File naming guidelines

Library stacks, 1919It is useful to establish a best practice for file naming as part of managing both paper and electronic records. The benefits of naming conventions include:

  • Finding files more easily
  • Creating uniformity
  • Making sorting more predictable
  • Giving clues to the contents of files and folders without a close examination
  • Controlling versions

General rules for electronic files

  • Create names that will allow useful sorting
  • Keep names as short as possible and make them easy to read (Windows, OS X, and Linux all limit names to 255 characters)
  • Include only alphanumeric characters
  • Use camel case to distinguish words (e.g. SenateVoteRound01.docx)
  • Avoid spaces, abbreviations, and most symbols except underscore “_” and hyphen “-“ (hyphens should only be used in the root filename, preferably for dates)
  • Format dates to enhance sorting; for proper sorting, date order should be YYYY-MM-DD (e.g. Minutes_2013-02-15.docx)
  • Use the filename for version control (e.g. CollectionPolicy_rev2013-02-20.docx, Minutes_draft_2015-08-22.pdf, Minutes_final_2016-05-20.pdf)
  • Consider putting the initials of the author in the filename (e.g. HowToFile2013-02-20_dh.docx)

Sources and references