Best Practices In Naming And Managing Files

Word documents, Excel documents, images files, presentation files ... the list goes on.
Have you ever had the feeling that you have spent too much time searching for what you wanted? Did you search for a file you just worked on last week, for far too long than you would have imagined?

Depending on your profession, managing files on a daily basis can be quite a hazard. Specially, if you don't have an organized way of storing files.

I recently exchanged my computer for a better one. I had to copy all files I needed from the old machine to the new. The transfer felt more like a house cleaning project! I am ashamed to say that there were many files with names such as test,temp,test1 etc. Needless to say that I had to open each of these files to find out the content.

So, I made a resolution to better organize the files/folders, in my computer hard drive. After all, if paper filing systems were kept efficiently in the yester years, the new age filing cabinet couldn't be so difficult. I figured it would require a little bit of organizing and self-discipline!

With that in mind, I made a list and I am sharing it with you. I hope you would benefit from it too. I've been practicing this list for the past 2 days and found it to be practical and efficient.

#1. Use abbreviations
I use abbreviations to group certain files. For example, If I write a post to for Enhance Life, I would save the document as "BLOG_". Likewise, I use an abbreviation that I recognize (and remember!) to group related documents.

#2. Use descriptive name
Yes, Obviously! Something I can read once, and relate to!

#3. Specify the date
There are a loads of documents that I come across which don't have a version. Rather than checking the date specifically I prefer an "at a glance view" of which document is latest. Also, keep a note that following a consistent date format is important too.

#4. Combine with underscore
Well, It doesn't really matter whether its a underscore or dash. Something to distinguish the abbreviations, name and the
date would do. Underscore works for me.

#5. Keep one copy only
When there are multiple files with the same name in different directories it can be a major hassle to figure out "which is what". Thus, I do my best to keep one copy of the file.

#6. Save temparary files on the desktop
This way I won't forget to delete the files, when the temporary lifespan is over!

#7. Use Sender name for email documents
There may be documents which are sent over the net for verification and modification. I choose to keep the sender name associated with the file.

Do these work for you? What are your current conventions for naming files?
Please leave a comment and let me know more tips.

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Matty said...

Hi! there,
I just started my blog,,,,,how would I back it up, if I lost everything on my blog, is there a way I could save all my posts?
Thanks, I appreciate your help.

Ms. Q said...

I try to keep my filenames short but do like a "glance" view of the contents as you do. What I like is to use a date-prefix for the filename so that files are automatically ordered by date from earliest to most recent. For example: 061220_FileTips.doc I only put the date prefix on files where knowing the date may make a difference. I also create lots of folders and sub-folders so I'm not seeing a gazillion files. For example, I email quite a bit. So I have a folder for each person and then a year sub-folder. If I email a particular person a LOT, I may add month sub-folders. Since I am saving their emails in their own folders, I don't have to have their name in the actual filename. I also save all emails to Plain Text. If possible, I save files like emails and letters and blogs to a Plain Text (e.g. using an editor like Notepad, UltraEdit, etc) format. This way my being able to read them in the future is not dependent on a particular application.

So for emails I save them with a filename like: 061220b, where the format is YYMMDD[initial of sender].txt For my responses to their emails, I save it to YYMMDDm.txt.

If I have multiple files for the same person in the same date, I just add a 1, 2, etc. Having the 6-digit date format sorts files nicely.

With respect to the question about saving blogs asked by another reader, I'm new to blogging and haven't set up backing up my databases (eek!) as yet, but what I do is save all my blogs to both plain text (I use Notepad) and Word. I write my blogs in Notepad anyway - it makes for easy posting as there is no formating. I have a MS Word version of my blog that replicates what I have posted (photos, etc) including formatting.

I've been thinking of writing my file backup/file naming methodology as a blog - glad you have shared yours!

One big thing for me after all these years is saving any type of writing that I believe is important (like emails, blogs, articles) to plain text. I have files in, hmm, Works format and well, I am sure there is some reader out there, but I don't feel like going through the hoops open them up.

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