Document Naming Tips

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Overt time I’ve realized the importance of using standardized naming conventions for documents and folders.  Essentially, “standardized naming conventions” means using a set of rules to create names so they remain consistent and meaningful over time. It sounds like basic and easy practical advice to follow, but even I feel stumped by it sometimes.  The rules I’ve created definitely help, especially when saving draft documents, or notes that contain more than one topic.  It takes a few extra seconds to name a document properly, but saves me minutes (and hours) of time searching for it in the future.

Last year an exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum featured a newly discovered dinosaur, plus the standardized naming convention rules for naming the new dinosaur species.

Why are good document names important?

They help us locate our documents quickly, with a high rate of success. Standardized document names are beneficial regardless if we prefer searching (i.e. entering keywords into the search box) or browsing (i.e. following a folder chain).  And they’re incredibly useful when co-authoring, or sharing, documents.

Standardized naming will sort documents alphabetically, naturally grouping ones with similar titles.  This is useful for keeping track of recurring documents, or drafts with versions (e.g. v1, v2).

What makes a document name good?  

Good document names are descriptive of the content, have meaning, and are created consistently. Document titles such as “misc. stuff,” “notes Jan 17, 2017,” or “important to dos” quickly lose relevance and become ineffective for locating the document.

Consistency is critical.  I use standardized naming for monthly bills to find them quickly and to see if I’m missing something.  Here is an example of how I name monthly phone bills.  Instantly, I can see July is missing.

How to create good document names? 

  1. Develop standardized naming convention rules for your most commonly used documents.
  2. Structure document titles in a way that aids finding the documents.  I tend to use the document type as the first part of my naming convention (e.g. Template + type of template (handout, expense form, report, etc.) or Vendor name + type of expense + date).
    1. Put the piece of information most important (meaningful) to you at the start of the document name.  It could be the project name, the subject, the document type, the expense type, the vendor, the date, etc.
  3. Write the date according to ISO standard: yyyy-mm-dd (largest to smallest).
  4. Educate collaborators about the rules.
  5. Use them.

3 comments for “Document Naming Tips

  1. Anonymous
    16 May 2017 at 09:33

    Thank you for helpful tips to organize documents for easier searching.

  2. 16 May 2017 at 09:58

    I tend to subcategorise things in folder for a typical project, but there are time when those folder “walls” hinder my ability to find things too. Very interesting. What do you do about photos?

    • The Deletist
      17 May 2017 at 15:36

      The challenge with using things like traditional file folders to organize things rather than something like metadata, is that it will be harder to find things. When I’m feeling really organized and motivated, I use metadata built into my Apple Photos app to cross-reference photos (e.g. location, faces, descriptions, album names, etc.). This enables me to locate photos through a number of different options.

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