Naming Files Well

This may sound like a crazy topic, (after all, doesn’t everyone know how to name files?) but it’s come up more than once when I help students and faculty.

First, I’m certainly guilty of having a folder full of files named like this: 

  • syllabus.doc
  • syll.doc
  • newSyllabus.doc
  • newerSyllabus.doc
  • bestSyllabus.doc
  • betterSyllabus.doc
  • ThisOne.doc
  • No – ThisOne.doc
  • Most-Up-To-Date.doc

Obviously, I never know which one is really the most current file, based on its filename. I also have no idea which class this syllabus is for – ENGL 101? ENGL 102? or…? I usually spend far too much time looking through too many files, *hoping* to find the one I want.

Now let’s add students to the mix. Specifically, students who get files from their Angel classroom.  They download your file:  CurrentSyllabus.doc and save it on their home computer.  Of course, they also get a syllabus from each of their three other courses and now have these files on their computer:

  • CurrentSyllabus.doc
  • Winter2005.doc
  • SyllabusUpdatedForWinter2011InAngel-2ndversion-includesNewISBNtextbookInformation.doc
  • ForStudents.doc

Obviously, file  names like this are confusing for both the teacher and the faculty. Which one is for which class? Is the file named for 2005 *really* a current version of the syllabus? And although I like clarity, how long *does* a filename have to be?

A suggestion?  Make filenames meaningful, clear, specific, short, and possibly dated.  I like to try and name my files someting like this:

  • ENGL101-Syllabus-Winter2011.doc
  • DigestiveSystem-6x8Version.jpg
  • CryptographySlideShow-1-of-3.ppt
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