Using filenames for everyone’s benefit

As a postscript to my articles last week on naming files, reader Glenn Pickett has contributed some ideas on best practice which will certainly appeal to the more methodical amongst you. He says that when a file is created it should contain a name that includes three things:
1. A name that means that you don’t have to open the file to know what’s inside;
2. The identity of the creator (initials will do); and
3. The date when the file was created.

Glenn says: “I hate files just called ‘sales’, ‘spreadsheet’, ‘statistics’, etc., and have even returned them to the sender in an attempt to stamp out this sort of bad practice.” If using an initialling system, he says, make sure that no-one else in the company uses the same set of initials of course, and for the date, decide on using either YYMMDD or YYYYMMDD as a standard format. These ensure that files will be sorted in chronological order, which is very convenient when you want to keep track of their evolution, or refer back to a previous version.

Glenn adds: “One major crime that I see on the majority of files that I download is that the filename does not identify the company and/or the product or service. This might be OK while I’m on the website and know where I am, but what about 6 months later when I’m searching for the information? I always rename the files when saving them, keeping the critical part (often a document reference number/code) so that I know – some time later when I return to the website – if I already have the version on offer.”

This seems like an incredibly thorough approach to me, but I’m sure many people out there, including some of your customers, have similar thoughts and processes. And while you can’t second-guess what these are, including things in a filename like dates, author identifiers and document numbers can’t hurt …and may help a lot. It’s only the (relatively hidden) filename, after all, not the document title or headline.

1 thought on “Using filenames for everyone’s benefit”

  1. I agree with this – whenever I am returning files to customers, I always precede the filename with the date – though my preference is YYYY-MM-DD, just makes it easier for me to read. I also include the company name (not normally my own initials). And I have just updated our new catalogue downloads on our website with fully descriptive filenames, such as “Harwin_Catalog_Issue_60_Gecko_pages_1-12.pdf” – shame I didn’t know that hyphens were preferable to underscores before I completed this, but they are a definite improvement on the previous “2010page11-12.pdf”. And yes, I know Catalog is American spelling – but it’s a global website, so we go with Catalog for diplomacy’s sake.

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