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Introduction Going to talk for 15 minutes about digital file management. We only have a limited amount of time, but I am going to touch on three elements of digital file management: file naming, version control, and folder structures. Consider this a teaser. If you want to learn more, I will have more in-depth training opportunities in the coming weeks.
All of us create piles and piles of digital content everyday and our digital files tend to get really really messy unless you as a content creator impose some structure on them. The reality is that if most people’s digital files were analog, they would look something like this. We just don’t realize this because our messy, disorganized files are locked up in a neat little box called your computer. Our content is useless if we can’t locate it or if users can’t open your file in a different environment because of a poorly formatted file name. These principles become even more important when you are working in a shared file environment with Staffnet or a shared departmental server.
First, let’s talk about file names. In my longer presentation, I have three or four slides of different ways people can name files poorly and they almost always get a laugh because we see ourselves in these bad file names. Here are some examples of bad file names because they aren’t descriptive and don’t help us find the file later, and also because there is a possibility that these files will be overwritten the next time you name a file the same thing. There’s a better way!
Here are five best practices for naming your digital files. File names should reflect the contents of a file and enough information to uniquely identify the data file without getting way too long. Don’t be generic in your file names MyData; avoid generic file names that may conflict when moved from one location to another. Appropriate length – should be long enough to be descriptive but not so long that it becomes absurd. Be consistent!!!! – whatever you do, do it consistently. If you are working as a group, document your file naming practices ahead of time in a shared document. Ensure the rules are followed systematically. Document your system, don’t rely on file names as your sole source of documentation. Think critically about what can be added and what can be omitted in your file names. If you are the only person on a project, you probably don’t need your name. However, if you are submitting a paper for a class, the first thing should be your name, not the assignment. “Assignment #1 and the date”. What differentiates your file from everyone else’s is you, not the date or the Assignment number.
Here are some file naming best practices that will make sure your file will open in any environment. Special characters can have special meaning in certain programming languages and operating systems and can be misinterpreted in file names. Uppercase lettering can affect numbering. Ex: $ = beginning of a variable names in php. A backslash designates file path locations in the Windows operating system. Spaces make things easier for humans to read but some browsers and software don’t know how to interpret spaces. Sometimes it only reads a file up to the space, which can cause problems.
There are also best practices around version control and numbering. Version control is often achieved by using dates or a standard numbering system
That is how to name an individual file. What about your whole folder structure? All your research materials need to be in one folder. The top level folder should include the project title and year. If it is multiple year, include the first and last year in the title. The substructures should have a clear and consistent naming convention that is documented in a README file.
Introduction to Digital File Management
Introduction to Digital
Rebekah Cummings, Research Data Management Librarian
Marriott Library All-Staff
August 19, 2015
File naming best
2.Don’t be generic
5.Think critically about
your file names
File naming best practices
• Files should include only letters, numbers,
• No special characters
• No spaces; Use dashes or camel case
(like-this or likeThis)
• Not all systems are case sensitive.
Assume this,THIS, and tHiS are the same.
Version Control -
Use leading zeros for scalability
Version Control -
If using dates useYYYYMMDD
June2015 = BAD!
06-18-2015 = BAD!
20150618 = GREAT!
2015-06-18 = This is fine too
File organization best
• In a perfect world, top level folders should
be mutually exclusive and exhaustive.
• Sub-structure should have a clear and
consistent naming convention.
• Document your folder structure in a
README text file.