Desktop and Dropbox file naming conventions and best practices

Medical Technology, Healthcare & Government IT

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How we name files in our desktop folders and folders is very important — all of our files are intellectual property of some sort and often take many hours to produce and maintain so they’re quite valuable. If a file can’t easily be found or discovered then it’s like the work done to create it has gone to waste.

When possible, always use or shared file storage and not your own desktop folder. Assume by default that all files will be shared at some point, not kept private.

Here are some tips for naming either desktop folder files (which don’t have automatic versioning) or files (which are versioned).

  • Name for findability, not ease of typing. A long sentence-like filename is better than a short easy to type filename because a file that can’t be found and easily identified is a useless file.
  • Use Title Case (you should use capital letters for the principal words) for filenames; treat a file name as if it’s a title or heading of a formal paper.
  • Assume that you’ll forget what’s in the file immediately after you create the file name when you name it. Try to give it a name that will be descriptive to other people as well as yourself. The more words in the file name, the easier it will be when you use search tools.
  • Use spaces to separate words, not underscores or dashes. File names should be easy to read as prose or subjects.

Here are some tips for naming desktop folder files (any folders which don’t have automatic versioning):

  • Include the date at the start of the file name, e.g. “YYYY-MM-DD”
  • Include the version after the date, e.g. “vXX”
  • Include the revision number after the version number, e.g. “rXX”
  • So, the name would be something like “YYYY-MM-DD vXX rXX My Really, Really, Descriptive Filename.docx”
  • For directories with a lot of files you can put the date / version at the end of the file so as to have easier sorting and can have file name like “My Really, Really, Descriptive Filename YYYY-MM-DD vXX rXX.docx”.

Here are some tips for naming Dropbox folder files (or any folders which have automatic versioning):

  • Do not include dates anywhere in the file name (the date is managed by the revisioning system)
  • Do not include version or revision numbers in the file name unless you want to keep two versions active simultaneously.


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