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James LeichterComputer File and Folder Naming Rules

This article deals with the topic of how to name computer files and folders. When you manage a contracting company, setting up an electronic file system is a necessary and important part of your management system.

Naming Files and Folders with Special Characters

It is important to use standard universal “regular” characters when naming folders and files. So avoid using special or unusual characters in a file or folder name. Do not use the following characters when naming a file or a folder: =./\|?><[]{}”;&%$#@*! The characters listed above are often used for specific tasks in computing and internet. For example, a forward slash is used to identify folder levels in products with Microsoft operating systems, while Apple (Mac) operating systems use the colon. Periods are used in front of file-name extensions to denote file formats such as .jpg and .doc; using them in a file name could result in lost files or errors.

Title Case Words

It is a good idea to capitalize the first letter of word. This makes the name easier to read.

Underscores Instead of Spaces

Use underscores instead of spaces. As mentioned above, periods already have a specific function in a file name, which is to tell the computer program where the file-name extension begins. Spaces can be a problem on the web. They are frequently translated on the internet to be read as “ ”.

For example, Policy manual.doc would appear as Policy manual.doc

The correct file name is: Policy_Manual.doc

Descriptive File Name

The file name should include all necessary descriptive information independent of where it is stored. That’s because files will eventually be copied or moved and without the original folder information, it may be difficult to tell what the file is.

Poor File Name: 8009.tif

Good File Name: FSLA_Labor_Wage_Poster_8009.tif

Include Dates

Documents that are date specific (like a bank statement) should include that date. Use the format YYYY_MM_DD. International Standards Organization 8601 (ISO 8601) specifies data notation to be YYYY_MM_DD or YYYYMMDD.

For Example, a Premier Bank statement for July 2010 would be located at:

Accounting\Banking and Credit\Premier Bank\Statement_2010_07_30.pdf

Consistency

Please be consistent with your computer file and folder naming rules and conventions.

The most important rule of file-naming is to be consistent with your rules. Some choices will need to be made about organization that affects the entire company such as where to include the date, what abbreviations to use, etc. Regardless of what the company decides, it is only effective if everyone follows the rules on a consistent basis.