How to open specific web browsers using hyperlinks

Drive web content to a particular web browser.

Today's quick tip explains how to use special web protocols inside hypertext links to force web pages or files to open with particular browsers on Windows or iOS.

To see for yourself how to force links to open in Microsoft's Edge Browser, insert a normal <A> (anchor tag) in the page source, like so:

<A HREF="">A normal README file link</A>

Now, place microsoft-edge: before the hypertext reference link:

<A HREF="microsoft-edge:">Open README file with Edge</A>

Shown below is a screenshot of a page containing one of the special "microsoft-edge" links viewed with Firefox. As you can see, it looks just like a standard hypertext link -- but if a user clicks this special link, it will open Microsoft's Edge browser:

A simple webpage Stephen Glasskeys

Microsoft itself uses this same technique on its Bing Rewards page. The company entices users with extra reward points if Microsoft Edge is used with Bing, and helps users get started via a special "Get bonus now" link highlighted below:

This Bing Rewards link opens Microsoft Edge Stephen Glasskeys

Viewing properties reveals that Microsoft specifies a "microsoft-edge:" protocol inside the redirect URL for the element:

Get Started hyperlink properties Stephen Glasskeys

iOS & GoodReader

For iOS, there's a similar way to force links or documents to open only on those devices, provided an app named GoodReader is installed. And in case you haven't heard of GoodReader -- you should get acquainted -- because it's one of the most useful utility apps for iOS. Along with superb PDF viewing and annotation features, GoodReader excels as a file manager and explorer utility. Use it to easily explore, copy, delete, and rename files or folders on FTP sites, local network shares, and popular cloud storage services.

Last but not least, one of GoodReader's most interesting features is largely unknown -- it can automatically open all ghttp or ghttps protocol hyperlinks.

Again, using our example URL:

<A HREF="">A normal README file link</A>

It's easy to force links to open in GoodReader, simply change the protocol from http to ghttp:

<A HREF="g">Open README file with GoodReader</A>

Taking this concept a step further, you can also use this technique to save files in GoodReader's local storage.

To illustrate this concept, I created an Apache page, and opened it with iOS's Safari browser on an iPad. The screenshot below shows another blue hyperlink, which is actually a GoodReader ghttp link. Using the pseudo "ghttp protocol" forces Safari to open GoodReader, which in turn downloads the linked file -- in this case, a PDF document.

But you don't have to only stick with PDF documents, you can use the ghttp technique to download any type of file: movies, music, Microsoft Word documents -- you name it. GoodReader places every file in local storage -- meaning you can use its handy file handling features to move its downloaded files and documents to the cloud, FTP sites, network file shares, etc.

Or, if you prefer, connect your iPad or iPhone to your home computer, then move saved files using iTunes from GoodReader's storage to your PC or Mac's hard drive.

A simple GoodReader example page Stephen Glasskeys


<A HREF="ghttp://">This link opens GoodReader</A>

When the link is clicked, Safari prompts with a "Open in GoodReader?" dialog:

Safari's Open GoodReader? dialog Stephen Glasskeys

Tap the Open button to allow GoodReader to "do its thing" -- save the file on your iPad or iPhone.

There's a way to instantly open ghttp links with GoodReader and skip the open prompt entirely. Good.iWare's provided specific instructions on how to do this in a section of its GoodReader manual page here.

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