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File naming guidelines

Library stacks, 1919

It 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 predictablem, giving clues to the contents of files and folders without a close examination, and controlling versions. Below are guidelines to keep in mind:

  • 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)
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