Do You Have a File Naming System?

Do You Have a File Naming System?

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Taryn Williford
Oct 6, 2010

Depending on where you work, you probably have to adhere to a computer file naming system so that your co-workers (and the always needy compliance department) are all on the same page. But at home, we don't have that same micromanagement rigidity. Still, we like to keep to a file naming scheme to stay organized. Do you?

Some people say it's uptight, we say it's organized.

At home, I like to stick to a file-naming system for my personal digital files. I keep my entire life on my computer—everything from gift lists to my bank statements—and I really think it helps me stay organized and always find what I'm looking for.

We're not suggesting that having a filing system will work for you and your work flow. But if you're looking to keep your digital life more organized, it might be a good place to start.


Here's my system:

  • Try to keep file names below 11 letters. That's the maximum number of characters that our screen will show without getting an ellipses added to the displayed file name.
  • Capitalize the first letter of each "word." For us, "FltConfDec" is easier to visually understand than "fltconfdec."
  • Never use spaces. If we must add a space between words in our file names, we use an underscore or "dot."
  • Dates are formatted MMYY or MMDDYY without punctuation. We like being able to understand a date right away, so we have a "house style." If you're adapting our tips, use whatever works for you.
  • Use an exclamation mark for frequently-accessed files. Again, this is a whatever-works-for-you thing, but we like to give our files names like "!Budget1010" if we want to see it at the top of an alphabetized list. The symbols "@" and "~" work just as well.
  • If files are related, or part of a sequence, make sure they have similar names. "!Budget1010 will be quickly followed with "!Budget1110," and so on.


Readers, do you have file-naming rules? What are they? Let us know in the comments!



MORE ABOUT WORKING WITH DIGITAL FILES:

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