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This chapter is from the book

Naming Documents

After you create a new file, the first thing you should do is save it, and as you work on it you should get in the habit of saving it regularly. What's the best name to use? If the file is for your own personal use, you can make up your own file-naming system. If you're working as part of a group, you'll want to devise a standard that everyone can agree on and then follow that standard.

Whether the file-naming system is just for you or for an entire team, the most important guideline is to be consistent. As we explain in this chapter, you can use the search tools built into Windows and Office to find just about any file. But a file with a descriptive name is much easier to pick out of a list. Some people begin each filename with a keyword (report, homework, budget) that helps define the type of content. You might want to add the creation date (using a format YYYYMMDD) to help you see at a glance which version of a file is the most recent one: "Homework-English 101-20071031" is pretty descriptive, wouldn't you say?

Regardless of how you choose to name files, be sure you know the file-naming rules that apply to all Office documents:

  • A filename can contain any alphanumeric character, including the letters A to Z and numbers from 0 to 9.
  • A filename can be as short as 1 character and as long as a total of 255 characters, including the full path—drive letter, colon, backslashes, and folder names included.
  • The following special characters are allowed in a filename: $ % - _ @ ~ ` ! ( ) ^ # & + , ; =.
  • You may use spaces, brackets ([ ]), curly braces ({ }), single quotation marks, apostrophes, and parentheses within a filename.
  • You may not use a slash (/), a backslash (\), a colon (:), an asterisk (*), a question mark (?), a quotation mark ("), or angle brackets (< >) as part of a filename. These characters are reserved for use with the file system, and you'll see an error message if the name you enter includes any of these characters.
  • Office files typically include a three- or four-letter extension, which is added automatically by the application that created the file (such as .docx for files created using the default Word 2007 format). File extensions define the association between a document type and the program that is used to create it. However, a file extension is not required, nor are file extensions restricted to a specific length. We don't recommend changing extensions unless you understand the full consequences of doing so. To force an Office program to use the exact name and extension that you specify, enter the full name, including the extension, between quotation marks. (Filename extensions are normally hidden; to make them visible, open Control Panel, Folder Options, click the View tab, and clear the Hide Extensions for Known File Types check box.)
  • A filename may contain one or more periods. Windows treats the last period in the name as the dividing line between the filename and its extension.
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