In search of electronic file naming conventions

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Anyone who has worked with me has likely experienced my efforts to find some great file I want to share and then watch me struggle to easily retrieve it off my MacBook Air. As process focused as I am, I have been laxed in developing a good system for electronic file folder and file naming to support easy filing, searching, and retrieval. Hopefully not anymore.

After an unsatisfying Google Search for “File Naming Conventions”, I shot an email out to my fellow improvement advisor colleagues at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Here is what I have been using.


Example. IHI_2013-08-10_Not_Very_Descriptive_Title_v01

This was helpful in some ways because it tied the file to a project or client. The data helped with sorting chronologically and supported version control. The date hindered too because it did not allow like files to sort together. Finally, my actual naming of files was not adequate to enable the power of Mac OS’s search features. I often had to open the file to differentiate which it was. My method had room for improvement.

Several of my colleagues submitted their naming conventions and they had several similarities. They also used a client or project identifier and then they might include the file type, a descriptive title, followed at the end with the date as YYMMDD. If there was more than one version they would add that at the end too. Some also included a D or F at the end for draft or final. Here is an example.


Example. IHI_ISIA_Agenda_Faculty-Descriptive_130810_v03_D

This naming convention is helpful because it sorts like files (Charters, PDSAs, Measures, Agenda) together and sorts versions by date and version number. It does not sort them chronologically and does require some forethought when saving to make sure you stick with the format to benefit from the organization.

To test it, I used one project folder with roughly 25 files of different types and renamed all of the files. While I did loose the chronological order, I did find the sorting by type very organized and appealing. I also updated the descriptive naming of several files that were not named to facilitate knowing what they are or to enable searching. The end result was a much cleaner folder. Now the dilemma….do I apply this going forwards only or do I consider cleaning up my existing projects.

Next, I also need to think about standard work for my file folder system. What are the standard folders I use often (contracting, measurement, PDSAs, PowerPoint) I welcome any feedback.