Whenever I’m summoned to assist with a mysterious new technical problem and I see a slash, comma, apostrophe or any other special character in the file name, I can usually resolve the issue in a manner of seconds. To do this, I use an ancient troubleshooting technique that’s been passed down from tech person to tech person for generations.
I rename the file.
Operating systems, applications and browsers interpret special characters differently than humans do. Obviously, slashes, commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, etc. work when you’re typing in a Word document or adding content in any other program. However, if you use any of these characters while naming your files or folders, you’re likely to run into technical difficulties.
Even though you and I see a forward slash as a forward slash, a computer usually sees it as a way of separating two different locations. What happens when your computer thinks one folder is actually two different folders?
Granted, removing special characters from file and folder names requires no unique technical prowess. If you’re like me, however, and you want to avoid special character problems altogether, there are three simple rules you can follow when naming files and folders.
When naming files and folders, use the following characters (and only the following characters):
- Lowercase letters
If you follow these three rules to a tee and use a dash every time you would normally hit the space bar, you’ll be golden. In fact, you’ll be ahead of the game. Your files and folders will be ready for the web (should you eventually decide to put them there.)
Take a look at the address bar of this page (or just about any webpage.) There are some slashes up there separating each area of the site. But notice too that most of the stuff between the slashes usually looks like this: any-other-name. If you’re adding new pages to a website, this approach to naming can help with search engine optimization.
So, is all of this starting make sense?