See the following pages for detailed explanations for each convention.
Avoid using spaces, underscores, or periods between words. Instead, use hyphens between words.
Avoid use of uppercase characters.
Use lower case characters, even if the file name is a proper noun or name.
Do not use non-alphanumeric characters.
Replace characters such as: * : \ / < > | " ? [ ] ; = + & £ $ , with hyphens or an equivalent word,
e.g., replace ‘&’ with ‘and'.
Avoid using unconventional abbreviations or acronyms.
e.g. student-outreach-resource-center is better than SOURCE.
Always include the file extension at the end of documents and image filenames.
It is very important that files end in their respective file format. e.g., .pdf, .doc, .ppt
Write dates back to front.
If using a date in the file name always state the date 'back to front', and use four-digit years, two-digit months, and two-digit days: YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY-MM or YYYY or YYYY-YYYY.
Use version numbers.
The version number of a file should be indicated in its file name by the inclusion of 'v' followed by the version number. Use two-digit numbers unless it is a year or another number with more than two digits.
Include the stock photo ID number at the end of images.
If a photo is from a stock photo resource such as Getty Images, it may be helpful to include the stock photo ID number in the filename.
Last Name, First Name.
When including a personal name in a filename, state the last name first followed by the first name.
1. Keep file names short and relevant.
File names should be kept as short as possible while also being meaningful. Long file names mean long file paths which increase the likelihood of error and are more difficult to remember and recognize.
However, avoid using initials, abbreviations, and codes that are not commonly understood. This is particularly important for records that have to be kept for a long period of time as the meaning of the acronym may not be known over time.
Some words, like ‘the’ and ‘and’ add length to a file name but do not contribute towards the meaning. If the remaining file name is still meaningful within the context of the file directory, these elements can be removed. Where words have standard abbreviations, for example, ‘cttee’ for ‘committee’, these can be used in the file name.
2. Avoid using spaces, underscores, or periods between words.
Some applications and computer scripts may not recognize spaces or will process files differently when they include spaces, underscores, or periods. Spaces are replaced with `%20` when encountered in a file name on a web server; spaces are not supported characters in URLs. This results in a hard to read filename.
For example “How to name files.pdf” becomes “how%20to%20name%20files.pdf”
Spaces, underscores, or periods should be replaced with hyphens (-) except when indicating the file extension type (e.g. .doc, .pdf, .ppt, etc.)
Replacing spaces, underscores, and periods with hyphens (-) will ensure files and URLs still work properly and increase legibility.
3. Avoid use of uppercase characters.
To keep filenames consistent, use lowercase characters for all filenames. This increases legibility and creates efficiencies.
In this example, by changing the capitalized letters to all lowercase and including hyphens (-) between each word makes each filename easier to read and presents a consistent look.
4. Do not use non-alphanumeric characters.
Non-alphanumeric characters are not supported or recognized within a URL string, or they may carry special meaning and not function as expected.
Further, different operating systems (such as Linux, OS X, Windows) have different file name requirements, in particular different characters that they do not recognize in file names. The use of these characters can cause problems.
Even if your operating system allows you to save the file, you may encounter difficulties if you try to transport the file to another operating system. The file may not be recognized, or if you send it to someone else they may not be able to open it.
Avoid: * : \ / < > | " ? [ ] ; = + & £ $ , .
However, hyphens (-) may be used.
Most non-alphanumeric characters can be omitted without much loss of meaning, e.g. commas and quotation marks. Others can be replaced with alphanumeric characters, e.g. "&" and "+" can be replaced with "And" and "Plus". Hyphens can be used in place of forward slashes and brackets.
5. Avoid using unconventional abbreviations and acronyms.
Avoid using initials, abbreviations, acronyms, and codes that are not commonly understood. This is particularly important for records that have to be kept for a long period of time as the meaning of the acronym may not be known over time. Spelling words out helps with SEO and search results.
In this example, SOURCE is an acronym that is not widely known. Spelling out the acronym helps provide clarity on what it stands for, especially for users not familiar with the center.
6. Always include the file extension at the end of documents and image filenames.
File extensions are usually three or four digits long, but can be longer. These are added to the end of the filename. Typically these are automatically added by the program or application they are created in. However, there are times when file extensions are missing and should be added. These file extensions help both the web server and users quickly identify what type of file it is and how it can be used.
Without file extensions it is difficult to assess what types of files are listed. By adding the file extension to each file, a user can quickly scan the list of files and select the exact file they need.
7. Write dates back to front.
If using a date in the file name always state the date 'back to front', and use four-digit years, two-digit months, and two-digit days: YYYYMMDD or YYYYMM or YYYY or YYYY-YYYY.
Dates should always be presented 'back to front', that is with the year first (always given as a four-digit number), followed by the month (always given as a two-digit number), and the day (always given as a two-digit number). Giving the dates back to front means that the chronological order of the records is maintained when the file names are listed in the file directory. This helps when trying to retrieve the latest dated record.
This example shows the minutes and papers of a committee. By stating the date back to front the minutes and papers appear chronologically in order from the oldest to the newest and will be grouped by date.
8. Use version numbers.
The version number of a record should be indicated in its file name by the inclusion of 'v' followed by the version number.
Some records go through a number of versions. For example, they start out as working drafts, become consultation drafts and finish with a final draft, which may then be reviewed and updated at a later date. It is important to be able to differentiate between these various drafts by giving them each their own number.
Where a version number is applicable, it should always appear in the file name of the record so that the most recent version can be easily identified and retrieved.
When using numbers, be sure to include at least a two-digit numbering pattern.
Avoid using temporary names such as ‘draft’ or ‘final’.
This shows a number of versions of an event announcement. None of the versions are marked as draft or final because the version number of the file means that these labels are not applicable.
9. Include the stock photo ID number at the end of images.
Files from stock photo resources such as Getty Images are typically referenced by a stock photo ID. When renaming the file to follow the naming conventions, include the stock photo ID number at the end of the file.
By adding the appropriate stock photo ID number to the filename, users can easily identify the image is a stock photo image and what the stock photo ID number is. This helps a user if they ever need to go back to the stock photo company to request a new download of the file.
10. Last Name, First Name.
When including a personal name in a filename state the last name first followed by the first name.
It may be appropriate to include within a filename the name of an individual, usually when the record is a piece of correspondence or a photograph of a person. When it is appropriate to include a personal name it should be given as last name first followed by first name and middle name, if appropriate, as it is most likely the record will be retrieved according to the last name of the individual.
This filename represents a photograph of Ellen J. MacKenzie. By putting the last name first, the file directory will display this file with the M's, which is where you would expect to find an image of Mrs. MacKenzie.