “Engage Web | Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Engage Web”, you would type the much neater “Engage Web homepage” or simply “Engage Web”.

Furthermore, this opens a can of worms when text is copied and pasted from one document or system to another, as often, only the text will be copied and not the link. What if the person reading the document doesn’t have internet access? What if you want to print the document? It’s a change that shows no regard to the offline world.

So, how do you avoid this? Here are three ways:

1. Don’t use Microsoft Edge

This would be my first piece of advice. A lot of people seem to see Internet Explorer, and therefore its successor Edge, as “the internet”, and use it by default. Although techies generally regard Edge as an improvement on Internet Explorer, most still recommend the likes of Mozilla Firefox (which tops Tech Radar’s 2020 list) and Google Chrome ahead of it.

If you’d rather stick with Edge, either because there’s something about it you like or you’re just used to it, you might prefer the two methods below.

2. Paste URLs into Notepad first

Word only works its “magic” with URLs in this way if they’re pasted directly from Edge. If you open a Notepad file first and paste them in there, then copy and paste them from Notepad into Word, it will leave them as URLs.

3. Change Edge’s settings

Point two is a bit of a fiddly way of doing things, so if you plan to use Edge long term, you can change its settings so that it stops doing this:

– In Edge, click the three dots in the top right corner
– Select ‘Settings’
– Go to ‘Share, copy, and paste’
– Change the URL copy and paste format to ‘Plain text’ instead of ‘Link’

That should mean URLs appear as they used to again.

Hopefully, Microsoft is just going through a bit of a dizzy spell of pointless tinkering at the moment, but you can be sure that our blog will always cover the latest in Microsoft meddling and how to reverse it!

John Murray
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