File naming

A file name is the principal identifier of a file. Therefore, good file names should:

  • provide useful cues to content, status and version
  • uniquely identify a file
  • help to classify and sorting files

As such, file names that reflect the content of the file well facilitate searching, discovering and understanding of the data.

Best practices

When creating a file name try to employ these best practices:

  • Give a unique name
  • Use elements essential to identify the file
  • Avoid long names, remove unnecessary elements
  • For dates, use ISO8601 standard (i.e. YYYYMMDD). This will keep the files sorted chronologically
  • For versioning via filename, use ascending, decimal version numbers
  • Try to only use alphanumerical characters (A-Z, a-z, 0-9) and the underscore _ instead of a space
  • Do not use special characters like \ / : * ? " < > | ! % & - ; = () + , .
  • Do not use spaces. Use an underscore ("_") for separation.
  • Do not alter or remove the extension of a file (e.g. .txt, .sav, .mp4, .docx)
  • Be consistent in how you build up names


Some examples of good file names are:

  • fg1_pat_20160309.rtf
    Interview transcript of the first focus group with patients that took place on March 9th 2016.
  • int042_AD_20150605.docx
    Interview with participant 42, interviewed by Arthur Dent on June 5th 2015.
  • FMHSurvey_Procedures_00_04
    Version 4 of the survey procedures for the Flemish Mental Health survey