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Thread: General Discussion: Filenaming system

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    General Discussion: Filenaming system

    Setting Up a Filing System Part 2: Active vs. Historical Files

    By Jodith | FEB 9, 2010

    One thing to consider when setting up your filing system is how you are going to treat active versus historical files.
    Essentially, active files are ones you still need to have regular access to while historical files are those which you are unlikely need to access to, but which need to be kept for legal purposes.
    Types of Active Files

    When you start thinking about active files, your main consideration is how often you need to access those files.

    • Working Files – generally, I keep files I’m currently working with in my desk drawer or on a file holder on my desk. In other words, I keep them in a place where I don’t have to get up from my desk to retrieve them.
    • Reference Files – files that I access less than once a week or so are filed in a file cabinet further away from my desk. If I need to refer to them less than daily but more than once a week, they often go in a rolling file cabinet that I keep handy. It’s easy to roll over to my desk as I need it, but can be rolled out of the way if I don’t.

    There are no clear cut guidelines as to which files to keep close to you and which ones can be filed further away. What you need to keep handy will depend on the job you do and the files you need to access frequently.

    Purging Historical Files

    Once files pass the time when they are used for reference, you have to decide if those files will be purged or archived. Certain files, like financial and legal files, need to be retained for a minimum amount of time before they are purged. Other files can be purged at any time. I found a pretty good retention schedule for the files you need to keep and how long you should keep them. Your company may have a retention schedule that they use. Always be sure and check, because you should always keep files at a minimum of what is called for by your corporate retention policy. If your company doesn’t have a file retention policy, you should look into suggesting one for adoption.
    Once files pass the point of being active, you should either purge them or archive them, depending on your needs and company policy. Any records that are confidential or contain confidential information (such as payroll files and any information such as social security numbers or credit card information) should be securely shredded. Many companies are available who are bonded and can provide a certificate of destruction of this information.
    Files that should be archived should be boxed and sent to wherever you archive your files. Be sure to mark the contents clearly on all sides of the box, and include a list of all files in the box for easy reference. You’ll want to keep that list for yourself, as well, so you can easily find an archived file if you need it.
    Next Post: Setting Up Your Files.
    Setting Up A Filing System Part 4: Naming Computer Files

    By Jodith | FEB 22, 2010

    Naming computer files in most ways is the same as naming any other file, except for a few conventions you need to think about.
    Using Special Characters

    Generally, when naming computer files in Windows, you cannot use the following characters:

    • < (less than)
    • > (greater than)
    • : (colon)
    • ” (double quote)
    • / (forward slash)
    • \ (backslash)
    • | (vertical bar or pipe)
    • ? (question mark)
    • * (asterisk)

    However, there are other characters which are allowed under Windows that you should avoid.

    • Period or dot (.) should only be used before the file name extension (i.e. .doc, .ppt, .mdb, .txt, etc.). While you can throw a dot in anywhere, it can be confusing to others looking at the file name. Convention holds that it is used only to separate the file name from the file type extension.
    • Spaces can be used between words, but I recommend against it. The reason being that if you need to post a document on-line or upload it to a SharePoint library, those spaces are going to be replaced with the html code for a space, making the link hard to remember. Either use no spaces or replace spaces with underscores (_).
    • Other special characters should be avoided for the same reason that you may want to upload that document to a website at some point, and internet addresses cannot contain most special characters. So, unless you want to have to rename every file containing #, @, %, & or other special characters in the name before you upload it to your SharePoint document library, just don’t use them to start with. I had to rename over 200 documents one day because they all contained a # sign in the name.

    Your best bet is to just not use anything but alphanumeric characters plus the dash and underscore keys when naming files.
    Name Length

    Windows allows file names to have up to 255 characters, which sounds like a huge amount, until you realize that the name of each file includes the name of every directory it is buried in. So, if you have a file buried under 5 directories, each with a long name, you can easily exceed the 255 character limit. If you move a file with a really long name into a directory many levels deep, all with long names, you’ll suddenly get an error when you try to open the file, because the file name is now more than 255 characters in length. When I did help desk work for a local refinery, I got at least one call from this problem a week, because everyone used very descriptive directory and file names, and would build these extremely deep file structures. The lesson here is to think about the length of all file and directory names when you are creating your filing system and naming files.
    Dates in File Names

    Putting dates in file names requires some special rules if you want your files listed in date order within your directory. Here’s some basic rules to follow:

    • Always use a 4 digit year and put the year first in the date. Otherwise, your files will be listed by month (or day if you use European dating conventions) with all years mixed together.
    • Don’t spell out month names (January, February, etc.) since this will put April ahead of March and December ahead of October and November.
    • Always use 2 digit month and day. If you don’t, you’ll see November (10) and December (12) listed before February or March (2 and 3). The reason for this is that Windows filing system does not recognize dates. It lists files strictly in alphanumeric order. So any file starting with 1 will proceed any file starting with 2. The way around this is to list 2 as 02 and 3 as 03.
    • All dates should be in the form of yyyy-mm-dd i.e. 2010-02-20). I know Europeans like the day then month format, but your electronic files won’t file properly if you put the day first.

