Thursday Tip: File Naming Conventions

May 14, 2009

If you have been creating artwork for more than a few months, you have compiled thousands of files. Unfortunately, the more files you have, the harder it can be to find them. That’s why it is very important to come up with a file naming convention that works for you. Today I’m going to provide a few of my file naming conventions and hopefully you can build on it. Those of you who have a good system, please post a comment and share it with us.

The first part of my file organization strategy starts with the hard drives in my machine. I always have three drive letters. The C drive is where I store my operating system and nothing more. The D drive is where I install all of my software. Well, almost all of it. Unfortunately some software developers force you to install in a location that isn’t desired. So that stuff ends up on the C drive and earns my wrath against that developer. Lastly, the E drive is where I put data. Just knowing where the data is stored makes the search for a file a bit easier.

Each major project (or client) then gets a folder. Inside of that could be multiple levels of subfolders. That brings us to the file names. I will often save multiple versions of the same file. In that case, I append “-xxx” to the end of the file name where the “xxx” is a number. Anytime I append numbers, I always put in more digits than I expect will be needed. That way I don’t have to renumber everything should that extra digit that you didn’t think you need really becomes necessary. For graphics files, I often include the colorspace in the name as well by using “-rgb”, “-cmyk”, “-bw” or “-spot” as needed. I mainly deal with RGB so it is my assumed colorspace if I don’t put the extension on it.

When working with CorelDRAW files, I also find it useful to save keywords within the file. Then I can use the ROMCat utility to catalog and search my drive.

I know my system is probably more complex than what some of you use. Yet I’ve definitely heard from users who have a much more regimented system. If you don’t already have a good naming convention in place, get one soon! For those that already have a good system, please share it with us!

Post Discussion


  1. the 'dd'

    My filenaming convention begins in the DATA directory I set up on the various drives I use.
    If possible I use separate physical drives for Programs and Data (everything that isn’t an operational Program)
    So it goes like this…
    ALL DATASub Directory1Sub Directory2Sub Directory3(if applicable)… etc.[filename]>yyyymmdd-abcd
    Sub Directory1 may be something like CLIENTS
    Sub Directory2 under CLIENTS may be something like Client NAME
    Sub Directory3 under Client NAME may be something like Client Project ID
    then if only a small project direct to date-time stamped filename… [filename]yyyymmdd-abcd (eg: STASIS-WELRA-parking lot sign – 20090514-1300)
    where 20090514-1300 means May 14, 2009 at 1300h (1 pm)
    the next filename could be 1 minute or usually no more than a half hour later if needed… eg: STASIS-WELRA-parking lot sign – 20090514-1330
    this way during the Save as procedure all I have to do is look at my 24 hour clock in the lower right of my screen to get the new filename by just
    changing the appropriate digits for the time.
    If I continue the next day… the first Save as before I even start any more changes would be 20090514-[current time]
    This way I can track exactly when the last iteration of the file was created no matter what the Windows system time says.
    So if I need to go back 3 iterations of the file… no problem… just reverse order in File Manager (WE) by filename and pick
    the 3rd one down from the top.
    At the same time it gives me a good idea of how long a project took to complete.

  2. ejtoll

    Another tip is to lead your file name with the date as a six digit number: May 18, 2009 is 090518. That way the files are always sorted by date. Now if I could just figure a macro to automatically add that date to the file name…


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