Naming files and folders

Naming conventions are rules which enable the titling of electronic and physical folders, documents and records in a consistent and logical way. This ensures that the correct records can be located, identified and retrieved from a filing system in a timely fashion, and that they are stored in an appropriate secure location. Ideally, the best time to think how to name and structure the documents and directories you create is at the start of a project.

The principles of naming conventions can equally be applied to electronic and physical files/folders/material.

Benefits of naming conventions

Naming records consistently, logically and in a predictable way will distinguish similar records from one another at a glance, and by doing so will facilitate the storage and retrieval of data.  Through consistency and the application of logical standards we benefit from secure storage, and the ability to locate and access information.

File identifiability

Good practice dictates that all information (files, datasets, documents, or records) should be identifiable and traceable. This can be achieved by following good practices by applying referencing to all documents/files.

Document/file references will include:

  • File name, or full file path including file name
  • Name/role of file author(s) or originator(s)
  • Date of creation, edit or event which is the subject of the document/file
  • Version number if applicable

Remove spaces from file names or use punctuation such as underscores and hyphens to separate words e.g. “AHRC_TechnicalApp_Response20120925.docx” or “AHRC-TechnicalApp-Response20120925.docx” rather than “what we got back from funders about the data stuff.docx”

Suggested file and folder naming conventions

  1. Keep file and folder names short, but meaningful.
  2. Avoid unnecessary repetition and redundant words in file names and file paths.
  3. Use capital letters to delimit words, not spaces.
  4. When including a number in a file name always give it as a two-digit number rather than one, i.e. 01, 02 … 99, unless it is a year or another number with more than two digits.
  5. If using a date in the file name always state the date ‘back to front’, and use four digit years, two digit months and two digit days: YYYYMMDD or YYYYMM or YYYY or YYYY-YYYY.
  6. When including a personal name in a file name give the family name first followed by the initials.
  7. 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.
  8. Order the elements in a file name in the most appropriate way to retrieve the record.
  9. The file names of records relating to recurring events should include the date and a description of the event, except where the inclusion of any of either of these elements would be incompatible with rule 2.
  10. The file names of correspondence should include the name of the correspondent, an indication of the subject, the date of the correspondence and whether it is incoming or outgoing correspondence, except where the inclusion of any of these elements would be incompatible with rule 2.
  11. The file name of an email attachment should include the name of the correspondent, an indication of the subject, the date of the correspondence, ‘attch’, and an indication of the number of attachments sent with the covering email, except where the inclusion of any of these elements would be incompatible with rule 2.
  12. The version number of a record should be indicated in its file name by the inclusion of ‘d’ followed by the version number and, where applicable, ‘d’ indicating ‘draft version’.
  13. Avoid using non-alphanumeric characters in file names.

These conventions are sourced from work by the University of Edinburgh through the AAPS Records Management Project pdf and have been adopted widely as best practice.

Include dates in the format YYYYMMDD.  They will be easy to find and appear chronologically.
Don’t use excessively long folder and file names – there may be problems when backing-up, restoring or copying data.