Toward a Proper Excel Filename Style

Most importantly, use your words
An ideal Excel filename should be two or three succinct words and contain few numbers. Current operating systems no longer constrain filename character length, so there is neither excuse for nor cleverness in using shorthand. Capitalize each word as you would a document title.    

Only abbreviate proper nouns
If your file is an example to someone, it should have the full word “Example” not “ex” in its title. If your Excel dashboard is the second version of the “Cost Analysis and Reporting System” you may abbreviate your filename to “CARS v2.xlsx,” but a VBA Chart Tutorial should never be named “VB ChrtTut.xlsm.”

Always connect words with a space and nothing else
The name of your file is not a programming variable or engineering quantity. The words in your filename should not be connected with underscores (“_”) nor dashes (“-“).

Use clear dates, but don’t include dates in every filename
Unless your file is a report that comes out on a specific, periodic schedule, there’s likely not a good reason to put today’s date in your filename. If you must put a date in your file, place the date at the beginning, left-hand side of the filename so it appears first. This ensures the date is not cut off when viewed in a file explorer. Dated files are likely to be stored with similar files in the same folder, so cutting off the last bit of each filename on the right is less harmful than cutting off the date.

If the workbook is a monthly report, the name should by the three character month followed by the year, then another space for the filename (e.g. “May 2012 Cost Report”). For reports that occur more frequently, a MM-DD-YYYY is preferable for sorting within the file directory.  \However, dates must always be clear; do not write “03-12” as this could mean March 12 or March 2012. Finally, full dates should not be clumped together without a dash (bad: “03122012”).

Numbers are preferable to dates
If you have several iterations of a file, use a numbering system instead of dates. Using dates leads to the horrible practice of adding extra numbers at the end of the filename. For example: “InventoryList 22 Feb 2001_1.xlsx”, “InventoryList 22 Feb 2001_2.xlsx” … etc.  Moreover, using dates and the former practice will not instantly make clear the latest version of your file when viewed in a file directory. However, placing a number at the end of your filename (“Inventory List 1.xlsx”, “Inventory List 2.xlsx”) always will make clear the latest (and first) iteration of the file whether sorted by filename, file type, or date modified when viewed in a directory (these files will always be either first or last). Numbers always should appear as the last character on the right.

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One thought on “Toward a Proper Excel Filename Style

  1. K Mac

    Good post. Don't have problem with underscores in file names but certainly cannot handle – as in code may look like varaible1 – variable2.With dates I tend to use yyyymmdd (without punctuation) – why ? because it sorts nicely in the listing to show the most recently created (but not neccessarily used) file towards the bottom of the groupAs important as any naming convention is the structure of folders – at the end of each calender year (or financial year if different), for crying out aloud!, create a new folder instead of trawling thru a folder of 100's of files.

    Reply

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