2016 – Tuesday

It’s the 21st Century – Do you know where your data is?


Have a plan for organizing your data. This usually includes a folder structure and file naming scheme (plan). Easier said than done, but check out the tips below!

Things to avoid

Google “bad file names” and browse through the images for laughs.


If you don’t already have a folder structure and/or file naming plan, come up with one and share it. Some good practices for naming files are described below.

  • Be Clear, Concise, Consistent, and Correct
  • Make it meaningful (to you and anyone else who is working on the project)
  • Provide context so it will still be a unique file and people will be able to recognize what it is if moved to another location.
  • For sequential numbering, use leading zeros.
    • For example, a sequence of 1-10 should be numbered 01-10; a sequence of 1-100 should be numbered 001-010-100.
  • Do not use special characters: & , * % # ; * ( ) ! @$ ^ ~ ‘ { } [ ] ? < >
    • Some people like to use a dash ( – ) to separate words
    • Others like to separate words by capitalizing the first letter of each (e.g., DST_FileNamingScheme_20151216)
  • Dates should be formatted like this: YYYYMMDD (e.g., 20150209)
    • Put dates at the beginning or the end of your files, not in the middle, to make it easy to sort files by name
      • OK: DST_FileNamingScheme_20151216
      • OK: 20151216_DST_FileNamingScheme
      • AVOID: DST_20151216_FileNamingScheme
  • Use only one period and before the file extension (e.g., name_paper.doc NOT name.paper.doc OR name_paper..doc)

There are generally two approaches to folder structures. Filing, or using a hierarchical folder structure. The other approach is piling, which relies on fewer folders and uses the search, sort, and tagging functions of your operating system or cloud storage tools like Box.


Creative Commons License     Heather Coates, 2015


Creative Commons License     Heather Coates, 2015

Tell Us

How do you name your files? Do you have a system? Is it written down?
Would you change anything about it now, if you could?
What tools do you use to keep your files organized?

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Check out the resource board & the changing face of data on Pinterest
Talk to your local library’s data experts, or check out their sites (listed on the Home page).