Weird Characters in File Names

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 5, 2021)

Barbara wrote about a problem she noticed when saving files in Word. She reported that Word is putting a %02 in the document name, every place that there was a space. For example, if she named the document "report one", Word would save it as "report%02one.doc".

This is, indeed, weird behavior. But there is an explanation. First, a clarification: I suspect that the actual code that is being used for spaces is %20, as in "report%20one.doc". The %20 is actually a "code" for a space. The percent sign indicates the start of the code, and the two digits after the percent sign indicate the hexadecimal value of the character. 20 (hex) is the same as 32 (decimal), which is the ASCII value for a space.

Why is this happening? My guess is that somehow the file name is becoming "encoded" for use on the Web. This may sound strange, but the standards accepted for the Internet indicate that URLs cannot contain spaces in them. Thus, the standard allows for the "encoding" of URLs that must contain spaces and other forbidden characters. This encoding calls for a percent sign, followed by the hex value of the forbidden character—%20 in this case.

Word—from all the information I can find—does not do encoding of file names to remove spaces and other Web-forbidden characters in URLs. Even if you save a file, with spaces in the name, as a Web page, Word still includes spaces; it does not do encoding.

This means that the change must be occurring at the operating-system level. If this file is being saved on a network drive, then the change could be introduced by the network operating system. In such a case, you should check with your system administrator. First, however, save the file—within Word—to a local hard drive, such as C:. If the problem still exhibits itself, then it is not a network issue, but something on your system. This could include the addition of a unique device driver that encodes file names. Again, your system administrator may be able to shed light on why this is happening.

You should understand that if the encoding is happening at an operating-system level, it won't do any good to reinstall Word, since Word isn't the source of the problem. Instead, you will need to search for how your operating system is different from the operating system on a computer that does not exhibit the problem.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1319) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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