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Good File Naming Techniques: Another Organizational Aid

With a network of well-defined folders in place, your filenames can now become shorter and more descriptive themselves.

As you create a document, whether it is a spreadsheet or a word processing document, think about a name for it that fully and accurately describes its contents. Use the following tips as a guide for coming up with that all-important document name:

  • Want to be able to uncover a file just by glancing through the appropriate folder? A good filename can make a world of difference. Make the name short but descriptive.

  • Let's go back to my CBCNS newsletter example. If I included the school's name in every filename, as well as the document's title (such as a spreadsheet named CBCNS Budget, a Word document named CBCNS Grant Application, and so on), it would be much harder to find the file I want because they would all begin with CBCNS. A better filing strategy would be to create a special CBCNS folder; that way, I can simply call the documents Budget or Grant App. Of course, if I only use the computer for school volunteer work, there may not be a need for the school's name to be on the document or folder at all.

  • Consider using a date or year somewhere in the filename if it's relevant. Documents with names such as Budget, New Budget, and Projected Budget, for example, are not as comprehensive as Fall 02 Budget or 2003 Projected Budget.

  • Name the way you work. If your work involves creating many types of documents for a single entity (such as budgets, newsletters, and grant applications for the school alone), then you will want to emphasize the document's contents in its filename. If, however, you create a quarterly newsletter for multiple entities (the nursery school, the Parent-Teacher Association, a local animal rescue organization, and so on), you will want the entity's name to appear prominently in the file's name. Why not create a separate folder for each entity? Four documents a year doesn't really warrant a separate folder, so you may want to consider archiving the newsletters into folders dedicated to a specific year instead.

Some of these tips may seem to clash with one another at first glance. For example, how can you have a short, descriptive filename when you are trying to incorporate a date, an organization's name, and the type of document? The answer is simpler than you may think. For starters, try combining the folder and file naming strategies discussed previously. The two naming strategies are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they should, and do, work hand-in-hand to get the job done.

Remember, the goal here is to keep the number of entries in a given folder or directory to a minimum. Given that, it is extremely helpful if you take a long, hard look at the way you intend to use your new computer. Every little detail, from the total number of documents you create over the span of a year to the types of documents, influences how you name your folders and files. Although sophisticated file searching tools make finding things a lot easier than it used to be, nothing beats good file organization from the get-go!

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