File organization, naming, versioning and formats
Some useful tips for organizing, naming and versioning your files and for using file formats
- Adhere to existing procedures - check for established approaches in your group/department which you can adopt.
- Use folders - group files within folders and structure folders hierarchically
- Name folders appropriately - name folders after the areas of work to which they relate
- Be consistent – when developing a naming scheme for your folders it is important that once you have decided on a method, you stick to it.
- Use tags if necessary - In some cases, it may be helpful to use a tag-based system where each file is assigned one or more tags/labels.
- Separate ongoing and completed work
- Backup - ensure that your files are backed up
Within the research group agree on file naming conventions early on in the project.
Be consistent when it comes to punctuation, vocabularies, numbers etc.
A file name can consist of the following parts:
- A prefix which shows what type of document a file is
- A title: this should be as informative as possible so that you can understand the document contents by its title
- The version number for the document
- The date which shows when it was created: use YYYMMDD format
- The document status: draft or final
- The author’s initials: who last modified it.
Versioning is the process of keeping track of the different versions of a document.
It serves two key purposes:
- To ensure that it is always obvious which version is the most recent one
- To allow easy identification and retrieval of earlier versions where needed
Any major changes to a file can be indicated by whole numbers, for example, v01 would be the first version, v02 the second version.
Minor changes can be indicated by increasing the decimal figure for example, v01_01, v01_02 and so on.
For important documents, a version control table can be included noting changes and their dates alongside the appropriate version number of the document.
For more complex projects, you may wish to consider using a document management system.
It is important to choose file formats that are best-suited for long-term sustainability and accessibility.
Ideally the file formats should:
- Be widely adopted
- Be independent of specific software developers or vendors
- Not be owned by a single person/organization
SND has evaluated several formats that they consider suitable for the management, long-term preservation, and accessibility of research data.