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Help & guidance Data management

File naming and versioning

File names contain contextual information about the file and should be considered from the very outset of a project. It is important that your Data Management Plan defines your file naming system and all project members are familiar with the system.

The following conventions are good practice when naming files.

File naming conventions

  • Individual file names should be unique within a dataset.
  • File names should avoid using all special characters except underscores and hyphens.
  • Upper and lower case characters can be used, but CAPITALS are difficult to read and can affect ordering
  • Keep file naming conventions within your project consistent,
  • Files must have a file extension (normally 3 characters long) which should be lowercase.

The ADS has a set of file naming rules that must be followed if suppling data to the ADS.

Version control

Being consistent with file names makes keeping track of which version is the most up to date much easier, particularly when you have multiple people contributing to a file.

Version control tips

  • Add a draft or version number to the file name and/or the date
  • Including initials in file names can tell you who last worked on the file
  • Remove older drafts of the same data
  • Only deposit the final version

It is wise to keep older drafts until the final version is complete, however, whether you want to keep old versions of files and data is debatable. You have to ask are you ever going to need them again?

Case Study Example

In this blog post – The Silbury Hill Archive: the light at the end of the tunnel – ADS Digital Archivist Jenny O’Brien highlights how good version control can help speed up the time spent on archive preparation.