Posted by: Government & Heritage Library | May 10, 2010

Digital Preservation Quick Tip: Be sure to give your files unique and meaningful names.

Have you ever looked at a file name and thought to yourself “what the heck could this be?” Well, if you want to preserve a file you definitely don’t want to have this happen. It is best practice to be able to look at a file’s name and determine a great deal of information about what the file actually is. For instance, preservation professionals generally suggest including as part of the file name:

  1. the name of the project that the file is a part of (if applicable),
  2. the first few words of the title of the contents of the file,
  3. the date of the file (using yyyymmdd will display files in date order when sorted by file name), and
  4. the version or edition number.

By following these naming conventions, you should wind up with meaningful and unique file names. For instance, if I had written a letter on May 1, 2010 to my business partner, Jane Doe, regarding an opportunity to purchase a building located at 1908 Main Street I might name this file DoePartnership_Acquisition1908MainSt_20100501v1. Unique file names are very important in preservation because if a file is added to a storage location and it has the same name as a file already there, then the existing file could be overwritten. Likewise, having some meaningful information in the file name is extremely helpful when trying to retrieve files for later access, because you can find the file you are looking for without having to open every file you have saved.

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