File Naming & the dumbest thing ever

John Foster in a recent episode of MacBreak Tech while in the middle of a perfectly enjoyable discussion on file naming... said the one thing you should never do is use the date in a name, that it was ‘the dumbest thing ever’.

Now, I would have a lot of crossover interests with him, having an opinion on file-naming conventions, no matter how freakin’ sad, being one. And you know, I have being doing the dumbest thing ever for... like the longest time.

Well, maybe fifteen years or so.

I have a filenaming convention which I’ve applied rigorously since deciding I needed to do it. It works for me. And I think the key to adding any element into a filename convention is to be utterly consistent. The benefits only become clear years on.

My needs in file naming are two-fold. You should be able to instantly see what a file is about just from the name and you should be able to find it years later with no real hassle. So I take the following approach:

1. I give every project a three letter acronym, whatever is intuitive is usually what I use, I don’t over-debate it.
32A (our feature film 32A)
EDI ( a script called Easy Does It we’re developing)
JPC (Janey Pictures Company, business stuff)
etc..
2. I then include the date, in reverse order and always YY.MM.DD
3. Then who it’s for, IFB, RTE, Media, Bank, Marian etc.
4. Then a narrative on what it is.

So I get files called:

32A 08.07.20 IFI my notes on press release

I can instantly see what project it relates to, when I wrote it, who it was for and what it’s about.

The joy of doing the date in the name only becomes clear when you sort by name. You instantly sort by name and date simultaneously. Projects are sorted into lists which are further sorted by date.

The story of a project becomes very clear as you peruse directory listings.

32A 07.05.02 GFF application for festival
32A 07.05.28 GFF additional notes on format and dolby
32A 07.06.04 GFF acceptance letter
32A 07.06.06 Media press release on premiere
32A 07.07.12 GFF Hotel booking form
32A 07.07.19 GFF thanks again for all

It’s pretty clear what was going on and what the sequence of communication was. The story is clear, that’s one thing I value. And no other project files are in there, if I didn’t have a date in the name, and I sorted by date, you’d see a jumble of different project files mixed together.

This particularly applies if you have an ongoing flat file approach, I have a folder on my desktop called ‘Inbox’, essentially my current working folder.

You have the benefit of the filename doing some of the work folders do, essentially I’ve built in a project folder sorted by date right into the name. I only Archive files into a hierarchy of folders every couple of months or so, and this keeps things organised even with that.

But it also helps in using Spotlight. You can also search quickly in spotlight for ‘32A 07.06“ and get just the files for that project and that exact month. I realise you can construct a spotlight query adding in a date but this is far quicker and much more intuitive.

Other benefits.

- Even after I do sort into a directory hierarchy, a file can leave it’s folder and still have the meaning in the file name.

- For sharing the file, the date of creation is embedded in the file name and if you email to other people, it doesn’t matter about when it’s saved on their system or how correctly set up their system is.

- I don’t do versioning that often, but if I do I build into the narrative, commencing with the word ‘Rev’ and a number: Rev01, Rev02 etc.


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