Excel File Naming Conventions – Name Style Rules

Naming your Excel files is something which doesn’t get any coverage of any of the Excel blogs out there. And many, if not most, people do not feel that file names are something to put a thought into. But time and again we are lost looking for a spreadsheet that we really need or are clueless about what the spreadsheet in front of us concerns.

Jordan Goldmeier (aka JLOOKUP) is here to share some conventions he uses when naming his spreadsheets.

Why wait? Let’s get started!

1 – Spaces

Connect words using spaces instead of naming files “LikeThis.xlsx”. Use of spaces between words makes the file names more readable and easier for search to look up.

2 – Abbreviations are for Proper Nouns

Limit the use of abbreviations to proper nouns only. So, “Cost Analysis Reporting System v2.xlsx” can be named as “CARS v2.xlsx”. But “Chart Example.xlsm” should not be changed to “Chart Ex.xlsm” or “Chart Eg.xlsm”. The reason is that abbreviated proper nouns might be part of your corporate’s jargon, but not everyone would think of ‘Ex’ to stand for ‘Example’.

3 – Dates with Proper Delineation

If one is employing dates within their file naming system, they should delineate it using hyphens. For example, ‘12th of May, 2016’, should be written as ‘12-05-2016’, ‘2016-05-12’ or something similar. ‘12052016’ can look like someone’s ID, especially if you are putting dates at the start of your files like “12052016 ABC Performance.xlsx”.

If you use dates to maintain version numbers, it’s easier to sort your files by the ‘Date modified’ column within your folders.1

4 – Version Numbers

Some people use a system like “PA of XYZ_working file.xlsx” and “PA of XYZ_final version.xlsx” to maintain different versions. But if something goes wrong with your ‘working file’, e.g. it gets corrupted, you might not have a recent back up to save you. Hence, it is recommended that one should use file names like “PA of XYZ v1.xlsx”, “PA of XYZ v2.xlsx”, “PA of XYZ v3.xlsx” and so on to denote version numbers.

What’s next?

Think about the merits of this system and incorporate things you liked in your work. Also, share this with your colleagues who have a hard time keeping files organized.

And do tell us your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

Jamani Arsalan


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  • A note about dates: if you use ISO-8601 formatting for dates in filenames then the alphabetical sort of filenames will also be date sorted. It is also a format easy to read by people.
    Using “fileprefix yyyy-mm-dd” the dates sort textually in date order.

    myfile 2202-02-10.txt
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