10 Best Practices for Naming Files & Folders for You and Your Team

Does this look familiar?

Do you get annoyed when someone sends you a file that is named “document.pdf” or “resume.doc”?

Whenever I receive a file like this I cringe and a few things comes to mind:

  1. They are lazy
  2. They are disorganized
  3. They are clueless
The biggest benefit of using good naming conventions for your files and folders is saving time.

In todays collaborative environment, nothing is worse than having to open up a bunch of files to see what is inside or not being able to find the file at all. Life will be so much easier for everyone, including the people you send files to, if you start implementing these 10 best practices.

File & Folder Naming 10 Best Practices

  1. Do not use cryptic codes that only YOU understand. Make it mean something to everyone else. (bad example: prj12–1spl.doc)
  2. Keep names as short as possible by using common abbreviations, such as Jan for January or Corp for Corporation.
  3. Use descriptive information and include dates in files names if possible. We should know what’s in the file without having to open it (bad example: document.pdf)
  4. Reference company name(s) within file. If you are sending a contract to a company make sure that your company and the other company are in the file name.
  5. Avoid special characters all together (like ~ ! @ # $ %, etc). Characters such as / ? < > \ : * | “ ^ are also prohibited in file or folder names. The only exception to this rule is the ampersand ‘&’. This is okay because all systems accept this and many company names contain an ‘&’.
  6. Spaces are acceptable. You don’t need to use an underscore ‘_’ or dash ‘-‘ anymore. Gone are the days of unix and linux requirements.
  7. Do not exceed 260 characters for total folder & file character count. C:\Users\Panda\My Documents\Dropbox\Creative Nonfiction\My Autobiography\Favorite Things\Favorite Foods\Bamboo\Family Recipes\Fresh Leaves.doc (142 characters)
  8. Use sequential numbering (01, 02, etc instead of 1, 2, etc)
  9. Use Title Casing (Capital first letter of every word)
  10. User version numbers if files will have multiple iterations (V1, V2, V2.1)

Below are some good example of files names

  • The Why Builder Contract & SOW — ABC Corp (4–1–2019).pdf
  • The Why Builder Business Optimization Proposal — ABC Corp (4–15–2019).pdf
  • Rip Bar — Ingredients Costing Model v3.xlsm
  • Wonky Electronics — Shopify Sales Report (01–01–2019 to 03–31–2019).csv
  • Wonky Electronics — Shopify Sales Report (04–01–2019 to 06–30–2019).csv

By using good naming conventions you spare people the frustration of going on a scavenger hunt. At the time when you create the file you may not care but as soon as anyone needs to access the file down the road you may never find it again.

Make implementing good file and folder naming conventions a part of your business and your life. Help teach these 10 best practices and find some of your own that will make not just your life easier but the people around. You will never regret when you and your team use good file and folder naming conventions. Make this your badge of honor and wear it proudly.

About the Author Mike Lord