Digital Recordkeeping: Best Practices for File Naming


A filename provides one form of unique identification for each digital asset that the Library creates. A good file naming system ensures consistency, prevents file loss through accidental overwriting, and can facilitate retrieval and processing of materials from creation onwards. File naming conventions and practices should be determined for each digital project, or content set, at the beginning of the project when other technical specifications (e.g., file format, resolution, etc.) are being established. A file naming system for a specific project or content set should employ a directory structure to help guard against filename collisions across projects.

Directory Naming

Folders should be named for major functions/activities
Structure subfolders by year
Folder names should be self-explanatory
Avoid personal names
Avoid duplication
Keep it simple and consistent

File Naming

  • Use descriptive names to identify the content/purpose of files
  • Avoid special characters: > < " / \ | ? * : ^ $ (These characters may have special meanings in operating systems.)
  • Avoid spaces in files names (due to problems with browsers and some operating systems):
    • Use underscores between words (i.e. faculty_meeting_minutes)
    • Capitalize the first letter of each word (i.e. FacultyMeetingMinutes)
  • Include date of creation or revision
    • International Standard Organization (ISO) standard 8601 allows different formats: YYYY-MM-DD or YYYYMMDD
    • Examples: 2012-01-26 or 20110602
  • Employ consistent conventions for version control:
    • FNL=final
    • DFT=draft
    • 1.0 or vers2=version of document
  • Examples:
    • FacultyMeetingMinutes20110323.docx
    • 20110323facultymeetingminutes.docx
    • Eng_316_Course_Proposal_2011-01-23_DFT.docx

Created January 2014.
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