We often use file syncing tools like Dropbox and AeroFS when doing collaborative work. How do refer to a local shared file when communicating over email or instant messenger? Is there another way besides writing…

You can find the latest proposal document in Contracts / 2010 / Acme Inc. / Proposals .

Referring to a file using the traditional URL scheme (file:///path/to/file) doesn't quite work for a couple reasons:

  1. Most web browsers won't open a file:// link using the regular file manager (Finder, Windows Explorer, Nautilus, etc.)
  2. A file:// link can't point to a shared resource that resides in different locations on different computers.


We can establish a URL scheme for user-managed local file mappings that will open in a file manager. A simple utility or OS-level control panel can manage these mappings and provide shortcuts for creating URLs.

Out of the box, we can create default mappings for popular destinations:

Base URL Maps to…
browse://dropbox/ $HOME/Dropbox on OS X/Linux
$HOME/My Dropbox on Windows
browse://aerofs/ $HOME/AeroFS on OS X/Linux
$HOME/Documents/AeroFS on Windows
browse://home/ $HOME

Here are some examples using the above mappings:

URL Local Path
browse://dropbox/Photos/My%20Dog.jpg $HOME/Dropbox/Photos/My Dog.jpg
browse://aerofs/Acme/Proposal.pdf $HOME/AeroFS/Acme/Proposal.pdf


  1. The browse scheme might be a confusing name. What might be better? local? filemanager?
  2. Should there be a namespace convention so we don't pollute the top-level? Something like browse://