I want to make the user feel that clicking the item will bring up more detail about it in a modal window.
I don't know about the general convention but I had the same problem and used the following solution.
Here is the result:
First icon is edit and second icon is fullscreen, I hope the user will understand that by clicking on the link he will be able to edit the entity in fullscreen, in this case a modal window.
Modal windows are quite common nowadays so the user might not but surprised to see something like that appear.
The content of the modal window is more important than the pattern itself.
Clicking this button will open a modal window (it says : About the playlist)
Having call to action whether it is a link or a button with "View more details" as label for example should do, modal windows are pretty ubiquitous these days, do you have any reason why you want to explicitly let the user know that clicking this will open a modal window?
This could be perceived as an unnecessary warning. If your user want to see more info, let him click and open your modal window.. no big deal :)
Unfortunately there is no fixed standard to show that whether a link will leave the page or remain on it.
However, some websites use a link which shows a dashed blue underline when it is hovered. This may help convince your users that the action will not leave the page.
You could also provide the user with more information without taking up any screen space. Just set the
The best way would be have an icon accompany the URL. Off the top of my head, I know of two icons that lend themselves to representing a modal dialog:
You could then have a tooltip over the icon that says something to the effect of:
View more details in a modal dialog
Icons source: jQuery UI ThemeRoller