This morning, while searching for a file on my computer, I congratulated myself on having a good naming system.

My research involves a lot of small articles and sound clips–I took notes on over 100 items per chapter. Each item (and my notes on it) is saved in separate file, each looking something like this: “2009.07.27 The Title of the Article.” Each chapters files are in a separate folder.

Maybe a lot of people out there organize their files in this way, but I’ve noticed that many people use underscores (_) instead of spaces in document titles, and many avoid punctuation. I’m pretty sure some of my students didn’t think you could use periods in file names.

The reason I use dots to write dates in year-month-day order is so that I can arrange a folder alphabetically and everything will line up perfectly chronologically. If the month was listed first, everything in January would line up together, regardless of year. That’s also why I type “07” instead of “7” for the month–so that October, November, & December don’t mess up my ordering. One could also use this system for drafts of chapters, and always know which is the most recent. I date photo files this way too (because I always want to know when a picture was taken).

I can imagine other equally good systems, but it’s important for anyone, regardless of occupation, to have consistent file-naming practices. Once you get in the habit, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to title something–and it saves countless moments of frustration later on.


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