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Digitizing Collections: FIle Naming

A guide for digitizing collections for access and preservation.


  1. Planning 
  2. Selection
  3. Digitizing materials
  4. Processing files, creating master and access files
  5. Metadata creation or re-purposing
  6. Digital preservation of master files
  7. Presentation of access files in an online content management platform

Create a File Naming Convention

Create a file naming convention

It is important to develop a file naming convention for your digital collections. This is a set way or pattern for how to constructing file names. It should be determined before you begin creating digital files to ensure consistency and organization.

File Naming Best Practices

Best practices for file naming

  • Use descriptive names to identify the content/purpose of files 
  • Avoid illegal characters: > < " / \ | ? * : ^ $ (These characters may have special meanings in operating systems and could cause problems)
  • Avoid periods or commas to avoid problems in systems that handle these differently.
  • Avoid underscores because they don't show up well in URLS and because CONTENTdm uses underscores to indicate where text for a caption begins
  • Avoid spaces in filenames (due to problems with browsers and some operating systems):
    • ​Use dashes between words (i.e. faculty-meeting-minutes)
  • Consider only using lowercase letters, some systems and all web browsers are case sensitive.
  • Try to limit the length to 27 characters. Most operating systems allow more characters than this but limiting it will help make your files more interpretable with other systems.
  • Do not begin nor end a file name with a dash or other punctuation
  • Do not use double dashes in a row or other double punctuation in a file name
  • Only use standard file extensions and make sure to only have one

Resources for File Naming


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.