A good file name is one that enables not just its creator but also anyone else within the institution to identify its content and context and to make a decision about its relevance without having to open the file itself.
In order to achieve this a file name should be:
Qualities of a good file name
When you use subjective terms what makes perfect sense to you might be far less clear to someone else, especially if they are unfamiliar with the work you do.
- Bad practice – “Current team chart”
- Good practice – “IT services organisation chart 2012″
Abbreviations and personal shorthands are unlikely to be understood by others and may be open to misinterpretation – especially if others use the same abbreviation in another context.
- Bad practice – “AcBd mins 0411″
- Good practice – “2011 04 18 Academic Board Minutes”
Long and rambling file names risk losing the important information amongst the trivial. It can also make it hard for other users to scan quickly through long lists of files to locate the correct one.
Often information such as the author will be captured as metadata by the application used to create the information and there is no need to duplicate it.
- Bad practice – “Trip report and other thoughts relating to records management from the Jisc conference in Birmingham by Steve Bailey”
- Good practice – “2012 03 13 Jisc conference trip report”
Agreeing and following standards is the key to ensuring your file names are as widely understood as possible. Without standards you don’t know whether 0307 is a date in March or July or a month in 2003 or 2007, or if SMT is the senior management team or the school of media and technology. It is not possible to tell you what standards your institution should be following.
However, it is possible to list the types of thing you should perhaps consider. In some cases these should define the format in which they are to be expressed (ie, all dates should be YYYYMMDD). In others it might be a list of approved terms that can be used in each area:
- Subject areas
- External bodies & agencies
- Job titles
- Personal names
- Buildings and other locations
- Types of information (eg, minutes, agendas, project initiation documents etc).