Mac OS X Filenames

Mac OS X will allow you to name a file almost any way you like. This may seem like a good thing, but it can cause some major problems..

The following characters have special meanings in most operating systems (including Mac OS X), and in Windows they are reserved characters and are not allowed:
<> : ” / \ | ? *

Mac OS Finder will let you include most of these characters in a filename, but using them in the command line (and some command line based utilities) is a real pain.

If you have filenames with these reserved characters, it will make the process of transferring file to a Windows Server (or any Windows machine for that matter), rather difficult. Whether you are using a network or an external drive, you’ll still have problems.

If I come across a large amount of file/data that has bad filenames, I use a utility named “NameCleaner” to clean them all up and make them Windows friendly. Even this can cause problems if some of the files are “links” for Indesign document, as you will need to manually re-link them again.

To avoid any problems down the track, I recommend avoiding the characters \ / : * ? ” <> | no matter what OS or filesystem you are using. These characters are not portable.

Also avoid using a dash as the first character of a file name, since most Linux/Unix commands will treat it as a switch.

To be really sure, use only letters and numbers, dashes, and underscores (no spaces).