Skip to main content

Biological Anthropology

Why organize your files?

Simply put, organizing your files will ultimately save you time and headaches.  To do this properly, the University Libraries strongly urges faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students to follow the recommendations found at the links below.  These recommendations will ensure the easy access and ongoing usability of your files in years to come.

If you have any questions about organizing your files or need additional assistance, please feel free to contact Cynthia Hudson at Olin Library.

 

File Formats

Do you remember Lotus 1,2,3?  Have any files saved in WPS or MacWrite?  Have you ever gone back to a file that is a few years old and received a "file not found" or other error message? If so, proprietary file formats are to blame. 


The format you keep your data in today is the primary factor in it's usability in the future.  As new versions of software are released or different software becomes commonly accepted, older versions become obsolete. 

To avoid this, it is recommended that researchers use file formats that are :

  • non-proprietary (use .txt or .rft versus .doc)
  • open, documented standard (see the Metatdata section for more information)
  • standard representation (ASCII, Unicode)
  • uncompressed
  • unencrypted

File best practices

Naming your files or data in a way that allows them to be easily recognizable without opening them is critical for properly maintaining your files. 

Please take in mind the following considerations while organizing your files (adapted from the Digital Asset Management Blog Archive and from NCDCR’s Best Practices for File-Naming):

Good Practice   Rationale
Create meaningful file names that are simple and relevant to the file. Obscure file names may be impossible to locate in the future
Use lowercase letters and numbers to name files. There are accessibilty problems for individuals with disabilities when using the shift key.
Do not include spaces. This can cause problems with some operating systems and when acting as a hyperlink. 
File names should not exceed 31 characters.      More than 31 characters may cause a problem for certain operating systems. 
Do NOT include any special characters such as:
& , . ( ) % # $ ¢ / \ - { } [ ] < > : ; @
In certain operating systems these are seen as wild card operators and may cause a problem. 

Include dates and format them consistent with ISO 8601:

YYYYMMDD

This format allows ease of sorting and comparing files by date and prevents confusion with other date formats.
Use a version number to manage drafts and revisions (v01, v02, v03).  This is much more effective than other common additions like "update", "new", and "old".