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Organizing and naming your files effectively will make a significant impact on your ability to locate them and understand what they contain.
When it comes to file naming:
be descriptive and consistent.
When it comes to file organization:
develop conventions, record the conventions, and stick to those conventions.
When constructing a file name, consider using one or more of the following:
Project or experiment name or acronym
Date or date range of experiment
Type of data
Version number of file
Version control is the process of managing changes to files.
Manual version control can be as simple as adding a version number or a date (using YYYYMMDD format) to the end of the file name.
Examples: ASIST_abstract_v3.docx or ASIST_abstract_20180522.docx.
You can also use version control software or tools such as
For more depth, see:
Version Control Brief, a short guide which goes over both manual and tool-based options.
Version Control & Authenticity, which focuses on manual options, produced by the UK Data Archive.
Additional File Naming Tips
Develop a documented and standardized format with your co-researchers.
Use 25 or fewer characters if possible.
Avoid using special characters, such as @, #, &.
this page for more depth on characters to avoid. Do not use spaces; instead use underscores or
Examples: NYC_climate_data.csv or NYCclimateData.csv
Do not use periods, except before the file extension.
Example: 201805_survey_results.tsv, rather than 201805.survey.results.tsv
When including the date, follow the
ISO 8601 format: YYYYMMDD
File Organization Resources
File Renaming Tools
File Shortcuts / Aliases
Say you have a folder-based organization structure, and you have a file which you want to appear in multiple folders. What's the best way to approach this?
Simply copying the file will open you up to issues of version control (did I update both files?), as well as taking up valuable space.
Instead, you should create a file shortcut (in Windows) or a file alias (in Mac) in the additional folder(s) where you would like the file to be located. When you click on the file shortcut/alias, it will pull the file from its true location and open it.
To create a file alias (Mac)
To create a file shortcut (Windows)