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File Names


Computers rely on the names we give files to track and find them. File names for files being passed from one computer to another, particularly over the Internet, need to follow certain rules. The use of spaces and certain other characters in file names can cause problems during file transmission. Replace spaces with underscores (_) and avoid using characters such as these: !, ?, &, %, @, (), :, ;, =, +, ", and '. The web address below shows a few of those special characters at work. These characters mean certain things to web browsers; using them in file names may cause unexpected results.

URL from Google using fancy characters to pass information.

Keep your file names as short as you can. Your own computer may allow you to create very lengthy names, but these may be automatically--and unexpectedly--shortened or otherwise altered by the computer to which you send your files.


Guidelines for Filenames

Here are some general tips to guide you as you prepare your assignment files:

  • Begin with your first initial and add your last name. Start your file name with a lowercase letter.
  • Include the assignment number.
  • Separate the assignment number from your name with an underscore (_). Replace the dot in the assignment number with a hyphen (-).
  • Follow the number with a dot and the file extension.

Your instructors may have specific guidelines for how to name files. If so, be sure to follow those.


Naming Your Files Right

Here are some good examples:

  • pkowalski_5-2.pdf
  • asuarez_2-3.doc
  • gmeyer_3-1.jpg

If you have multiple versions of a single assignment, you can always add an underscore and a version number like this:

  • scheng_7-2_v13.jpg
  • mthomas_5-1_v2.gif


Naming Your Files Wrong

Here are some bad examples:

  • "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, with Commentary" by Katherine Gray.pdf
    -- This is too long, has spaces and special characters. Also, there is no assignment number.
  • Temple Elevation (detail), Ellie Green. gif
    -- Again, this has spaces and special characters, and it is not clear which assignment it is for.
  • 2.1_Andrews/v3?.docx
    -- This name is nice and short, and it identifies the assignment and its creator, but it starts with a number and has a dot, a slash, and a question mark in it.