SOCI2000: Project Group Skills: Filenames

1. File naming conventions

This is the file naming convention I recommend:

  • YYYYMMDD Subject of file INITIALS V##

For example:

  • 20200305 File naming conventions NMH V01.docx

The ‘fields’ in this file name are:

  1. YYYYMMDD: this is the date of last modification. It is in the order of year, then month, then day (all expressed as numbers). Why? Auto-sort by date. Find latest file. Even if you copy the file (in which case data modified with change). NOTE:
    • Date is reversed: The date is reversed so that if you sort the files alphabetically, the most recent are at the top (or bottom) of the list.
    • Date modified, not created: The date is last date of modification, not the date of creation.
    • Single Digit Months start with Zero: Months and days that are single digit are expressed with a zero before them (June is “06”, not “6”)
  2. Subject of file: this is basically a short description of the file contents. Keep it short and descriptive.
  3. INITIALS: This is the initials of the person who LAST modified the document. Why initials? This allows us to work out who was the last person who modified the document. If there is issue, you can ask them. Also makes people take responsibility when they modify documents. They are responsible for this verison of file. They will be less likely to screw up the file.
  4. Version: This is the version number, which starts at V01, and increases by one each time there is a modification to the document. Why have versions? This allows us to identify the most recent version of a document (especially useful if there are multiple modifications of the document on the same day).

Extension: Robust File Names (do NOT use)

NOTE: Don’t use this. It is just for really specific purposes. It is included here for completeness.

Robust File Names:

  • YYYYMMDD-Subject_of_file-INITIALS-V##

For example:

  • E.g. 20200305-File_naming_conventions-NMH-V01.docx

Why people use this?

  • No spaces: has no spaces
  • Two space symbols: differentiates between the spaces between fields (hyphens), and within fields (underscores)
  • Website friendly: on websites, spaces are renderred as “%20”. Ugly. Annoying.
  • Easy to manipulate/extract name with a program (e.g. Excel, R): when you want to split out the various parts of a file name (date, name, initials, version) (such as when using a computer to automatically generate or find a file), it is much easier to do this if you have different symbols for separating fields and spaces within a field.

2. Folder naming conventions

I recommend naming folders in the following form:

  • YYYY, Project Name

For example:

  • 2020, SOCI2000 Project


  • Auto-archive: Naming folder by the year they are created helps create an automatic archiving process for all your files and folders.
  • Next year starts automatically: When it gets to the next year, you start creating folders starting with that year.
  • Sort by year: You just can sort all folders alphabetically, and find the most recent (and therefore relevant) files.
  • Find old files easily: It makes it easy to find older files
  • Less files in each folder: It helps make sure folders don’t get too full or messy, because you only use them for a year.

For group projects, I tend to name them:

  • ! YYYY, Project Name


  • Collaborations at top of folder list: The character ! sorts before numbers and before a in most computer systems. This means your collaboration folders are always at the top of your final list.
  • Easier in Google Drive: In Google Drive, there are some features of the folder system which are a bit slow, so being able to access important folders without scrolling down makes life a lot easier.

2. Subfolders

Some useful principles for naming and creating folders and subfolders are:

  1. Short but intelligable:Folder names should be as short as possible, while still being intelligible. This because some files systems/computer systems have a limit on the number of characters in a file path (the folder names plus the file names), and this can easily be reached if someone’s google drive folder is in a subdirectory of their computer, and the file name is long.
  • Good: “Survey”, “Informed Consent”
  • Bad: “Our first version of the survey”, “Nick’s draft of Informed Consent” (too long), “IC” (too short)
  1. One level. Avoid nesting: As far as possible there should only be one level of folders. This is one level of folder headings can be searched by eye at one time. There is no need to dig through folders to find things. It also reduces the chance of the same thing being stored in multiple places.
  2. Subfolders used sparingly: Subfolders should be used sparingly
  3. Folder titles with common stem are alternative to nested folders: An alternative to creating nested folders is to create folders with the same suffix, followed by a comma, and the subject that might be in a nested folder.

Last updated on 08 March, 2020 by Dr Nicholas Harrigan (