How to Name Files

Get tips on naming files so that you'll be able to use your computer to easily find exactly what you need, when you need it.

Stever Robbins
Episode #134

How to Use Version Numbers in File Names

If you have a file that you change often, you can be paranoid like me and save every single version of the file. Just add V1, V2, etc. to the end of the file name. If you anticipate the versions will go into the double digits, use V01, V02, etc. For example, CHARACTER STUDY Dancing Tree V001, CHARACTER STUDY Dancing Tree V002, and so on.  (I have a Quick Tip that might make this a little easier)

If you’re collaborating with someone who will be working on the file with you, it gets a bit trickier. If you send Melvin CHARACTER STUDY Dancing Tree V001, because you want feedback from someone with the personality of a juniper bush, he’ll add his comments and save the file with a new name, something like Dancing Tree Notes with Melvin Comments. The instant you get the file back from Melvin, rename it to the next version number in your series, so at least your life stays neat and orderly, despite his attempts to destroy your psyche and steal your job by screwing up your file naming convention. I shouldn’t pick on Melvin. In ten years of doing this, I’ve found many people change the filename around completely, and no one has ever seen V001 and thought to change it to V002.

How to Use Dates in File Names

The secret to good file names is alphabetizing so you can find the files you need.

The last tricky thing is dates. My director Kim sends me notes nightly, telling how my performance can be improved. Maybe I need to lift a branch, or tilt a little to the right. I call these Director Notes and then add the date. But how do I write the date? Dates have all these numbers. 4-10-10 is April 10th. When I alphabetize, that file gets put right next to 4-10-09, which was April 10th, 2009 (it’s taken a while for me to get this dancing tree thing down). It’s worse if you live in a country where dates start with the day number: 4-10-10 is October 4th, and it will get sorted right next to other files created on the 4th of any month.

What alphabetizes correctly and works in any country is to put the four-digit year first, followed by the two-digit month number, and the two-digit day. Kim’s nightly notes end up as Director Notes 2010-04-10, Director notes 2010-04-11, and so on. I can send them to cast member Yasmin in Europe. She immediately understands the dates, and can sort them in chronological order.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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