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Easily navigate file naming conventions

by Casey Schmidt  |  February 20, 2020

3 min. read
A picture of files organized alphabetically.

File naming conventions (FNC) changed the entire digital file maintenance system, especially for companies. The benefits are enormous if executed correctly so make sure you get it right. Why are FNCs so important today? Here are some details you need to learn, beginning with the absolute basics.

What is a file naming convention?

A file naming convention (FNC) is a blueprint to name files efficiently. This type of outline helps describe the contents of files, as well as differences that separate it from other files. It usually indicates things like dates, author name, file version and the section to which the file officially belongs. Ultimately, file naming conventions help companies store and organize files efficiently.

Think of an FNC like an instruction manual for a television remote control. The manual offers a guideline to best use the remote, which in turn optimizes the user’s TV viewing experience. It visually organizes the buttons on the remote for the user as well, providing a way to quickly find the necessary button to click. Whenever there is a button that isn’t self-explanatory, the guide offers helpful details.

A picture of a remote control on top of a notebook.
An FNC is similar to a remote control.

Why are file naming conventions important?

One thing an established FNC offers is the ability to locate specific files quickly and efficiently. This is because a detailed file name creates transparent images of information within a file. This ties into another valuable part of an FNC – having an understanding of what each file holds. Users no longer have to wonder who created a file or when it was made. The FNC gives them this information, among many other important details.

An FNC boosts company efficiency because it helps them organize and find company projects. Teams quickly identify projects of correctly labeled file names. The faster the project files are located, the quicker they can be edited and finished. This is especially true for companies, as they work with increasingly more digital files as technology progresses. Similarly, the more files you have, the better it is to have them sorted efficiently.

What are some key ideas to remember about file naming?

It’s important to create a layout that guides users towards correct FNC standards. The first step is to create a company-wide format for all file naming. Maintaining a singular format ensures consistency and organization across all channels. Implement project details such as authorship or other guidelines in the exact same manner each time. This type of consistency drives efficiency and success.

A picture of a nametag on top of a laptop.
Remember to use a universal format for file naming.

The next important step is to include specific details about the contents of the file on each naming. For example, things like dates, location and author/user names should be part of the file title. This ensures basic levels of file organization and transparency. It also automatically separates files among themselves and restricts users from different departments from accidentally retaining similar or identical files.

Potential future considerations

As a company grows so do its files. File name overlap is inevitable so ensure you set a scheduled time to evaluate your database. This evaluation should review whether or not current file naming conventions are interfering with previous naming. Remember to extend these evaluations further than administrators – this type of effort usually requires a company-wide effort.

Here’s a detailed example showing the importance of avoiding file overlap. If projects are named the acronym PJ with the number starting at 0.00, eventually the number space will run out and naming will have to restart at 0.00. When this happens make sure depth is added to the procedures so files remain separate and easy to maintain. Without this added depth, overlap is unavoidable and potentially devastating.

A hand picking from a stack of shredded paper.
Files clutter without a guided naming procedure.

FNC is part of the overarching goal to keep files organized. The next step in the process is implementing software that automates storage and metadata. Digital asset management is the key for many enterprises to avoid the need for file naming guidelines. Digital asset management systems like Canto organize everything for you so there’s no need for complicated naming conventions. Everything is tagged automatically and can be found with a simple search.