When legal productions are shared, they often contain files originating from different software (e.g. .docx files from Microsoft Word, .msg and .eml files from Outlook, etc.) To introduce some form of standardization, they are typically generated in a special, semi-standard format known as a "load file production," which includes one or more representations of each document - usually in folders named similar to "IMAGES", "NATIVE", "TEXT", along with one or more "load files" - typically with file extensions such as .dat, .opt, or .lfp. The "load file" itself is effectively just a spreadsheet that provides special information, such as how the other files in the production relate to each other.

Structures of load file productions

For example, a production may have a folder named "IMAGES" which is just full of document page images like 0001.TIF, 0002.TIF, 0003.TIF, etc. but it's the load files that would tell us that images 0001.TIF - 0009.TIF are the pages of a single document that was originally named "report.docx" and was authored by "John".

Because these 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, like this: 

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

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, like this: 

The presence of a folder doesn't require or imply that files are present in that representation though - for example, 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 - such as corrupt or unsupported file types - 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.