File Naming Convention

Many things go into a well-organized filing system: a good cabinet structure, consistent use of folders and subfolders, and a clear, consistent file naming convention. With all of these in place, you’ll have no trouble finding files even years in the future.

Cabinet structure is discussed elsewhere, and consistent use of folders is easy with Folder Templates (see Cabinet Layout and Folder Templates). This topic covers the last item, a consistent file naming convention.

Coming Up with a Naming Convention

A Naming Convention is nothing more than your personal rule for how files should be named when you save them. Every office has a different opinion about how to name files. Even so, there are certain principles which all good naming conventions use.

Think in "Chunks"

All good naming conventions break up the file name into a few distinct pieces. Each piece conveys an important bit of information about the file. For example, consider this file name:

2008-11-26 - Johnson, Bob - Employment Agreement.doc

The file name has three elements:

  • The date the file was created (November 26, 2008)
  • The name of the party (Bob Johnson)
  • The documet type (and employment agreement)

Consider the parts of a file name that are important to you, and decide now what order they’ll go in. Also, for document type, come up with a standardized list of names to draw from.

A Note on Dates

You’ll notice in the example above that the date is the first item in the file name, and that it’s in the form YYYY-MM-DD. There’s a reason for this. By putting the date first in the file name, your files will always sort by date. And by using year-month-date format, with leading a leading zero for the month and day, your dates will always sort properly. This practice is becoming more and more common in offices everywhere.

Some argue that the date isn’t necessary because the file itself has a "Created" date which Windows stamps on the file. The Windows date, however, can be lost whereas a hard-coded date in the file name is permanent.

Automate File Naming

Enterprise Organizer Pro’s Naming Options feature lets you set up a list of predefined file names. Whenever you need to name a file, you can simply pick a name from the list. The real power of naming options is that they can contain dynamic elements, like dates and client/patient names. With naming options, having a consistent file naming convention becomes automatic.


Naming options are fully described in File Naming Convention. To give you an idea of how they can work, let’s set up a naming option to create the file name example above.

First add a new naming option: Go to the Tools button > Naming Options, then click the Add button. You’ll now see the Add Naming Option dialog. Next follow these steps to set up your file name:

First let’s add a date stamp. Select Date under Field Type. You’ll now see a list of date formats. Scroll down until you see 2008-08-01. Select that date, then click Insert Field Into Expression.
Client/Patient Name
Let’s assume that you have a drawer for each of your clients/patients. This means that the drawer name contains the person’s name. You can use this in your file names.
Select Folder Name under Field Type. Now select Drawer Name under Field Options and Insert Field Into Expression.
Document Type
Finally, let’s enter the document type. In the Expression field, put your cursor at the end of the codes that have already been inserted. Now type a space, a hyphen, another space, the "Employment Agreement". You should also go back and add a space and a hyphen between the first two fields. The final result should look like this:

«DATE yyyy-mm-dd» - «FOLDER Drawer Name» - Employment Agreement

Click OK to save this naming option, then close the Naming Options dialog.

Try It Out

Now let’s try out your new naming option:

  1. Open your word processor and make a simple document
  2. Click Save
  3. The Enterprise Organizer Pro Save dialog should come up
  4. Select a client/patient drawer
  5. You’ll notice that the File Name field has a drop-arrow on the right; click it
  6. A list of naming options will expand
  7. Your Employment Agreement naming option will be there, complete with the proper date and client/patient name
  8. Select it on the list
  9. Click Save

Your document has been saved using just a couple of mouse clicks. Yet with those clicks, you obtained a fully-formatted, standardized file name. Setting up a list of standardized file names for your office takes just a few minutes, but goes a long way toward a good filing system.

Need to Share Naming Options?

If you need to share a common set of naming options across the whole office, you’ll need to use the built-in Sharing feature. See Sharing Basics for more information

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