Tip Sheet 6 - Naming Conventions for Electronic Files and Folders

working at computer

File and folder naming conventions are key to maintaining well-organized electronic directory and drive structures. This tip sheet provides examples of naming conventions; each unit may determine its own file naming procedure as long as it is applied consistently. Benefits of consistent file and folder naming are:

  • Files are easily distinguished one from another
  • File names are easier to browse
  • Retrieval is facilitated for all users (not just the file’s creator)

1.  Keep file names short and relevant.

2.  If using a date, use the format Year-Month-Day (four digit year, two digit month, two digit day): YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY-MM or YYYY-YYYY.

This will maintain chronological order.

2006-03-04 Agenda
2006-03-24 Attachment
2006-03-24 Minutes
2007-02-01 Agenda
2007-02-01 Minutes
Not This
1 Feb 2007 Agenda
24 March 2006 Agenda
24 March 2006 Minutes
February 1, 2007 Minutes
March 24, 2006 Attachment

3.  Include a leading zero for numbers 0-9.

This will maintain the numeric order in the file directory.

Office Procedures v01
Office Procedures v02
Office Procedures v03
Not This
Office Procedures v1
Office Procedures v10
Office Procedures v2

4. Order the elements in a file name according to the way the file will be retrieved.

If records are retrieved according to their date, that element should appear first. If they are retrieved according to their description, that element should appear first.

Tip File names of records relating to recurring events (e.g., meeting minutes, regular periodic reports, budget planning documents) should include both the date and the event.

When deciding the order of the elements, date first will usually be appropriate for events that are time specific and recurring. Event first will usually be appropriate for events that are infrequent.

/…/Curriculum Committee
2007-01-20 Agenda
2007-01-20 Minutes
2007-02-01 Agenda
2007-02-01 Minutes
Not This
/…/Curriculum Committee
Agenda 1 Feb 2007
Agenda 20 Jan 2007
Minutes 1 Feb 2007
Minutes 20 Jan 2007
Awards Ceremony 2006-06-30
Donor Reception 2005-10-05
Japanese Delegation Visit 2007-02
Not This
2005-10-05 Donor Reception
2006-06-30 Awards Ceremony
2007-02 Japanese Delegation Visit

5. Avoid descriptive terms regarding format or version (e.g. draft, memo) at the start of file names.

Advertising Draft
Advertising Final
Budget Report 2005-2006 Final
Budget Report 2006-2007 Draft
Grant, S.
Thomas, A.
Not This
Draft Advertising
Draft Budget Report 2006-2007
Final Advertising
Final Budget Report 2005-2006
Memo A. Thomas
Memo S. Grant

Tip When using personal names, always give family name at the start of file name and use a standard format for first names.

6. The version number of a record should be indicated in its file name by the use of “v” followed by the version number.

Org Chart 2006 v02
Org Chart 2006 v03
Org Chart 2006 v04
Not This
Org Chart 2006
Org Chart 2006 rev
Org Chart 2006 rev2


Adapted from Standard Naming Conventions for Electronic Records produced by the University of Edinburgh Records Management Section and available at http://www.recordsmanagement.ed.ac.uk/InfoStaff/RMstaff/RMprojects/PP/FileNameRules/FileNameRules.htm.

This document has been developed to assist in establishing good practices and procedures.  Additional questions or requests for advice on records and information management or information and privacy issues should be referred to the Information and Privacy Coordinator: info.privacy@yorku.ca.