I remember when I started my first job post-college and I asked my supervisor how to decide on names for my files. At that point, PCs were relatively new and the only files I had ever named were college papers and my resume and cover letters (this was 1990; I didn’t own a computer until I started grad school 2 years later). No one told me what to do, and it took me a few years to come up with a system I found satisfying.
File naming is important not only for your own sanity, but also for your professional interactions. But it seems like a very bland subject so I’ll be brief (for me). If you have a good file naming system, it will save you tons of time when you are trying to find documents, and also, will avoid annoying other people when they try to find documents you sent. Here are some key things to consider.
- File naming works best if you have a good directory system. There isn’t one good solution, but generally broad categories with sub-categories makes finding things easier. One trick I have is that for many of my folders, I have a sub-folder called “old” so that when I’m scanning for something, I’m not distracted by documents I’m unlikely to use again (but don’t want to trash completely). And here's some advice on organizing teaching files from profhacker.
- For file names, ask your adviser/supervisor if s/he has a preferred system. Sharing files will be easier if you use a similar system.
- Think about the first word in your file name. If you sort alphabetically, but all of your file names start with “HDFS,” that will not be particularly helpful. Use a first word that you’re likely to scan for.
- If you’re sharing files, avoid the dreaded non-descript title. The title “thesis draft” may be original on your computer, but on my computer, it could be confused with many theses from the past 2 decades.
- I like shared files to have the following information:
For instance, Waterman thesis 2014-09-06 or
Waterman & Lefkowitz parenting style MS 2014-10-06
That way I easily identify it by the title; I easily find it in a sort; and if I don’t and do a search, any keyword will help me locate it.
- I like to use the following format for date names: YYYY-MM-DD. Then, if I sort, all files with the same title but different date appear in perfect chronological order. If I titled them the way Americans write dates, 10-06-2014 then they would sort poorly across years.
- Finally, not a file name issue, but any document you share should include in the document 3 things: Your name, a title, and page #s. Your name and a title so that if it’s printed, someone will always know what it is, even in a pile of other things on his/her desk. And page #s so that if it’s printed: (1) if it gets out of order (I’m clumsy!) it’s easy to re-sort, and (2) if we’re discussing it or I’m emailing you about it, I can say, on p. 17, you wrote…
The post “Naming your documents & other files first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on November 11, 2014.”