Best Practices for File Naming

Good file naming conventions can assist with finding data and understanding the content in files. Best practices for file naming include being consistent and descriptive in your file and folder names.

Creating a file directory:
Start with setting up a clear directory structure. There is not a right way to create a file directory. Folders can be organized by project, date, researcher, experimental run, or whatever makes sense for you and your research or project. It is important that once you set up a directory structure, that you stay consistent. Mind maps are helpful for designing a file structure such as: Recommended file naming conventions:
It is recommended to chose a format for your file names and use it consistently. You may consider including some of the following information in your file names:
  • Project or experiment name or acronym
  • Location/spatial coordinates
  • Researcher name/initials
  • Date or date range of experiment
  • Type of data
  • Conditions
  • Version number of file
  • The file extension for application-specific files
Other tips for file naming:
  • Format dates as YYYYMMDD or YYMMDD. This fomrat ensures your files are organized in chronological order.
    • This international date format is also very useful for collaborating with people from other countries
  • Long file names do not work well with all types of software
  • Special characters sucha s ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ; < > ? , [ ] { } | should be avoided
  • Do not use spaces. Some software will not recongize file names with spaces. Alternate options include:
    • Type of data
    • Underscores, e.g. file_name.xxx
    • Dashes, e.g. file-name.xxx
    • No separation, e.g. filename.xxx
    • Camel case, where the first letter of each section of text is capitalized, e.g. FileName.xxx
File renaming:
Software applications for bulk file renaming: