Part 1: Why is File Naming Important?

Welcome to the State Library at the North
Carolina Department of Cultural Resources’ instructional series we’re calling Information University or “Inform U” for short. Our work is supported by a Library Services and Technology Act- funded North Carolina Statewide Leadership Grant. This tutorial focuses on file naming and consists of four videos explaining the following concepts: Why is file naming important? How to change a file name, What not to do when naming files, and best practices for file naming. Let’s begin part one, which explains why file naming is important. We create files on our computer every day, from documents to spreadsheets to audio and video files. Other files on our computer aren’t necessarily created by us — we download PDFs from the web or photographs from our email. There are two significant issues that poor choice of file names can cause: accidental overwriting of files that are not the same and misplaced files because file names are not descriptive enough. Let’s look at two quick examples. When we create our files, we don’t always have a choice about file names. Consider your digital camera or smart phone. When you take a photograph with one of these devices and download it to your computer, the file name is automatically derived from a database stored within the device. These file names often start with a prefix and end with a number that increases with each photograph taken. For example, a series of photographs might be named DSC_0001.jpg, DSC_0002.jpg, etc. What does that mean for you? Well, if you don’t rename your file from DSC_0002 to a more specific name, the likelihood that you could overwrite your sunny pictures of your trip to Jamaica that you’ve already downloaded with those pictures that you’re about to download from your trip to Siberia is very high… Here’s another example. Have you ever needed a file, but couldn’t remember what you named it or where you put it on your computer? You knew, for example that it was an agenda… Was it called agenda.doc? Or maybe meetingnotes.doc? Or, even important.doc? If you had given that file a name that had distinguished it from all the others on your computer or network drive by uniquely describing the contents of that particular file, it might “jump out” as you browse through directories or appear in a file search. With more descriptive names, you or others who come after you might be less frustrated by the inability to find files. The following 10 minute tutorial offers basic guidance to help you avoid accidentally overwritten or misplaced files. A few simple steps will increase the likelihood that your important files will last into the future. We hope you’ve enjoyed part one of this series. The next part tells you how to change a file name.


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