Folder & File Naming Standards

Question:

I’m having some problems linking to files and web sites on my dot mac iDisk?. Sometimes the links I make work fine, sometimes they don’t. Any idea what might be causing the problem?

Requirements:

Mac OS? X (10.2.8 or newer recommended) and a valid dot mac account

Background:

Welcome to Unix. The rules for naming files and folders are a bit different than they are on your local Macintosh Desktop , be it OS 9 or OS X. While we’re all familiar with naming files on our Macintosh, we need to remember the dot mac iDisk is UNIX based and relies on http and WebDAV? to delivery content and resolve path names. File? naming tricks and short cuts we get away with on our own Macintosh or internal network cause real problems when dealing with iDisk and internet paths.

Everything on the internet is located based on it’s path name. A path name is, in general terms, the address of a particular item. Just as each house on your block has a unique address so people can find it, so too do items you place on your iDisk. The secret is knowing the path name and a few simple naming rules.

The single largest cause of the problem you’re describing is related to an error with the File or Folder Name which describes the path to your file or web site on the internet. The problem usually stems from having spaces in file names or using the wrong case (e.g. Using UPPER case when a name was lower case or a combination thereof).

What To Do:

Here are some key things to remember to help minimize File and Folder Naming errors which result in broken links and errors when working with data on your iDisk.

Case Sensitivity:
All file and folder names are case sensitive in UNIX and as such so are files and folders on your iDisk. Examples: bob, BOB, Bob, BOb, boB, bOb, bOB, are all unique names. Just imagine how many possible combinations there for a word like “Mississippi”and you quickly understand why our following tips become so important.

Special Characters:
Thankfully you should avoid using any special characters in your file and folder names (the case sensitive variations are plenty). In general a special character is something like the & sign, colons :, semi-colons ; , bullets , and so on. Rather than listing all the possibilities, just review our recommended naming conventions for do’s and don’ts, life will be simpler.

Recommended Naming Conventions:
Here’s a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts for naming files and our recommended naming system to keep life simple.

Don’t use empty spaces in File or Folder Names. An empty space on the internet net is delivered as %20. Imagine how hard it is to remember that and get it right ! My File Name would be My%20File%20Name (and we all thought DOS was hard - hah).

Do use a combination of UpperAndLowerCase in long File and Folder Names. This makes it easier to read and reduces the chances of making a case sensitive naming error

Do use the underscore _ character in stead of a space. This will ensure you avoid the dreaded %20 problem noted earlier and makes File Names easier to read. This_Would_Be_An_Example

Do use numbers in your file names, particularly for file prefixes and use them in conjunction with the underscore. Examples: 01_MyFirstFolder, 02_MySecondFolder. Notice the use of a leading ‘zero’ before numbers 1 and 2. This is important because in list view file names are sorted in ASCII? order. That means 10_MyFolderName would be above 1_MyFolderName which just doesn’t make sense. Using the leading zero means you’ll see things in the right order if you have 10 or more items. Trust us, this is a big deal.

Do remember to include a three letter suffix for file names. Example MyFile.jpg or MyFile.gif or MyFile.sit (and don’t forget the ‘dot’ before the suffix)

Hopefully this gives you a general overview of tips to follow and avoid some common traps when working with your iDisk.

We hope that helps
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A minor clarification

We said this in the above article a few years ago:

Do use numbers in your file names, particularly for file prefixes and use them in conjunction with the underscore. Examples: 01_MyFirstFolder, 02_MySecondFolder. Notice the use of a leading ‘zero’ before numbers 1 and 2. This is important because in list view file names are sorted in ASCII? order. That means 10_MyFolderName would be above 1_MyFolderName which just doesn’t make sense. Using the leading zero means you’ll see things in the right order if you have 10 or more items. Trust us, this is a big deal.

Well, things have changed a bit in OS? X and that advice, while still true for OS 9, doesn't follow the ASCII sort order reasoning we noted in OS X. In general, we still recommend the leading 'zero' before numbers 1 through 9 (e.g. 01_myfoldername). If you don't insert the leading zero, your items will still sort in the list based on the leading numeric number (e.g. 1_myfoldername will list above 10_myfoldername). However, we feel (and it's subjective) the list is always easier to read if the leading zero is inserted.

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