This page contains enriched content visible when JavaScript is enabled or by clicking here. Skip to main content

University of Portland Clark Library

Data Management: File Naming Conventions & Formats

What is a File Naming Convention (FNC)?

Picture of File Folders



A File Naming Convention (FNC) is a framework for naming files in a way that describes what they contain and how they relate to the other files.

When working with a research group, establishing a FNC is helpful for effective communication and consistency in your work. Graphic

File Format Choices

Examples of preferred format choices:

For examples of how data archives treat different file formats, see the UK Data Archive page on data formats and software. Consider migrating your data into a format with the above characteristics, in addition to keeping a copy in the original software format.

The importance of File Naming Conventions

A file naming convention (FNC) allows you to stay organized, locate files quickly, and understand the data within the file. A good FNC can also help others better understand and navigate through your work.

Consider the following examples:

Files without employing an naming convention:

  • Test_data_2017
  • Research_Data_2016
  • Project_Design_2017
  • Observations_2016
  • Notes_2016

Files with a naming convention:

  • 20170503_BIOProject_DesignDocument_Jones_v1-01.docx
  • 20170709_BIOProject_MasterData_Smith_v1-00.xlsx
  • 20170825_BIOProject_Test1_Data_Gonzalez_v1-01.xlsx
  • 20170825_BIOProject_Test2_Data_Gonzalez_v2-01.xlsx
  • 20171023_BIOProject_MeetingNotes_Kramer_v1-00.docx

The files with a naming convention provide a preview of the content, are organized in a logical way (by date yyyy-mm-dd) identify the responsible party and convey the work history, unlike the files without a naming convention.

File Naming Case Study Example from Stanford University emphasizing the importance of establishing a file naming structure.

Another good idea is to include in the directory a readme.txt file that explains your naming format along with any abbreviations or codes you have used.

Best Practices for electronic file organization from National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), Office of Weights and Measures.

Renaming Files

You may already have a lot of data collected for your project and wish to organize and rename these files for easier data management. If you have too many files to rename them all by hand, try one of the following applications for renaming your files: | 503.943.7111 or 800.841.8261 | 5000 N. Willamette Blvd., Portland, OR 97203-5798 | © 2020 University of Portland, All Rights Reserved