Guide to Filenaming 

Following best practices for naming files will help with managing your work and sharing files with collaborators. For preservation purposes, creating coherent and system-compatible names will ensure long-term access.   

The most important rule in filenaming is to be consistent. If working with a group, you may decide to discuss an approach to naming project documents so that everyone is following the same style. 

Tips and Recommendations: 

Periods in filenames communicate where the extension begins (such as .doc) so that computer programs can recognize file formats. When they are used elsewhere in the filename, the file may not open properly.

Similarly, spaces are frequently translated in web environments to be read as "%20". This alteration causes confusion in identifying the actual file name. For example: 

  • guide to filenaming.pdf appears as guide%20to%20filenaming.pdf

Characters such as / : * ? " < > | [ ] & , . are frequently used for specific tasks in digital environments. For instance, a forward slash is used to identify folder levels in Microsoft systems, while Mac systems use the colon. Using these characters in a filename will cause errors for applications and programming processes.

Keeping filenames under 25 characters is a good standard and is a sufficient length for capturing descriptive information. When filenames are too long, they are more likely to cause readability errors in computer applications and web-based storage systems.

Your filename should include enough information to label the document 


  • archives_newsletter_2022.pdf is much clearer than
  • 2022.pdf

Appropriately descriptive filenaming practices will further assist with retaining the context of a document if you move it to another location, such as a new folder or Google Drive, or email the document to another person.  

Including a date at the beginning or end of a filename may be helpful for referencing versions of a documents over time. It can also offer a quick way to sort files. 

  • MM_DD_YYYY or

A file frequently has multiple versions. You may decide to include a version number on the documents in order to manage drafts and revisions more easily. One method is to add the letter v- to designate a version number- to the main file name: v01, v02, v03 etc. An exception to this rule is FINAL to indicate the final version of a document. FINAL can be used instead of the version number or in addition.

  • guide_to_filenaming_v01.doc
  • guide_to_filenaming_v02.doc
  • guide_to_filenaming_final.doc
Adapted from a tutorial created by Williams College.