What are load files?
Legal professionals who work with eDiscovery productions often come across "Load file productions" i.e. productions that include load files. Here's a quick look at how they are structured, and the role the load file plays in reading and accessing the information they contain.
GoldFynch mascot opening a zip folder sorting files into folders labeled data, text and images
A load file is, in essence, a spreadsheet or similar file that contains data about the files in a production, including information about the relationships between such files.

Legal productions are frequently comprised of different types of files, each in their own file format. The entire set of files is usually bundled up in a .ZIP
E.g. .XLSX files from spreadsheets created in Microsoft Excel, .EML and .MSG files created in Outlook, etc.

In an attempt to standardize productions so that they can easily and consistently viewed, semi-standardized formats called "load file productions" are used that contain at least one, and in some cases multiple, versions of files in the production.
E.g. A .PDF file is included in a production as a .JPEG, with its text content as a .TXT

These multiple versions of the files are distributed across folders with names like and a "load file" is included alongside these folders in one or more formats, typically with extensions like "IMAGES", "NATIVE", "TEXT", "DATA", etc. .DAT, .OPT, or .LFP

E.g. A production could have a folder named "IMAGES" containing images of document pages named 001.TIF, 002.TIF, 003.TIF, etc. It would be the load files that carries the information that images 001.TIF - 007.TIF are the pages of a single Word document that was originally named "quarterly report.docx" and was authored by "Sally"

Variation in the structure of load file productions

folders named TEXT NATIVES IMAGES and DATA

Because load file productions are only semi-standardized, you'll find variations that have different directory structures with the load files in different locations. For example, sometimes you'll find the load files within a special folder named "LOADFILES" or "DATA" alongside the IMAGES / NATIVES / TEXT folders.

Folders labeled Ocr, Native and Images, alongside load files labeled VOL001.TXT, VOL001.OPT, etc.

Other times, the load files will just be loose in the top directory

Folders labeled as VOL001, VOL002, etc. alongside load files

Finally, some productions have multiple "volume" directories, each with the IMAGES / NATIVES / TEXT folders inside, but with only one set of load files at the top.

The presence of a folder doesn't require or imply that files are present in that representation though
E.g. a native-only production may only contain a “NATIVE” folder without any text or images provided.

Similarly, a TIFF-only production need not have any “NATIVE” representations. Also, a document of the production being provided in one representation does not require or imply that it is available in some other representation.

Other common formats include productions that are mostly TIFF images, but where some special documents.
E.g. corrupt or unsupported file types that have been produced in their native format.

It is also common for the parties to agree that some document types, such as spreadsheets, will be produced in native format. When producing these special documents in native format, it is common to generate a “placeholder” TIFF image that just has some basic text like “produced in native format” and to use this image as the TIFF representation of the document.

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