The Full mailto Link Syntax

sending email through mailto linksFor a small project, I had to create a smart mailto link to make my life a bit easier. I wanted the mailto link to hold not only a to and the subject (I’d figured that much out) but a multi-lined body too. Turns out that is pretty darn easy to do. So, for my own reference, and yours, here’s a complete overview of everything possible with a mailto link.

There are a couple of variables you can use, which you’d have to do in standard URL format, remember to properly encode the & if you care about the validity of your HTML, so you use & in that case. Here’s the full mailto link syntax:

[code lang=”html”]<a href="">mail link</a>[/code]

Here are the variables you can use in mailto links:

mailto: to set the recipient, or recipients, separate with comma
&cc= to set the CC recipient(s)
&bcc= to set the BCC recipient(s)
&subject= to set the email subject, URL encode for longer sentences, so replace spaces with %20, etc.
&body= to set the body of the message, you can add entire sentences here, including line breaks. Line breaks should be converted to %0A.

Some mailto link examples

A simple mailto link:

[code lang=”html”]<a href="">mail link</a>[/code]

mailto link with subject:

[code lang=”html”]<a href="">mail link</a>[/code]

mailto link with multiple recipients:

[code lang=”html”]<a href=",">mail link</a>[/code]

mailto link with a CC:

[code lang=”html”]<a href="">mail link</a>[/code]

A mailto link with message body already started:

[code lang=”html”]<a href="">
e-mail link

A mailto link with 3 lines of message body:

[code lang=”html”]<a href="">
mail links

A mailto link with 3 lines of message body and a BCC:

[code lang=”html”]<a href="
mailto links

As you can see, you can add as many of these as you want and stack them on top of each other. Remember that after the email address you’ll use a question mark to prefix the first variable, and ampersands ( & ) for each consecutive variable.

Happy coding and mailing!

Coming up next!

29 Responses to The Full mailto Link Syntax

  1. Shawn
    Shawn  • 15 years ago

    click me
    maybe this will show it like I ment : )

  2. Shawn
    Shawn  • 15 years ago

    I have been looking all over and I understand that I can’t use a href mailto and have the Body be a html link. I have read this all over. But I am looking for a way around it. I dont want to send a server side email. I am using this as part of an internal use, and need to open the email client on the local machine but I have the need to put a Link in the Body of the email. The only way that I have seen to do this so far is to use a Java script. I am working from ASP. should I use Java script to do this and does any one know of a good site that can explain in full detail how to do this ?

    Thanks For all the good info here.

    • Eric Fickes
      Eric Fickes  • 15 years ago

      Shawn, you can do this with encoding the HTML, but it’s up to the email client to recognize and render as HTML.

      EX :

      click mailto

      If you save that to an HTML file, you should see a “click mailto” link. When the message pops up, my email client shows the HTML link, but doesn’t render as clickable.


      • Eric Fickes
        Eric Fickes  • 15 years ago
        • Shawn
          Shawn  • 15 years ago

          I really appreciate your Help.

          That sort of works but when Outlook 2007 opens it puts this in the body

          click me

          between the ‘ ‘ is hyperlinked and underlind but it still shows the surrounding stuff in plain text It seems like some thing alot of people are looking to do but not very many clear cut answers. I understand this is due to the multitude of email clients out there. And i understand the need to encode but in my situation it is all internal and not even open to public viewing.

          • Shawn
            Shawn  • 15 years ago

            click me” sorry the link showed as a link i ment to display the whole thing

  3. Grant
    Grant  • 15 years ago

    Can anyone please tell me why, in my mailto links, they break when they hit my & conversions?

  4. Debugged Interactive Designs
    Debugged Interactive Designs  • 15 years ago

    We created a free PHP class, which hides mailto links from spam harvesters =

  5. suzanne
    suzanne  • 16 years ago

    ah this is helpful for sure! much thank you’s!

  6. Tertius
    Tertius  • 16 years ago

    Was just looking for this in some form processing that I’m doing for a local educational client.

    I didn’t even look for this, just stumbled accross your post!

  7. Greg
    Greg  • 16 years ago

    Code textareas are broken in IE7.

    What about those of us who use GMail? (Plus, there’s no tastier spider food than a juicy mailto: link…)

  8. lazy drunk
    lazy drunk  • 16 years ago

    ooooo. now I see.

  9. Joost de Valk

    Once and for all :) I use these mailto links for my OWN use in my OWN internal applications, not on the front end! (And I know you all mean your comments lovingly and you ARE helping the readers here :) )

  10. Joacim Boive
    Joacim Boive  • 16 years ago

    Actually mailto links aren’t a good way to go. This requires that the visitor has a proper setup of their email client, if they don’t have a default email client installed (or it’s configured wrong) the mailto-links won’t work.

    Mailto-links may seem convenient, but it’s bad practice. Forms, how ever boring, is the way to go.

    My 2C!


  11. impNERD
    impNERD  • 16 years ago

    It should also be noted that bots can and do crawl pages and spam mailto links. if you absolutely must use mailto, be sure to change the @ to something like [at] and tell visitors to change it before mailing.

    • Joost de Valk

      @impNERD: yeah I usually do not use these in public, and if I do, I ROT13 the entire script piece.

  12. Maxime Guernion
    Maxime Guernion  • 16 years ago

    Thanks for theses advices ! Where did you find theses funky characters images ?

    • Joost de Valk

      @Maxime I’ve got a while pile of them :)

      • Maxime Guernion
        Maxime Guernion  • 16 years ago

        @Joost : If they are royalty free, can you send them to me? :) Thank you in advance.

  13. lazy drunk
    lazy drunk  • 16 years ago

    Ring ring.. The 90s called and want their sick html-code skills back. Just kidding. Great stuff.

  14. André Scholten
    André Scholten  • 16 years ago

    Nice article, but be aware of the mailto flaws, only use it when nothing else is possible.

    • Joost de Valk

      @André: that’s for forms, I actually use stuff like this to quickly email all the commenters on a post, for instance.

      • André Scholten
        André Scholten  • 16 years ago

        @Joost: forms do give a lot more trouble when used with mailto’s in their action attribute. But the same goes for plain mailto links. The browsers behavior on a mailto link isn’t defined in some sort of standard. If I click on a mailto link on my fresh installed laptop it isn’t working because I only use webmail. Windows can’t find a proper application to send the mail.

        But yes: they work fine if you only use them for personal reasons.

  15. Eric Fickes
    Eric Fickes  • 16 years ago

    Here’s the mailto RFC for more reading on mailto.

  16. Arjan
    Arjan  • 16 years ago

    The examples with body texts contain spaces, while a URL cannot contain them. They should be converted to %20 ;)

    • Joost de Valk

      Fixed, practice what you preach, I know ;)