We’ve all been there. You’ve been searching for a file for an hour, sure that you named it ‘draft 2.docx’ or ‘essay.docx’ or ‘FINAL DRAFT I SWEAR.docx’. There’s an hour until your deadline and the print queue is pretty backed up and you cannot find the file.
Again, we’ve all been there. But we don’t have to be.
Creating a naming convention for your files can save you the hassle of searching through files of ‘essay’s and ‘draft’s. Instead, you’ll be able to find files with ease. While everyone should create a system that works for them, here are a few suggestions to think about before choosing a system to name your files.
Think About How You’ll Search For Your Files
Naming conventions are only useful if they actually help you find what you’re looking for. So, create a naming convention that works for how you think about your files! For example, if you’re working with lab data that you save daily, create a system based on the date so your files will be in chronological order.
Keep It Simple!
If you know that you’re not going to want to type out long file names, then don’t choose long file names. Or, if you know that a format will be more difficult for you in the long run, don’t use it in the short run! There are few things more irritating than having to go through and change things because you’ve created a system that’s too complicated.
Change It Up
This is something that I’ve had trouble with — if your system stop working, don’t be afraid to change it up to make things work for you. If your file names are getting too long, or you’re finding that you have trouble differentiating between dates, save yourself a headache by investing some time in creating another style sooner rather than later. That’s not to say that you should go changing all your file names willy-nilly whenever the mood strikes you, but it’s important that you find a way that you can commit to long term.
If you’re inspired and want to create a new system for naming your files, here are a few resources that you should check out:
- Introduction to Data Management for Undergraduate Students: File Naming Conventions (UIUC LibGuide)
- Best Practices for File Naming (Stanford Libraries)
- Data Management for Undergraduate Researchers: File Naming Conventions (Purdue LibGuide)