Xenu's Link Sleuth

Executive Summary

Using Firefox? A nice lightweight link-checking add-on is Kevin A. Freitas' LinkChecker, which works by checking links on the currently-displayed page.
Xenu's Link Sleuth is a free (as in "free beer") tool for checking a web document for broken links. It runs on Windows machines. This document describes very briefly how to install and use it.

What It Can and Cannot Do for You

LinkSleuth works by acting like a web browser, loading documents using the web protocols HTTP and/or HTTPS. You specify a start document, and LinkSleuth loads the document, checking that each link in the document resolves to another web document that it can load. It then goes on to check the links in every other "internal" document, meaning documents that are at or below the level of the start document. For example, checking http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/farnsworth/research/index.html would also cause, say, http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/farnsworth/research/dog.html to be checked if it was linked to that index.html, but not, say, http://www.cs.washington.edu/hhome/farnsworth/index.html, because it's at a higher level.

When LinkSleuth is done checking, it will display or email you a report of its results.

Because it uses HTTP[S], LinkSleuth can be used to check any site you'd like, whether it's a .cs.washington.edu site or not. What it can't do is

access protected documents
LinkSleuth doesn't know your password or any special passwords needed to access specific web resources. Furthermore, if you run it from home against www.cs.washington.edu content, it won't be able to access documents that are restricted to access from .cs.washington.edu hosts. You may be able to use imaginative .htaccess files to work around this in specific cases.
find "orphans"
LinkSleuth can't tell you anything about documents in your tree that aren't linked to any other documents in your tree-- what are known as "orphans." To find such documents, a tool needs to access the file system directly. The Lab offers the Find the Orphans tool to help with that task.

Back to Top

Running LinkSleuth

When you start up LinkSleuth, you will find yourself looking at a blank page. To start a scan, click on File:Check URL; that brings up a form for you to fill out with your start URL (see screenshot).

You have a number of options:

Check external links
Select this option to validate all links to external documents.
Consider these URLs as "internal"
Here you can provide a list of URLs that are considered to be internal-- that is, LinkSleuth will check those documents as if they were inside the same document tree as the start document. That could be handy to check all
Do not check anything with these URLs
Provide a list of URLs to be considered external. For example, you might have a directory full of big hypermail archives, and you don't wish to waste resources checking them because they are generated by a program and known to be healthy.
You can ask LinkSleuth to email a copy of the report when the scan is complete. You must specify an email address and a mail server. For mailing to @cs.washington.edu addresses, cs.washington.edu is a good choice. See the screenshot.

There are a few more options, but these are the key ones.

Back to Top

Installing LinkSleuth

LinkSleuth doesn't come with an installer, which isn't as bad as it sounds-- it consists of a single .exe file and a .html file for documentaiton. To install it, you might follow this set of steps on a Windows 2000 machine:

  1. Create a new \Program Files\Xenu folder. A good way to do this is with Windows Explorer, using File:New:Folder
  2. Download XENU.ZIP from the Xenu's LinkSleuth home page and unzip to \Program Files\Xenu
  3. Create a new >Xenu folder under Start:Programs. A fast way to do this:
    1. Right-click on the Start button and select "Explore."
    2. Click on "Programs," then on File:New:Folder.
    3. Name the folder Xenu.
  4. Create shortcuts to XENU.exe and XENULINK.htm in the Xenu folder you created in the previous step. A good way to do that is by right-clicking on the files in explorer and dragging them to the Xenu folder, then selecting "Create shortcut(s) here."

Back to Top

For More Information

See Xenu's LinkSleuth home page.

Back to Top