When supplying a database, to ensure it is clear what it contains, a Field Layout should be submitted detailing how the data is set up within the database, what the maximum number of characters present in each field is and how many records the database contains in total. Within the database itself a header line should always be included to define each column’s contents.
There are two primary flat delimited files used in mailing, comma and tab delimited. A delimited file is a method of saving data using a punctuation or text formatting mark (i.e. a tab or a comma) to indicate where an element of data begins and ends.
When using a comma delimited file you should ensure none of the data information on your company’s database contains a comma. Commas can sometimes be used when address information is being input into a form to save space. These additional commas, if they are included within your database, can be seen as a data separator by database software and will, as a result, put the data into the wrong field. Therefore it is essential you check your data does not have these extraneous commas in it prior to submitting it.
A tab delimited file works in the same way as a comma delimited file, but uses tabs to define where an element of data begins and ends. Tabs are almost impossible to put into a database because a tab keystroke usually moves you on to another data input area, therefore making them a reliable form of passing data. This format is the safest and most robust method, and is strongly recommended.
Microsoft Excel® spreadsheets are a popular method of moving data as it eliminates some of the problems commas and quotes can cause when used in other data formats. Excel is limited to 16,384 fields (columns) and 1,048,576 records (rows) per worksheet. If you are using multiple Workbooks and/or Worksheets please ensure you communicate this clearly.
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