You can make it easier to find files on your computer or smartphone if you structure your filenames according to how you are going to use them. Your filenames should tell you all you need to know about their content so you don’t have to open them to find out.
It’s all about dates
The international date format is yyyy-mm-dd. If you use year-month-day order in your filenames, your computer or smartphone will display them in chronological order.
I leave out the hyphens to shorten the filenames slightly but you don’t have to. (When you are scrolling through your files, the column width accommodates the widest filename so you will see more columns on your screen if your filenames are shorter.)
Plan your filenames
Let’s consider four types of files that editors might need to name:
- documents to edit;
- invoices to clients;
- supporting documents for tax returns; and
- minutes and agendas (I have to file them now that I am on the PEG Exco as Website Coordinator).
Always consider the subject, purpose and date of the document when you assign its filename.
1. Documents to edit
In the table below, the left column shows how people often name their files – it’s difficult to tell which is the latest document; the centre column shows a better way of naming files; and the column on the right shows my recommended way of naming files.
Note that the final document in the rightmost column has a simple title as well as the latest date. When you are looking for the final version, go for that one.
2. Invoices to clients
When I invoice my clients, I want to know their name, their reference number, my reference number, the amount, and the date I invoiced them. What order should I use for all that?
Let’s see some alternatives in the table below for Mr Smith, Mrs Naidoo and Simon Tshabalala. They didn’t give me reference numbers so I used the type of document instead.
See how they line up (or don’t)? If you make the items in your filenames line up, they’re easier to read and it’s easier to find the one you are looking for. Perhaps you guessed that the last one is what I use because I like the way everything lines up, except the last element, which is not a standard length (unless you want to say Smi-Pro, Gov-Dis and Tsh-Rep, which is only for really OCD filers).
Note that I separated adjacent figure elements with double spaces.
I use Excel for my invoices and keep quotes, invoices and statements all in the same workbook, but I make separate PDFs to email or upload. The PDFs would look something like the following. When I Save-As, I only have to change the first element.
When I email these documents, the client can see at a glance what they are about.
3. Supporting documents for tax returns
When I copy the documents into my current SARS folder, I just change the first element of the filename.
4. Minutes and agendas
Some people like to keep all agendas together, and all minutes together – but it would be hard to find their supporting documents if you could not remember what they were!
I like all the documents for one meeting to be together, without putting them all into separate folders, so I file them by the date of the meeting. After I receive the final versions, I delete the drafts.
Now you can fly your dragon in formation. HAPPY FILING!