File Naming and Versioning

Graphical Version

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)


Font Size