Valid XHTML and Opening Links in New Windows

Well, as you can plainly see (assuming you’ve been here before), the site has gotten a facelift. Now that Aaron has his blog up and his looking really nice, I felt compelled to try and jazz up mine a little too. It’s not done, but it’s nicer than it was. I’ll probably add a touch of color to the theme, but it’ll work for now. BTW, it’s based off the Milc 3.5 theme. The code isn’t super pretty, but it was a good start.

While I was working with the design, I realized that I needed to send over my old bit of code that opened links in new windows. As anyone trying to make valid XHML pages can tell you, the target attribute is no longer valid, so if you want pages to open in a new window and you still want your design to validate properly, you have to do a little scripting. I actually found this script a couple years ago to make MediaWiki links open in new windows and it’s served me quite well ever since.

function makeExternal() {
//make sure the function works
if (! document.getElementsByTagName) { return; }
var myRegExp = new RegExp("ext","i");
var anchors = document.getElementsByTagName("a");
for (var i=0; i < anchors.length; i++) {
var anchor = anchors[i];
if (anchor.getAttribute("alt") && anchor.getAttribute("alt").match(myRegExp) ) { anchor.className+=" external";"_blank"; }

You run the function at page load and selected links will now open in a new window. To make a link work this way, you add rel="ext" to the anchor tag, which is still valid because rel is a valid attribute. What’s nice is this also sets up a relation between your page and the link; ext being short for external. The script parses all anchors for that rel attribute and if it finds ext in value, it appends the class ‘external’ and sets the target attribute of the link to ‘_blank’. It’s a little hacky, but it works like a charm and any browser with a DOM that supports getElementsByTagName.

Note that you don’t have to append any class name if you don’t want to. I like that I can make the links indicate that they will be opening in a new window by using a little icon as you can see on this site. I like the icon MediaWiki uses a lot, but the way it uses (indicating that it’s an external link) doesn’t make as much sense as using it to show that a new window will open. That’s my take anyway.

This isn’t the only way to achieve this result, and Google will provide you with a million other ways, but this is what works for me. Just thought I’d share.

UPDATE: This code is no longer used on this site.