File and Folder Naming Conventions: Tips and Examples

January 25, 2023 Surya Nair

As discussed in my What’s in a Name  blog, a standardized convention is necessary for consistently naming digital files. The strength of a folder and file naming convention is dependent on the naming structure and the components you select to build the structure.

Here are a few tips to consider when naming files:
(samples are provided for the first four tips)

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1. Keep filenames short and meaningful.

Do not use overly complex names. For the document title component of your filename, use a descriptive name that is not too lengthy and indicates what the document is about. To keep the filename shorter, use abbreviations where relevant. You can use short codes for some of the components, such as company or division name and product name.


2. Use letters (A-Z) and numbers (0-9). Avoid special characters.

For the filename, use only alphanumeric characters and avoid special characters (such as ! # $ % & ' @ ^ ` ~ + , . ; =) that may cause errors.

3. Use underscores and hyphens as delimiters and avoid spaces.

Use underscores as a delimiter to separate the naming components and use hyphens to separate words within a component. If the length of the filename is a concern, using capital letters to delimit words is recommended to save space. Using spaces in a filename is not advisable because not all search tools may work well with spaces.

4. Use the date format YYYYMMDD.

When using a date in the filename, using the year/month/day format helps with sorting and listing files in chronological order.

Information with solid fill

For documents related to recurring events (e.g., meeting minutes, monthly reports), include both the date and the event in the filename. Determine the location of the date component in the filename based on the listing objective.

5. Use a two-‑digit format for single-digit numbers (0–9).

When including a file version or a document revision number in a filename, always use a two-‑digit format for numbers 0–9 (for example, 01 and not 1) to ensure correct numerical sequence. It is good to use “V” to indicate version or “R” to indicate revision.


6. Organize the filename components in the sequence of how you want to retrieve the file.

Adding too many components to the filename structure can make it lengthy and cumbersome. To avoid that, identify the essential components for a filename and organize them in a logical sequence that will make file retrieval easy.


7. Keep the folder structure hierarchy simple.

Complex hierarchical folder structures can add unnecessary levels of subfolders and also extra time to the storage and retrieval of a file. By keeping the filename concise and the folder structure streamlined, the search and identification of the file becomes easier. Using the key filename components to create the folder structure can make file storage and retrieval more efficient.


Keep your folders and files organized to stay free of file management nightmares! 😊


About the Author

Surya Nair

Technical Writer and Editor<br><br>Surya has been writing and editing technical content for over two decades in multiple industries. How do you transform complex technical content into an easy-to-understand document? Ask Surya - technical writing is her passion! She has been with ASCENT since 2018. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature, and a diploma in Journalism, and is a certified Technical Writer.

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