    While your only consideration in naming paper files is clarifying what the file contains, when you name electronic files, you have many other conventions to consider.

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    Pinterest7 Comments so far
    1. Marc Accetta (1 comments) March 2, 2010 10:15 pm
      When we name our files, we make sure that we have the date on it as well as it is segregated by folders for each department.
    2. Jodith (180 comments) March 13, 2010 12:18 pm
      That’s usually a good way to go. When you have a date in the title, you always know you’re getting the most up to date version of file.
    3. Layne (1 comments) March 13, 2010 7:15 pm
      Really great suggestions. I work with management and staff who have a habit of naming files and then difficulty locating them. I love your suggestions with the dates, works great with monthly reports. I would like to suggest in your series on “How To” set up a filing system electronically if you would include a write up on naming files. Some suggestions that make it easy to locate, uses consistency so when you sort you would see all the memo, letters, etc. separately. That kind of thing. I know you get the gist of what I’m saying. I think it would be a great addition to your series.
      Thank you for the great suggestions. I love coming here and learning new tips and techniques that make my job that much easier.
      .-= Layne´s last blog ..Templates: Creating Style and Ease =-.
    4. Jodith (180 comments) March 21, 2010 12:30 pm
      That’s a really good suggestion, Layne. Thanks for leaving it. I’ll work on a naming conventions post for this coming week.
    5. Jess (1 comments) March 24, 2010 10:51 pm
      Thanks for covering in detail the dates in naming files. I very well apply it.
      .-= Jess´s last blog ..Alpha Brainwave Entrainment Video =-.
    6. panasonic toughbook 18 (1 comments) January 18, 2011 11:13 pm
      Great tips on how to properly use dates in file names. I like doing this because it gives me an idea on how new or how obsolete my files are. Admittedly, my files are all jumble up because I failed to put in the year first. I have figured out a way to go through my files that way, but it would be a lot easier with the things you have suggested. Thanks!
    7. Bruce (1 comments) March 3, 2011 8:20 pm
      Pretty informative article. I’m always amazed at the things the users in my work do when naming their files and folders. I think i’ll send this one out to our staff to get them a bit more educated on how to go about naming files.
      Bruce´s last [type] ..Quick Tip- Changing the Host Name in Ubuntu


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Setting Up A Filing System Part 5: More on Naming Computer Files

    By Jodith | APR 29, 2010

    I talked about naming computer files in Part 4 of Setting Up a Filing System, but I mostly talked about Windows file naming conventions. In comments, Layne made another suggestion:
    I would like to suggest in your series on “How To” set up a filing system electronically if you would include a write up on naming files. Some suggestions that make it easy to locate, uses consistency so when you sort you would see all the memo, letters, etc. separately. That kind of thing. I know you get the gist of what I’m saying. I think it would be a great addition to your series.
    This is a great suggestion, Layne. I’m always being asked to find files that someone else named and now can’t find. Having a naming convention for file types can be extremely helpful in organizing files, especially in network folders where multiple people are saving documents.
    When I was learning MS Access years ago, a programmer taught me to name all of my elements starting with the type of element. For example, all table names began with TBL, and all query names began with QRY. That way, when you were looking at the elements of a database, it was easy to distinguish what each element was without having to open and look at it.
    Planning Your Naming Conventions

    This type of naming convention can work with standard document files as well. Look at, in general, the types of documents you save. Memos, letters, faxes, policies, whatever you save on a regular basis, and then make up your own naming conventions that everyone should follow. MEM for memo, LTR for letters, etc. Of course, you’ll need management buy-in for a policy like this, but it can make finding files quicker and easier. If you know the file you want is a memo, then you sort by name and look at all files beginning with MEM. For bookkeeping files, you might have INV for invoices and BIL for bills. This is especially handy if you are a paperless office and shred everything after scanning it into your computer systems. While many of us keep separate folders for AP and AR, if you have a file type naming convention, you can easily see if a document was filed in the wrong folder, which is handy.
    You’ll still want to keep your hierarchy of files, but even with several folder depths, you can still get folders with hundreds of files. A file type naming convention can help you wade through those files to find the one you want more easily.
    Consistency Is The Key

    Whatever naming convention you choose, consistency is vital in its application. Little things like what goes between the file type and the rest of the name is very important. If the convention is space dash space (i.e. MEM – Casual Friday), everyone must be consistent in using that, or it will mess up the system. Windows doesn’t interpret file names, it lists them alphabetically exactly as they are typed. So “MEM – Casual Friday” will be listed before “MEM-Casual Friday” and everything else that skips the spaces.
    Utilizing Windows To Its Fullest

    In my next post, I’ll talk about setting up Windows Explorer to also help make finding files easier.
    Similar Posts:


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    File Naming

    File naming is an important component of file management. Here are the basic rules and recommendations.

