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SharePoint Tips and Best Practices


SharePoint Terminology 

There is a certain logic to how your SharePoint site will be set up, and a key to following that logic will be to understand of a little of SharePoint’s special terminology. Here are three key terms you’ll be encountering.

Site Collection

  • A SharePoint site that is provisioned to a group, such as a department, a centre, or a research project, is known as a site collection. It’s a “collection” because, as you’ll see, it can be subdivided into multiple smaller sites.
  • Within a site collection you can create web pages, calendar events, document libraries and subsites.

Document Library

  • Within your site, a document library is a secure place to store files you will share with colleagues.
  • In the document library, you can create folders to logically separate out files, and a set of permissions for various users to access certain files and folders.
  • You can also add metadata to the documents in your library, cataloguing them to improve their later retrievability and ensure their purpose is understood by all who encounter them. 


  • It is possible to define a hierarchy of subsites under your main SharePoint site, thereby creating separate collaborative spaces for separate groups or teams.
  • A team with its own subsite can have its own document library, web pages, calendar, etc., for sharing information of interest specifically to that team’s members.  For example, a department might have a Finance subsite, with information and a document library shared among the department’s director, business officer, chair, and any others who need that information, while excluding those who are not directly concerned with financial matters. 
  • In short, the main purpose of subsites is to logically separate smaller groups within your large group.  
  • While subsites are a very powerful tool for organizing your SharePoint site, they are far from the last word on providing access. Any individual in your system can be given access to any file or folder within any site or subsite you control, as need may dictate.

Naming Files and Folders in Office 365

As with any file-storage system, there are some technical rules we need to follow when using SharePoint and OneDrive, especially when it comes to naming our files and folders.

Special Characters

The following special characters are NOT allowed in the names of files or folders on SharePoint or OneDrive: " * : < > ? / \ |

Tip: Try to use only letters, numbers, hyphens and underscores when naming a file or folder, to stay within the rules and to produce legible names.

Special/Reserved Words

Certain words and sequences of characters have a special purpose in the programming language of the system, and therefore cannot be used in naming files or folders.  

  • Forbidden file and folder names include .lock, CON, PRN, AUX, NUL, COM0 - COM9, LPT0 - LPT9, _vti_, desktop.ini, any filename starting with ~$
  • A folder name must not begin with a tilde (~).
  • The sequence "_vti_" cannot appear anywhere in a filename.

The Limit on the Length of a Path Name

In Office 365 file storage, a file’s path must not contain more than 400 characters. So, what exactly is meant by the file’s path?

In SharePoint, the path of a file includes the name of the file, plus the names of all folders and subfolders in which the file is contained, plus the site URL. As an example, the following path contains 99 characters.


If you make your file and foldernames very long, and nest your folders one within the other to great depths, you will encounter this limit.

Tip: Keep your file and folder names as short as possible. Develop abbreviated naming conventions within your group.

Tip: In your document library, add metadata to your files to make them more searchable, eliminating the need to try to define the file’s significance through lengthy, explanatory file and folder names.