University of Oregon

Research Data Management

Best Practices

File Naming & Tracking Changes (Version Control)

File Naming

Best Practices:

1. Be consistent.

  • Have conventions for naming (1) Directory structure, (2) Folder names, (3) File names
  • Always include the same information (eg. date and time)
  • Retain the order of information (eg. YYYYMMDD, not MMDDYYY )

2. Be descriptive so others can understand your meaning.

Try to keep file and folder names under 32 characters

Within reason, Include relevant information such as:

  • Unique identifier (ie. Project Name or Grant # in folder name)
  • Project or research data name
  • Conditions (Lab instrument, Solvent, Temperature, etc.)
  • Run of experiment (sequential)
  • Date (in file properties too)
  • Use application-specific codes in 3-letter file extension and lowercase: 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
    NOT name.paper.doc OR name_paper..doc)

example: Project_instrument_location_YYYYMMDD[hh][mm][ss][_extra].ext

File renaming Applications: If you have many files already named, use a file renaming application such as ReNamer (Mac/Windows/Unix)

Tracking Changes with Version Control

Keep track of versions of files (version control):

Manually: Use a sequential numbered system: v01, v02

  • Don't use confusing labels, such as 'revision', 'final', 'final2', etc.


Use version control software (SVN) such as Mercurial, or TortoiseSVN, which can track revisions to files and help you roll back to a previous version of a file.


Maintained by: Brian Westra,
Created by bwestra on Jul 24, 2012 Last updated Oct 30, 2013
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