File Naming and Versioning


Plan the directory structure and file naming conventions before creating your data. Plan for version tracking of datasets and documents. Use project-specific conventions or disciplinary standards or best practices. The following are general best practices.

Organizational Tips

  • Decide upon a convention and stick to it. Always include the same information.
  • Consider organizing directories or folders by date, date/time, place, instrument, project, type of data, variable name or a combination of these using a hierarchical directory structure
  • Same applies to filenames. If you were able to organize directories by place and date/time then filenames might be organized by type of data and variable name 
  • Test your organizational structure on team members before implementing. Does it make sense to them too or is there confusion?
  • Consider organizational structures that will help you later decide which data are the most important to deposit and make publicly accessible to others
  • Consider what structure will make it easier to programmatically walk through your data

Directory and File Naming Conventions

  • When using date information, use the YYYY-MM-DD format over other formats
  • Keep file and folder names less than 32 characters.
  • Include relevant information like unique identifiers, project name, grant numbers or research data names
  • Try to name runs of an experiment sequentially
  • Use software application-specific 3-letter file extensions and lowercase them: mov, tif, wrl
  • When using sequential numbering, make sure to use leading zeros to allow for multi-digit versions. For example, a sequence of 1-10 should be numbered 01-10; a sequence of 1-100 should be numbered 001-010-100.
  • No special characters: & , * % # ; * ( ) ! @$ ^ ~ ' { } [ ] ? < > -
  • Use only one period and before the file extension (e.g. name_paper.doc and NOT name.paper.doc OR name_paper..doc)