The purpose of documentation is to find it later and use its contents to gain knowledge. How you name your documents plays a big role in your ability to find them for later use. It is for this exact reason that file names cannot be random. Imagine a scenario where each employee in your organization uses their own file name. It defeats the very purpose of documentation and knowledge sharing.
In this blog, we’ll explore the significance of structured naming convention and how to use it to organize and retrieve documents efficiently.
What Is a Naming Convention?
In simple terms, a naming convention refers to a framework used for naming your files in a specific way. This should be descriptive and consistent throughout the organization. It is always best to use a naming convention to describe the contents of the files. Your file naming convention should typically start before you begin collecting data. This helps you avoid a backlog of randomly named, unstructured content that is more likely to be misplaced.
Where are naming conventions used?
Naming conventions are recommended for any place that involves the collection and storage of large volumes of data. It can be used for filing systems, databases, programming, software development and much more.
When using a file naming convention in IT documentation, you need to deploy it as soon as you start using your documentation software. This ensures consistency in naming right from the very beginning of your automated documentation process.
Why Are Naming Conventions Important?
The main purpose of naming conventions is to keep your work organized. When your data is consistently organized, it becomes easy to process and get results. Without any structure in your naming, analyzing large volumes of data could become chaotic. In addition to the time wasted searching for data, you are also likely to face issues with duplicate files, resource wastage, errors, etc.
What are the benefits of naming conventions?
Some of the key benefits of following a naming convention are:
- Smooth Operation: When your data is easy to find, it is easy to extract the required knowledge and make decisions based on it. There won’t be any delay in getting information, and this ensures smooth administration in your organization without any bottlenecks.
- Better Version Control: Information gets constantly updated in an organizational setting. To make sure you are using the most recent version, you need to tag it accordingly in your file name. This helps you avoid errors associated with outdated knowledge.
- Save Time and Money: When you avoid duplication through proper naming conventions, you can save a lot of time and money. You won’t have to spend time looking for lost files and there will be no need to create new versions of already existing files.
What Makes a Good Naming Convention?
While there is no right or wrong way to name a file, you can follow a specific set of naming guidelines to provide structure to your data. Remember, your naming should be consistent throughout the organization. Also, it should be based on the needs of your organization.
The following guidelines can help you implement the right naming system for your organization.
Establish a standard date format
Including dates in a filename is a great way to identify when it was created and to sort out different versions. When you include dates, make sure you follow a standard format for all files. It could be YYMMDD or YYYYMMDD, depending upon your preference.
Consistent naming convention case
As we mentioned earlier, there is no right or wrong way to name a file. However, you can follow a specific case style to ensure consistent naming across your organization. These cases differ based on how they combine different words into a single string. Let’s take a loot at some of the popular ones.
Camel Case (camelCase)
This involves capitalizing all words except the first word and removing the space in between them. For instance, public domain software can be written as publicDomainSoftware.
Pascal Case (PascalCase)
This involves capitalizing all words in the name, including the first, and removing the space in between them. For instance, public domain software can be written as PublicDomainSoftware.
Snake Case (snake_case)
This type of naming combines words simply by replacing the space with an underscore (_). The same example used above can be written as public_domain_software.
Kebab Case (kebab-case)
This is similar to the snake case except the underscore is replaced with a dash (-). For the file name used above, the Kebab case name can be written as public-domain-software.
Alphabetic & numerical characters only
It is always better to have a file name with just alphabetic and numerical characters. You need to refrain from using special characters such as &, @, etc. Depending on the operating system you use, these characters may have special meanings and functions. As a result, you risk deleting or misplacing your file when you use special characters.
Specify a version-numbering style
You also need to create a numbering style to represent different versions of a file. It could be something as simple as adding numbers at the end of the file name. If there are more than nine versions of a file, you can add zeros before each one to ensure correct order. For example, your file names could end with 001, 002, 003, etc.
Define standard terms
Share your standard terms with everyone in the organization. This ensures everyone is on the same page and avoids confusion.
Keep it short and sweet
Your file name doesn’t have to be lengthy and you don’t have to describe everything in the file name. Just consider the items that should be better represented in the file name. Keep it short and in an easily understandable format.
When you use abbreviations, make sure it is meaningful and understandable by everyone in the team. If required, share a centrally accessible glossary through your IT documentation software. Your naming convention can fall flat if your team is not involved in the process. You need to get your team’s buy-in and train them to follow the determined naming conventions.
Naming Convention Best Practices and Advanced Tips
Here are some best practices you can follow to ensure proper naming conventions across your organization.
- Identify the files: You can start your naming convention process by identifying the files to be named. You can group similar files together and follow consistent naming. You can also have different file sets based on different departments.
- Think about your search process: When naming files, it is also important to think about how you search for files. Decide on the type of metadata that should appear when filtering file sets.
- Use the Organization Name When Needed: If you are an MSP catering to multiple clients, you can use the organization’s name in the filename. You can also use location names to differentiate branches based on different locations. However, this process is not necessary for internal IT teams.
- Create a Guideline for Naming Conventions: Your naming convention should also be documented and shared with your teams. Create rules for the number of characters in the file name, metadata information and more. If you are using different metadata for different file sets, you may consider creating an excel sheet with all the information to share with the concerned stakeholders.
How IT Glue Can Help You
As a leading cloud-based documentation platform, IT Glue can help you build a basis for hardware asset management and automate the entire process with our integrations and open API. You can follow different naming styles when creating documents. You can also create best practices guides on naming conventions and share them with your team through IT Glue.
IT Glue’s SOC 2-compliant documentation platform features an immutable audit trail, multifactor authentication and next-generation password management engine, all of which are fully integrated and linked with all your documentation.
To know more about how IT Glue can help with naming conventions, request a demo.