Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tech Tip Tuesday: What's in a name?

A while back we did a series on file extensions. File extensions are the 3 characters after the file name that tell the computer which program to use to open the file.  The extension allows you to control  your files by designating the default program used with various file types.

But what about the file name?  In the olden days of computers there were limits on both the extensions (3 characters) and the file names (8 characters). In those olden days those of us who were using computers came up with all kinds of clever tricks for shorthand with filenames.  Including adding the date or severe truncation and often leaving out vowels.  Both the filenames and extensions have a lot more flexibility now but some tricks can still help.

When you are sorting files to find items, it is helpful to use the alphabetical sorting option.  But what if you have a dozen files that start with 'M', or what if you have an important file you want to be easy to find.  Try some of these tricks:

  • add a '1' to the beginning of the file (to sort to the top)

  • add a '!' to the beginning of the file (to sort to the very top)

  • add a 'z' to the beginning of the file (to sort to the bottom)

Previously, you couldn't add spaces into file names, but now they are open game. The operating system might still truncate the file name but you will probably not ever really see the truncated version.  But adding longer file names can help you find things easier when you need them. Using underscores or dashes will allow you separate one part of a filename from another.

Finally, since you are allowed greater lengths it can be helpful to name files with the date it was created or the date it was created for.  When you do this it is good to keep in mind that this date won't change with each modification.  Also, because the computer sorts without regard to anything but the actual numbers it is useful to follow the YYYY-MM-DD pattern.  I discovered this because some programs by default use this to create folders for each day's work.  I add the date to the beginning of files that are date sensitive.

Another big help came when I realized I could use file names to help me sort student work.  When teaching PowerPoint™ to students I needed a way to organize their work fast.  I came up with this pattern #lastname,firstname.***  Where the # represents their class period and the * represents the appropriate extension

So give it a try and give it a name

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