Some thoughts about file names

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Hi folks,

not really that we have really covered all open source projects that are worth a mentioning.  However, before I can catch enough breath for the next longer post, I wanted to share some thoughts on file names. As long as you start and finish your work in one sweep there isn’t really much need for a really systematic approach. However, if you - like probably everyone reading this blog – are working on projects that span longer than a day - think manuscript, data of your latest study - you need a system to keep track of versions and changes.

If all goes well you can tell stories with file-names.

How I name my own files

Filenames consist of four parts:

  1. A title: e.g. “science_paper”

  2. A version-number, e.g. “_3”

  3. A short description of what has changed, e.g. “_made_up_data”

  4. The ending indicating the file-type, e.g. “.doc”

So the final name is: “science_paper_3_made_up_data.doc”.

This way I can quickly find the most up to date file by sorting the filenames and know what I last did. Sometimes colleagues use the date instead of the integer to keep track of the latest number.  In my opinion integers work better because it also gives you a sense of how often you have worked on a specific file. If the number goes up into the 20 it may be a good idea to reflect on what is gong wrong. However, if you really have to use the date I suggest to use a yyyy-mm-dd format, because this also let’s you quickly find the latest file.

How I like working with others on files

The major problem when working with others is not so much clash of file-naming-conventions but ignorance of the importance of the problem of mixing up files. So the first thing is to agree on trying to keep a system. This way you decrease the likelihood of being called anal behind your back.

I usually opt for a fifth part to the filename after the version-number “Author initials”

  1. A title: e.g. “science_paper”

  2. A version-number, e.g. “_3”

  3. Author, e.g. “_gh”

  4. A short description of what has changed, e.g. “_made_up_data”

  5. The ending indicating the file-type, e.g. “.doc”

So the final name is: “science_paper_3_gh_made_up_data.doc”.

Again there is a small question about the version-numbers. Specifically, who is in charge of changing it. The two options are:

  • Everyone gives a new number.

  • Only the lead-author / lead-analyst gives new numbers.

I tend to prefer the latter especially in the final stages of a paper when you want to approve a specific final version for submission. But this only works as long as everyone agrees to comment only once on a specific version.

Cheerio and sorry again for being too german.

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