    Follow basic computer system rules for file naming
    Use unique file names for each image
    Avoid incorporating job names or descriptions in file names
    Append file names to distinguish originals from derivatives
    Apply file-naming system consistently
    Never use multiple names for the same image file

    Follow basic computer system rules for file naming

    Naming (or re-naming) digital image files is a key organizational task in digital image workflow because it is the most basic element of your file system structure. Digital cameras do not currently have very sophisticated naming options and the default names are confusing and lack one of the most important criterions for digital image file naming – each file name must be unique.

    • Letters in the name should only be the letters of the Latin alphabet (A-Z, a-z).
    • Numbers should only be the numerals 0-9.
    • Only use hyphens and underscores. Avoid any other punctuation marks, accented letters, non-Latin letters, and other non-standard characters such as forward and back slashes, colon, semi-colon, asterisks, angle brackets or brackets.
    • File names should end in a three-letter file extension preceded by a period, such as .CR2, .JPG, .TIFF, etc.

    Use unique file names for each image

    The next important criterion is each digital image file should have a unique file name. Having multiple files with the same name is confusing to photographer and clients alike. There is the danger that a file might automatically overwrite another file with the same name. How you arrive at unique file names will require some thought. Once you have developed a system, it is important to standardize and adhere to it. Some parameters that can be used to develop unique names can incorporate:

    • Your name or initials as the beginning of the string. Keep in mind that you are limited to 31 characters, so short names or initials work best.
    • The date of the photography session. This works best if you use year, month and day to keep files lined up in chronological order.
    • A job sequence number. The first project of the year might have a date/job string such as 09001, and so on. This will cause files to line up in job number order.
    • A sequence number. This number can begin at 0001 and go until the end of the job (make sure to have enough digits to contain the total number of files, or your files won’t line up correctly!) Many photographers like this model because they tell at a glance if the total number of files matches the final file number. Another reason to use this system is that the order in which files line up (and are likely viewed and proofed) can be controlled easily by organizing the files in a desired order and then renaming them. Another approach is to use the automatically generated numbers from the camera. One problem with that approach is that this cannot guarantee unique job names if you use more than one camera when you shoot.

    Avoid incorporating job names or descriptions in file names

    Although you can do this, it is easy to run into an overly long file name using this approach. Another consideration is that if you do a lot of shoots for a particular client or at a particular location, you’ll have to use some other naming string to differentiate the shoots from one another, so the descriptive component of the name is not particularly helpful.

    Append file names to distinguish originals from derivatives

    One final criterion is to have a file naming system that allows you to easily tell whether a file is an original file, masterfile or derivative file. There are any number of possible variants such as a black-and-white version, a CMYK version, or a standard file format version from a raw original, such as JPEG or TIFF.
    Plan for this and incorporate enough headroom into your file-naming schema to add a descriptor for these variations. For instance, a masterfile could have the letter M or MF or Master added at the end of the file name, but just in front of the three-letter extension. A CMYK version could have CMYK added, or a black-and-white version could have BW added, and so on.

    Apply the file-naming system consistently

    Once you have created a file naming system, use it consistently for all files. Just as with the optional workflow step of converting proprietary raw files to DNG, there can be early binding file naming or late binding file naming. While many prefer to implement a file naming schema on ingestion, those who use multiple cameras when they shoot, or those who want to organize image files in a particular order and have the file names preserve that bit of organizational effort, prefer to re-name image files after the editing workflow step.

    Never use multiple names for the same image file

    One of the very worst things you can do with file naming is to create a situation where the same image file has two different names. This can occur if you make an immediate duplicate copy of the ingested files, put away a copy and go on to edit and rename the other copy.
    A workflow like that will be doubly confusing because not only will the file names not match up, but the total number of files may be different as well. Although there are work-arounds such as matching up image files by capture time, or putting the original file name into a metadata field and matching files up that way, it creates more work and wastes time.
    However, putting the file name into a metadata field, such as the “Title Field”, is useful for delivery files. This allows you to easily recover from situations where the files’ recipient renames them and then needs another version of the same image.
    You can direct the person to where the original file name is stored and your search time becomes much shorter! Additionally, keeping the original file name in the metadata can be useful when you need to rename a file for use on your web page. This will make it more discoverable by search engines.

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