Jumpstart the New Year with a File Naming Protocol

Cat and File CabinetContent management is the process of managing content–no shock there, right? There are numerous methodologies and software packages available for large and small-scale needs. However, one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to begin content management is to establish a file naming protocol, which is simply a guideline for file labeling.

Whether you are creating a protocol for an entire organization or your home office, the trick is to create a standard—and then stick with it. A few examples include:

  • Department_Project_Date (e.g., Retail_Menu1_Jan13)
  • Project_Author_Date (e.g., Menu1_ErinW_04Jan13)
  • Period_Project_Date (e.g., FirstQRT_Tax_01Mar13)

You can also include version information in your file names, such as:

  • Retail_Menu1_V1_05Jan13
  • Retail Menu1_V2_13Feb13

When including version information, always revise the date, as shown above, otherwise all of the versions will look like they were created at the same time.

Once all of your files are labeled consistently, they will be much easier to organization within individual folders. And, if you do have to use your computer’s search function to hunt for a lost file, having a general idea of the naming structure will expedite the search, even if you don’t remember the exact name.

So, why not begin 2013 with a brand-spankin’ new file naming protocol? But beware, next thing you know, you’ll be organizing that junk draw in the kitchen!

In the next blog post, we’ll delve deeper into the mechanics of file naming  and explore the implications of renaming existing files.


Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in general business content, marketing, blogs, web copy, and instructional material.


  1. Great suggestion! At my former job, we were trained to use very specific naming conventions for all files, and it worked really well with so many employees from various departments viewing and sharing documents. I could glance at the name of a file and know exactly what it contained, without having to open it. After a while, the organization stopped training and enforcing the use of these naming conventions. New employees named the files however they pleased, and I found it to be less efficient.

  2. Thanks Lisa! You would think that your old employer would realize that the little extra effort to continue proper naming training would pay off in the long run!

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