Sun Apr 19 09:38:36 PDT 2015

Simple Guidelines for Clear Document Names

These days almost everyone works with electronic documents and consequently almost everyone has to create names for their documents. Each person typically invents a range of document names every day. Sometimes these names will be for documents which are used regularly for years to come. If this happens the document name becomes a familiar and easily recognized fact of life. More often the name is soon forgotten and you find yourself having to resort to searching or the find command to locate the document or file that you are looking for. However, if you name your documents appropriately and consistently you will be able to find your information much more rapidly. You will find yourself using the search capability less often and you will increase your efficiency, sometimes dramatically. Additionally, you will gain a reputation as a well organized, systematic and logical person.

Even if you routinely use a desktop search engine such as Google Desktop to find your documents, you will find that systematic document names help you with your work and efficiency. Searching is wonderful, but nothing beats the immediacy of being able to scan a folder and know at a glance what the folder contains from its document names. You will save yourself minutes per day, and those minutes will add up, potentially saving you days per year. Furthermore, your coworkers and associates will value your consistency, they will be able to find your documents for you and your reputation for clarity and organization will blossom. Here is a how you create logical document names.

Be succinct. Keep your document names brief but don't be afraid of providing needed information in the document name.

Don't rely on folder names. Your documents will be emailed to colleagues, posted to the intranet or web, and shared on peer-to-peer networks. You cannot assume that the folder called 'Customers', for example, in which the document currently lives will always be the container of the document.

Include a description of the document type in the document name. For example, if this is a letter, include the string 'ltr' in the document title. If this is a proposal, include 'prp' and so on.

Make the first part of the document name the name of the customer, person or thing that the document most generally relates to. In business this will often be the customer or client name. In a service industry, it will be the name of the patient or prospect. For documents that refer to you, you can use the string, My.

Include the date in your document name. This helps you know when a document was created at a glance. Use the following format, Year-Month-Day, for example, 2008-09-01.

Include version information. If you need to create several versions of a document, include a version number, for example, ABC-ltr-2008-09-01-v0.1.doc. It is best to include a letter v to indicate that this is a version number. As you work through different versions of the document you can increase the final digit. For major new versions increase the number next to the letter v, for example, ABC-ltr-2008-09-01-v1.0.doc.

Do not use spaces in file names. Occasionally you will run into programs which cannot handle spaces in file names. You can avoid all sorts of unusual problems if you use dashes to separate portions of text instead.

The best time to name a document correctly is when you first create it. If you take a few seconds to get the name right at the point of creation you will be ahead of the game. So, don't accept the default that your document creating applications provide to you. Names based on the first few words in a document or Document1.doc are not going to convey any useful information in the future and you will be reduced to either opening every document to see what it contains or using the search capability that your operating system or add on software provides.

Here are some example document names to give you a sense of how the system works in practice.

IBM-prp-2009-10-01-v0.1.doc
My-Expenses-2010-04-01-v1.0.xls
School-ltr-2010-09-02-v1.0.doc
HP-training-prp-2008-10-14-v0.1.doc

If you follow these guidelines, for the whole lifetime of your documents, you will be able to easily discern document contents from a glance at document names.

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