Limits on Path Length in Word

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 18, 2014)

The name to this tip is a bit misleading, because there is no limit on the length of a file's path name in Word—the limit is in Windows. Let me explain.

Every file you save on your hard drive must have a unique name. The thing that makes the name unique is the path name that is associated with the file. Thus, the following two file names are unique when considered with their path names:

C:\myfiles\first drafts\report.doc
C:\myfiles\second drafts\report.doc

If you are a highly (overly?) organized person, you can create all sorts of folders within folders within folders to achieve an amazing level of organization. Each folder name adds to the uniqueness of a file, provides a way to organize the files, and—unfortunately—adds to the overall length of the path and file name.

All modern versions of Windows have a limit on path and file names of approximately 255 characters. This can cause problems when you try to save files in programs such as Word. For instance, let's say that you have a very deep folder structure, and the path to where you want to save your document is about 248 characters long. If you then try to save a document in that folder, and the document name is over seven characters, including the period and filename extension (either three of four characters, depending on your version of Word), then Windows generates an error and won't let you save the file.

Since this is a system-level limitation, the only solution is to this problem is to rethink your folder organization. Look for ways to shorten folder names, or reduce the number of folder levels in your path. You should then be able to save your file, as desired.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6397) 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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