Naming things so you don't lose them

When I was taught computer programming I embraced the benefits of naming things descriptively.

Mechanically, automatically or even unimaginatively created identifiers/names are a sure fire way to forget them and then lose them.

For example, your phone and/or digital camera will probably name images like this:


By the name alone you don't know what is in that image. You'll need to open it and review its properties to get a better idea of what, when and where.

You'll probably name your documents like this:


uni project

work spreadsheet

Most people will work in that document, maybe backing it up occasionally or not, until the job is done.

This behavior not only increase the loss (or misplacing) of the document but also increases the risk of either human or machine based corruption that will lead to the loss of important data within the file.

I am often approached by people who "work off their USB drive" because they think that backs up their document and keeps thing safe.

Not by a long shot sunshine. Not. By. A. Long...shot.

While renaming photos may seem onerous, because it is, it need not be. Google "renaming files in bulk" to see various ways you can change file names more than one at a time for your particular computer.

Identifying photos can also be simplified by storing photos in an appropriately named folder.

That's by the by, what I am here to talk about is a simple file naming convention that puts you back in charge.

Here's my strategy:

  1. Give the file a short but meaningful and unique name.

  2. At the end of the name include the date in the for of DDMMYY.

  3. Add a version identifier to the end of the file - I use two uppercase letters.

  4. Put the file and its related files in a folder that is also descriptively named.

  5. Each time you save the file, say every 30 minutes or so, change the version identifier e.g. from AA to AB, to AC etc.

  6. Each time you edit the document (or whatever) on a new day, change the date in the name e.g. xxxx 221018 AA, xxxx 231018 AC.

An example will look like this:

Southern Services section repeating ad from 080515 AA

And in context look like this:

This strategy will leave you with many versions of the files you are working on but that IS the point.

Besides, these types of files aren't very big in the scheme of things so it isn't the storage issue you may assume.

Also, with these many versions you know exactly when they were created and in which order.

If you ever accidentally (or even on purpose) delete a big chunk or make a major change that you wish you hadn't, you can go back to the day and version you know is right i.e. still has it.

If your latest version gets corrupted, lost or otherwise deleted at the very least you can go back to "half an hour ago" and get the previous version of the document.

This may not sound great but I bet it is better than what you are doing now and I bet it sounds wonderful when that 500 page thesis you've been working on all year mysteriously disappears from your corrupted USB stick.

When you are done with the project you can go back and tidy up all the extra version as you see fit.

Now, with decent and descriptive names you can type them into your computer's file explorer and find things more easily.

No more searching for "newspaper ad" only to then have to work out which one over the history of the universe you meant. Instead search for "repeating ad from 06" or "southern services ad" etc.

It is easy to do and can save you from disaster.

Go on, you can do it :-) David

#documents #files #versions #folders #filenames #backups

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