4 rules for naming your files

If you use "final" in your filename, you've failed

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Ever seen a file with "Final Final" in the name or, better yet, "Final Final USE THIS ONE"? You've probably been a victim of poor file naming before or committed these crimes yourself. Poorly named files, whether you share them with others or not, just make it harder and more frustrating for you to retrieve those files later--and isn't that the point of saving your files anyway? Here are a few rules and tips for naming your files properly.

1. Never Mark Your Files as "Final"

There's no such thing as final in our digital world. That's why we end up with multiple files appended with "Final" or "Final-3," to the aggravation of all.

2. Add a Version Number to the End of Your File

Instead, append a version number to the end of your file: e.g., "vs01" or just "1". Even if you get a file from a colleague that doesn't conform to your filenaming system, you can rename the file you received to fit it. This way, you'll always know the most recent version is the one with the highest number.

3. Be as Specific As Possible

When you first save a file, "letter to lawyer" might make sense to you, but months and even days from now it very well might not. Imagine someone who doesn't know anything about this file is looking for it. What would you name it?

4. Add the Date to the Beginning of the File Name

Many people don't do this, because the file properties already show the date modified and created--or they might save files in specific date folders. Adding the date to the file name--particularly in the beginning--can ensure it will always be sorted chronologically, by whatever date you choose.

Example:

Kerem Suer has a great example of a naming scheme on Dribble. It doesn't include the date, but files contain the contact, platform (e.g., web), direction (e.g., idea 1), and iteration (version):

Everyone has his or her own file naming scheme. The key is to consistently use it and make sure it's as specific and detailed as possible--while leaving room for future versions. If you know any "FINAL FINAL" offenders, this might be a post to forward to them.

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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