Probably the best file naming convention ever

With the increasing use of systems such as SharePoint that encourage collaborative working, it is important that folders, documents and records are named in a consistent and logical manner so they can be located, identified and retrieved as quickly and easily as possible. The naming convention below is based on the work of Anne Thompson of the University of Edinburgh, however any errors are mine.

DO

1.  Use capital letters to delimit words, not spaces.

  Correct Incorrect
File name RiskManagement
RPODirectory
Risk_management
Risk management
 RPO_Directory
 Recruitment Process Outsourcing Directory
Explanation Underscores and Spaces may make it harder to find a file. Removing them reduces the length of the file name, but by using capital letters to differentiate between the words the file name is still readily recognisable. Where capitalised acronyms are used in file names, the acronym should appear in capitals and the first letter of the following word should also be capitalised.

2. Keep file names short, but meaningful.

  Correct Incorrect
File name 2015GlobalMarketShare The_2015_Staffing_and_Talent_Engagement_Global_market_ share_report
Explanation Long file names mean long file paths and long URLs which increase the likelihood of error, are more difficult to remember and recognise. Some words add length to a file name but do not contribute towards the meaning, for example words like “the”, “a”, and “and”. Where the remaining file name is still meaningful within the context of the file directory these elements can be removed.

3. If using a date in the file name always state the date ‘back to front’ and in this format: YYYY or YYYYMM or YYYYMMDD

  Correct Incorrect
File name 20150201Agenda
201502Agenda
2015Agenda
1Feb2015Agenda
2015Agenda
Feb2015Agenda
Explanation Giving the dates back to front means that the chronological order of the records is maintained when the file names are listed in the file directory. This helps when trying to retrieve the latest dated record.

4. Order the elements in a file name in the most appropriate way to retrieve the record. 

  Correct Incorrect
File name /…/Cttee/20140630Agenda
 
 Or
 
 /…/Events/Webinar20140630
 
/…/Cttee/Agenda30March2014 
 
 Or
 
 /Events/30062014Webinar
Explanation The elements to be included in a file name should be ordered according to the way in which the record will be retrieved during the course of every day business. For example, if the records are retrieved according to their date, the date element should appear first. If the records are retrieved according to their description, the description element should appear first.

5. When including a number in a file name always give it as a two-digit number rather than one.  

  Correct Incorrect
File name OfficeProceduresV01
 OfficeProceduresV02
 OfficeProceduresV03
 OfficeProceduresV04
 OfficeProceduresV05
 OfficeProceduresV06
 OfficeProceduresV07
 OfficeProceduresV08
 OfficeProceduresV09
 OfficeProceduresV10
 OfficeProceduresV11
 
(Ordered alphanumerically as the files would be in the directory list)
OfficeProceduresV1
 OfficeProceduresV10
 OfficeProceduresV11
 OfficeProceduresV2
 OfficeProceduresV3
 OfficeProceduresV4
 OfficeProceduresV5
 OfficeProceduresV6
 OfficeProceduresV7
 OfficeProceduresV8
 OfficeProceduresV9
 
(Ordered alphanumerically as the files would be in the directory list)
Explanation To maintain the numeric order when file names include numbers it is important to include the zero for numbers 0-9. This helps to retrieve the latest record number. i.e. 01, 02 … 99, unless it is a year or another number with more than two digits.

6. Where a version number is applicable, it should always appear in the file name of the record so that the most recent version can be easily identified and retrieved.

  Correct Incorrect
File name 2014RPOInsightV3draft
 2014RPOInsightFinal
 OrgHier2014V02.xls
 OrgHier2014V03.xls
 OrgHier2014Final.xls
RPO_Insight_2 March_2014
 RPO_ Insight _15_March_2014
 Org_Hier_2014_v2.xls
 Org_Hier_2014_v3.xls
 Org_Hier_2014_v4.xls
Explanation Some records go through a number of versions, which may then be reviewed and updated at a later date. It is important to be able to differentiate between these various drafts and the final version by giving them each their own number and designation. 

7. Use meaningful folder names

  Correct Incorrect
File name Europe/Hungary/
 Companes/Adecco/Accounts
Noel/
 Misc/
Explanation Folder names should indicate the folder’s contents and reflect the functions, activities and transactions that you carry out. Avoid using team names as the basis for folder names as your organisational structure may change; and, vauge names like Misc.

DON'T

A. Even if your operating system allows you, don't save files containing these characters   * : \ / < > | " ? [ ] ; = + & £ $ . You may encounter difficulties searching for or opening them so they are best avoided.

B. Don't use initials, abbreviations and codes that are not commonly understood.

C. Avoid using common words such as ‘draft’ or ‘letter’ at the start of file names, unless doing so will make it easier to retrieve the record. 

D. Avoid unnecessary repetition and redundancy in file names and file paths.

To read more about Records management I suggest you have a look at the University of Edinburgh pages.

Lastly, you can use these file naming applications if you need to rename many files:

As ever good luck and please use the section below if you have for comments,criticism or suggestions.

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Brian K10/15/2019 03:42 pm

I use this convention a lot. Spaces and underscores are NOT fine because MAC and Windows see them differently and they can wreak havoc on searches. Sometimes files aren't recognized. Stay away from all special characters. Obviously, this convention is for MOST users. You can find exceptions to every rule, but this one is easy to use, easy to search for, easy to read, easy to sort, etc. Thank you Adam for putting this together.


The Den Post

Paul03/05/2018 07:45 am

CamelCase (the capitalization) is good when used for human readable content and should be adopted as part of a larger system, however this naming system would be useless if you ever needed to log your files in a database. You need delimiters to seperate your search categories and make it useful to database software. In my opinion if you are not operating with the idea that your files may end up on a database, maybe in the cloud, your are not future proofing yourself.


Bill10/12/2017 02:13 am

Mixing uppercase and lowercase in file names is not good advice IMO. It's fine to use dashes or underscores as spaces. Using dashes as spaces is widely accepted and common in web URLS. Long file names are also acceptable and often useful to describe the file.


Cathi Miller07/08/2017 06:55 pm

> How do you and what is the best practice for adding the language (example: French FR) to the document when it is not in English for easy reference?
> ie: FileNamingConventions-FR-2017-05-16?

I think that separating the ISO code with a dash as you did in the first example is best. Although the docs are in different languages, they contain the same information. So you could think of the 'FR' as part of the document's title.

Also, putting 'FR' before the date means that when you sort the files in that folder by name, all the English updates will be together, and all the French updates will be together. This is probably what you want.

If the readers and writers can get used to the look of it, it's more efficient to leave out dashes in dates, like 20170516 or 170516. But when that's not possible, I like to separate dates from other details with an underscore instead of a dash, like
FileNamingConventions-FR_2017-05-16

Hope this is helpful.


Mortgage Professionals Canada

Zsuzsa Jablonszky05/16/2017 07:15 pm

How do you and what is the best practice for adding the language (example: French FR) to the document when it is not in English for easy reference?

ie: FileNamingConventions-FR-2017-05-16?
or FileNamingConventions_2017-05-16_FR?


G03/02/2017 07:51 am

Very nice list -- sharing with colleagues who have no difficulty getting creative with their file names.


S12/31/2016 05:43 pm

This is not the best.


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