File formats and organization

File naming

Consider creating a readme.txt file, in your project's main file folder, that explains your file naming convention, as well as any abbreviations or codes.
Best practices

Common elements in folder or file names:

  • Project or experiment name or acronym
  • File creator's name/initials
  • Date
  • Version number
  • Data characteristics. For example:
    • Location/spatial coordinates
    • Type of data (eg. Survey)
    • Conditions (eg. Lab instrument, Solvent, Temperature, etc.)

Rules of thumb for file names:

  • Keep file names as short as possible while including all necessary information.
  • Do not use spaces, full stops (.), or special characters (eg. &, *%#;()!@$^~'{}[]?<>)
  • Use hyphens (-), underscores ( _ ), or camel case (FileName) to separate elements in a file name
  • Dates should use consistent formatting (eg. YYYYMMDD)
  • Version numbers should have leading zeros to allow for multi-digit versions (eg. v_05, v_023)


Examples of useful file names Examples of poor file names
interview transcript of the first focus group with consumers, that took place on 12 February 2010
  • SrvMthdDraft.doc
  • SrvMthdFinal.doc
  • SrvMthdLastOne.doc
  • SrvMthdFridaynight.doc
interview with participant 024, interviewed by Anne Parsons on 5 June 2008
Focus group consumers 12 Feb?.doc
version 4 of the survey procedures for the British Dental Health Survey
Health&Safety Procedures1

Source: UK Data Service

File renaming

Software is available for batch renaming multiple files using an automated process. Example software include Renamer (Mac) or Bulk Rename Utility (Windows). Find out more.


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