Naming files

Naming files

What do I need to consider when creating file names?
What system of file naming should I use?
Can I can rename large numbers of files at once?
Further reading
Who can help me with naming files at the University of Glasgow?

What do I need to consider when creating file names?

Develop some guidelines within your group or team for:

If you’re creating content that may be for the web, avoid upper case characters and spaces in file names.

  • Numbers – specify the amount of digits that will be used so that files are listed numerically e.g. 01, 002 etc;
  • Dates – agree on a logical use of dates so that they display chronologically i.e. YYYY-MM-DD;
  • Spaces – remove spaces or use punctuation such as underscores and hyphens to separate words e.g. 'dept-seminars.pdf' or 'dept_seminars.pdf';  
  • Vocabulary – choose a standard vocab so everyone uses agreed language and abbreviations.

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What system of file naming should I use?

If you want your files to be compatible across all platforms they should be named according to the '8.3' convention, which limits names to eight characters, followed by a three-character extension.

You may prefer to use a code for naming where people’s initials, dates, project numbers or abbreviations are used. One research group in Chemistry names files by the researcher's initials, lab notebook number in Roman numerals and experiment number. This system has the added benefit of linking data files to lab notebooks where all the contextual details are noted.

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Can I rename large numbers of files at once?

The easiest way is to do this is by using batch renaming, where one command renames all the files in a sequence.

You can easily batch rename files in Windows XP – see our quick guide to Renaming files. The Windows file renaming function doesn’t allow you much control over the renaming process however, so you may wish to try other tools such as:

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Further reading

DP & FoI Office  Managing records and information in the office [WEB, c. 2 pages]
A good practice guide that covers how to organise, name and file paper and electronic records.

JISC Digital Media Choosing a file name [WEB, c. 3 pages]
Lots of useful illustrative examples of different approaches including the '8.3' convention.

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Who can help me with naming files at the University of Glasgow?

The Records & Information Management Service offer further advice on organising data. Contact:
E-mail: recman@gla.ac.uk
Telephone: 0141 330 3111 

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