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File and Folder Naming

There are many guidelines on the web regarding the best ways to name your files. These guidelines help one organize their files, prevent accidental deletion, and help others in the future better understand the file’s contents from its filename.

General Guidelines

  • Decide on a naming and organizational convention among you and your collaborators.
  • Be consistent using it for files, folders, and directory structures. It will help others sharing your files and others accessing your files in the future to better intuit the nature and organization of your files.
  • Use names that describe the contents of the file or folder: Include relevant location, date, and version information in the filename.
    • For locations: Use abbreviations for frequently used sites and include a plain text file in the file’s folder that explains any abbreviations used in the naming.
    • For dates: Use the format recommended by the International Standards Organization (ISO 8601): YYYY-MM-DD.
    • For versioning: Include a version number at the end of the file name (such as “v01”). Change the number each time you save, and substitute the word “FINAL” for the final version number.
    • Use names for files and folders that include a Unique Identifier (i.e. Project name or Grant #).
  • At the same time, try to keep names under 32 characters or less.
  • Avoid using the following characters in your names: " / \ : * ? < > [ ] & $. These characters have specific meanings in your computer’s operating system that could result in misreading or deleting these files.
  • When using sequential numbering, make sure to use leading zeros to allow for multi-digit versions. For example, a sequence of 1-10 should be numbered 01-10; a sequence of 1-100 should be numbered 001-100 (e.g. the 11th item would be numbered 011).
  • Use only one period and have it appear before the file extension (e.g. “name_paper.doc” NOT “name.paper.doc” OR “name_paper..doc”)
  • Use underscores (_) rather than spaces to separate terms.