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May 2, 2019
Virtual construction & technology

Have you ever tried to open a document and been faced with the dreaded message: Corrupt file?

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

It's frustrating and sometimes devastating. But did you know there are ways to help prevent this from happening? There are several reasons a file can become corrupted, and one of the biggest factors is how the file is named and saved.

As our data continues to grow and we move to new platforms and technologies, it's important to maintain a systematic way of storing and retrieving that information. Some teams and organizations establish strict guidelines for how documents are tagged and saved. Others allow employees to use a system that makes sense to them. At Pepper, we tend to fall somewhere in between. We have a unified structure for sharing documents, and our people also have the flexibility to work in a way that is conducive to their individual needs.

In addition to preventing lost documents, how documents are organized and saved makes a difference in how quickly they can be accessed, which is important for those out on a jobsite where connectivity can be a challenge.

Staying within the limitations

The maximum length for a file path (Folder Name + Subfolder Name + File Name) is 260 characters

Unfortunately, Windows will allow you to create and save folders and files that are well beyond this limit. Once a file exceeds this limitation, you may experience problems opening and working with the files. The only solution is to reduce the number of characters within the whole path until the path is under this character limit. 

Data stored in the Cloud has additional restrictions when it comes to using special characters. As more of our systems and data migrate to Cloud storage, it is important to follow these 5 tips for naming techniques to avoid potential problems. 

Rule #1 

Keep folder and filenames short.

Always try to keep names under 25 characters.  Remember a name should consist of 1-5 words.  A file name should be a Name and not a Sentence describing what is in the file.

Rule #2 

Limit or don't use spaces in any folder or filename.

When naming files that are stored in the Cloud, all spaces are converted to %20 in the URL address. Not only is it hard to read, each space also adds two additional characters to your folder/filename length. 

The best way to name a file or folder is using CamelCase. CamelCase is the practice of writing phrases where spaces are eliminated and each word begins with a capital letter.  

For example:  “Strategic Planning” would be “StrategicPlanning.” 

Rule #3 

Limit the layers of subfolders to under 5.

Having numerous subfolders not only slows you down, but it also increases the chance of exceeding the path/file limitation.

Rule #4 

Use a consistent naming convention.

For sorting by filename, use a consistent naming convention. 

 Tip: If you want to use dates in your filename, use YYMMDD format. This will allow you to sort by year, then month and then day.

Rule #5 

Avoid illegal web characters.

Even if your operating system allows you, don't save files containing these characters:

 ~ " # % & * : < > ? / \ { | } 

You may encounter difficulties searching for or opening them so they are best avoided.

While we work in the construction industry, these best practices for file naming are applicable for every person in any industry. One of my responsibilities at Pepper is to help our teams maintain the integrity of their data by educating them. Although this post isn't about one of our projects or our innovative use of technology, it's important information in keeping our business running. Particularly for organizations without an in-house IT resource, I hope it can help you in running yours as well.

About the Author

Chuck Jank

Chuck JankManager, Technical Services

Chuck Jank has been with Pepper for 30 years, where he has served in the Information Technology department. Today he manages a team that support the technical needs of our offices in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.