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Jenner institute guide to file and folder naming

This guide offers tips that are helpful when organising electronic files and records. Keep in mind that:

  • Efficient management of electronic records begins with accurate file‐naming. A file name should be clear and understandable to those who will use the files.
  • Many organizations utilise a network server to store files so that they are accessible from multiple locations by various personnel. Make sure that file names and folder structures make sense to more than just the creator.

Common File Naming Conventions

  • Avoid Special Characters . \ / : * ? “ < > | [ ] & $ ,
  • The characters listed above are frequently used for specific tasks in an electronic environment full stops have a specific function in a file name, which is to tell the computer program where the file‐name extension begins, such as .jpg and .doc. using them in a file or folder name could result in lost files or errors. An underscore or space can be used instead
  • The acceptable length of file names may be different among operating systems and software. Some systems allow up to 256 characters, while others allow far fewer.  This includes the path, so X:\\afolder\folder2\somthing interesting\project stuff\document of import.docx actually is:  \\Radius2\Jenner\afolder\folder2\something%20%interesting\project%20%stuff\document%20%of%20%import.docx as you can see white space does not exists and the space is represented by %20%.  For every space you are getting an additional four characters.  Further to that you also have the server name and the volume name added to the ‘true’ path
  • Avoid using words such as "a", "and', "of", "the" as well as "to" unless they contribute to the meaning of the file name
  • Use standard and appropriate abbreviations, when possible, to simplify the file name as long as other personnel will still know meaning of the word is
  • Use descriptive information and include all necessary information in the file name, independent of where it is stored
  • Files are frequently copied to other folders, downloaded, and then emailed. It is important to ensure that the file name, independent of the folder where the original file lives, is sufficiently descriptive

Common File Naming Conventions

  • Avoid naming a file with dates that do not make sense in relation to its original date of creation
  • For some types of records, it is useful to have the date at the beginning of the file name, while others might prefer it at the end. Either way, it is a useful sorting tool when the files are organised. Be sure to keep it consistent within that record type
  • When sorting a file chronologically by date the date in a file name should use the international date format (ISO 8601)
  • The international standard date notation is: YYYY_MM_DD or YYYYMMDD, where YYYY is the year, MM is the month of the year between 01 (January) and 12 (December), and DD is the day of the month between 01 and 31. For example, January 31, 2013 is written as 2013_01_31 or 20130131

Drafts and Revisions

To manage drafts and revisions efficently include a version number on these documents. A file will frequently have multiple versions, especially when it is created by a workgroup.  An easy way to do this is to use the letter v to represent version number. Then, v01, v02, v03 can be added as needed to a file and the main file name can stay the same. This is more effective than other terms, such as: update, new, old, etc.  The term FINAL can also be used to indicate the final version of a record. This can be helpful to quickly identify the official version.

Be Consistent

The most important rule of file‐naming is to be consistent. Some choices will need to be made about organisation that affects the entire Program ‐ where to include the date, what abbreviations to use, etc. Regardless of what the group decides, it is only effective if everyone follows the rules consistently.


Remember that these tips will not apply unconditionally to every situation; it should be used as a guide to encourage the development of consistent folder and file‐naming practices.  When an electronic folder hierarchy is shared between multiple personnel, things can get messy quickly because everyone thinks about organizing and finding files in different ways. When a filing structure is well designed it will allow personnel to access records more effectively.

Electronic Folder Structure

Provide an understandable and accessible location for all records, encouraging users to work within it. This reduces the risk of critical information being lost within a file system as well as motivating users to move records out of personal drives or email accounts.


A filing system does not prevent users from placing records in the wrong folder if they have access to it. Poorly constructed filing structure will only discourage personnel from using it and exacerbate record management issues.

Folder Naming Conventions

Folder naming conventions provide all information within the system with a coherent context and logical frame of reference.  Name electronic folders for “find‐ability.” A record that can’t be found and easily identified is a useless file. Folder names should contain information that leads to easy retrieval and identification. But don’t overdo it ‐ avoid extra‐long folder names. File name elements should be ordered from general to specific detail of importance as much as possible.  Assume that you’ll forget what’s in the folder immediately after you create the file name when you name it. Try to use a name that will be descriptive to other people as well as yourself.

Use Title Case

Use capital letters for the principal words for filenames.


Archive Folder A repository for maintaining records.  Electronic Record Machine‐readable record that requires hardware and software to be accessed and read. Includes documents such as spreadsheets, databases, images, video and audio recordings. Because electronic records rely on technology to be accessible, they require active management if you plan on being able to read them more than five years from now.

File System A method for storing and organizing electronic files and the data they contain to make it easy to find and access them.

Folder A type of aggregation or container within a file system used to store records (and other folders). It is the principle building block of a filing structure.

Record Information or data on a particular subject, in any medium, that is created or received in the normal course of business, that is preserved, either temporarily or permanently, because it provides objective evidence of OWM policies, procedures, activities, and decisions and have technical, administrative, historical, and/or legal value.

Record Management The practice of formally managing records in a file system (electronic or paper) including classifying, capturing, storing, and disposal.

Shared Drive A specialisation of an operating system file system, comprising of a shared device (e.g., hard disk or server space) used by multiple users and accessed over either a local area network or a wider area network connection.