Tips for Naming Your Digital Files

When it comes to naming digital files, everyone seems to have his or her own preferred approach. Some are clear and methodical, while others are a little more – well, haphazard. If you have a system that works well for your company, then this might not be the article for you. That said, not many businesses implement a unified naming convention for their digital files. That means files may be not be as clearly organized as they can be.

What Is a File Naming Convention?

Simply put, a file naming convention is a method for naming digital files in a manner that succinctly describes what they are, the information they contain, and how they might relate to other files. Companies that have a ton of digital assets – like media companies – might spend a lot of time establishing and optimizing file management systems. All companies, and even individuals, can benefit by implementing their own file naming conventions, which ultimately make it easier to locate documents when they’re needed.

Here is an example of a file naming convention:

  • [Patient’s Last Name]-[Patient’s First Name]_[Type of Document]_[Date: YYMMDD]

As you can see, it manages to incorporate someone’s name, the document associated with them, and the relevant date of the document. To expand upon this example, let’s say that a woman named Sally Brown visited her doctor’s office on March 10, 2021.

In practice, the name of the PDF of her intake form might look something like this:

  • Brown-Sally_Intake_210310

How Can I Come Up with My Own Way to Name My Files?

Digital file naming conventions can run the gamut from simple to intricate. You’ll find more complex ones at data-heavy companies or research organizations. If you’re simply trying to keep your small business’s files from getting lost, all you really need is a file naming system that works and is simple enough to sustain for a long time.

Here are some pointers to help guide you toward developing your own system:

  • Develop a file naming convention that makes sense
  • After implementing a system, be consistent about using it
  • Include acronyms only when they can be uniquely associated with a specific project
  • Avoid using special characters such as, ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ` ; < > ? , [ ] { } ' "
  • Don’t use spaces – they might not be recognized by certain software
  • Lead sequential documents with zeros to keep them in order
  • Consider using [YYMMDD] as your date format to keep files in chronological order
  • Never include “final” in a file’s name; consider sticking to numbered versions (e.g. project_Ver4)

Why Should I Use a File Naming Convention?

Coming up with a methodical way to name your files is more than a tedious errand. Once you implement a naming convention, and stick to it, you’ll notice that you won’t have to “hunt” for your documents as much anymore. You’ll know exactly where to find them – or where they should be – based upon how they should be named.