File Naming and Versioning


This is a set of conventions you define for naming data files and the folders you keep them in and for saving multiple versions of files.


Using naming/versioning conventions . . .

  • prevents accidental overwrites or deletion
  • makes it easier to locate specific data files
  • preserves differences in the information content or functionality of different file versions
  • prevents confusion if multiple people are working on shared files


CategorySpecific recommendations
File and folder names
  • Define a naming convention and use it consistently, especially if multiple people are sharing files.

  • Avoid " / \ : * ? " < > [ ] & $ in names. These characters have specific meanings in your computer's operating system that could result in misreading or deleting these files.

  • Use underscores (_) or type in CamelCase to separate terms, not spaces.
Folder names
  • Keep names short, 15-20 characters or less.

  • Use names that describe the general category of files the folder contains.

File names
  • Keep names short, no more than 25 characters.

  • Use names that describe the contents of the file, selecting 3-4 key pieces of information.

  • Include a date using the format recommended by ISO 8601: YYYY-MM-DD. This is important because the date stored with a file on your computer will be changed if the file is moved to another computer. As an international standard, it is easily recognized and interpreted widely.

  • Don't include the folder name in the file name, unless you are sharing files and there might be confusion about which folder a file should be added to.

An example file name is Mendota_Buoy6_20110711_v2
  • Mendota_Buoy6 refers to the lake and the buoy from which the data was collected.

  • 20110711 represents the date that the data was collected, and is written in ISO 8601.

  • v2 indicates that there was a previous version, and that there will be future versions, of this dataset.
File versions
  • Include a version number at the end of the file name such as v01. Change this version number each time the file is saved.

  • For the final version, substitute the word FINAL for the version number. This is especially important if files are being shared.

  • Turn on versioning or tracking in collaborative works or storage spaces such as Wikis, GoogleDocs, or MyWebSpace.

  • Use a versioning software such as Apache Subversion to automatically track versions of computer code.