Review: Web Link Validator | WebReference

Review: Web Link Validator

Review: Web Link Validator

By Lee Underwood

Opening Screen

Broken links can become a major headache for Web developers. Some sites are rich with links, making it difficult to track the broken ones. As an example, this site (WebReference) contains more than 70,000 links, many of which are the same link but on different pages. Consider this: if we have one link that is bad, and it's located on several pages, it could result in hundreds of bad links throughout the entire site. So what's the answer? Since it's not feasible to physically check each link by hand, it makes sense to use a software program that will automate the process.

One such program is Web Link Validator. Whether you have a small Web site with a few hundred links or a large corporate Web site with over 100,000 links, Web Link Validator is up to the challenge. It can even check the links on your Web site while it's located on your local hard drive.

The validation process begins with either the "quick start" method or by setting up a new profile. While there is excellent documentation included, the "quick start" method is the easiest way to take to get started. You merely enter the starting URL, make a few other selections, and the process begins. If you want more control over the validation process, then you'll need to set up a profile.

A profile can be very comprehensive. With it you are able to determine how internal links will be validated. You can set up masks to exclude links and even treat external links as internal ones using the mask technique. If your site uses Web server-based authentication, you can enter the user name and password to faciliate the validation process. Links within certain HTML tags can be ignored. Certain links can also be excluded, such as ad banners. The program will also handle orphan files. You can even set up your own page rules to determine certain elements on your site (such as pages that contain contact information).

Often when checking broken links you don't really know what's wrong with the link. Web Link Validator breaks down each link into different categories using a filtering system. The categories include good links, broken links (broken into sub-categories), non verified links, internal links, external links, redirected links, and several others. (A full listing can be seen on their Web site.)

Link Properties Panel

Extensive details about each link are also provided. This information can be found in the Link Properties Panel, located at the bottom of the program screen. This information can help you find the page(s) the link is one as well as any links from that particular page (called "children") and pages that are linked to the current page (called "parents"). It also displays any anchor ("<a name="anchor"></a>") and bookmark ("<a href="#bookmark"></a>") tags. HTML information about each link can also be given.

Reports can also be printed, containing all of the information located in the screen report. The reports, along with the Web site's profile if desired, can be e-mailed when the analysis is completed. This would be beneficial for sending to others who may need to make the actual changes.

The program utilizes many options that other link-checking programs do not offer. Here are some of these features:

The speed of the program depends upon the number of links that need to be verified, including the total number that are broken, as well as the computer that is used to run the software. Using a computer running at 664 Mhz, with 128 MB of RAM, I checked one Web site with 16,633 links and it took just over one hour the first time, with 1,120 broken links. After fixing many of the broken links, checking it the second time took only six minutes with six broken links.

Overall, Web Link Validator is a dynamic, feature-packed program. It was created by REL Software, Inc., who specialize in Web site analysis and testing software. The company has many large clients, including Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Lockheed Martin and all the branches of the U.S. military. It has many excellent features to keep Web sites free of broken links.

Pricing for the Web Link Validator is based on the number of links it will check at one time. The number ranges from a 2,000 link limit (selling for $95.00) up to an unlimited number of links (selling for $795.00). The current version is 4.0 with a release date of March 2, 2005. There is also a 30 day trial version which has a link limit of 500.

System Requirements

A Pentium class processor with minimum screen resolution of 800 x 600 pixels and 16-bit color depth, Windows 95/98/Me/2000/2003/NT 4.0/XP, 32 MB RAM and 5 MB of free hard disk space to install the program.

Created: May 9, 2005