Files and Folders

There are far more detailed guides on file naming and folder organisation out there, but I believe that most people would benefit from two really basic tips.

1.

Consider including the following elements when naming files:

(optional sequence number)_(description)_(date in the format YYYY-MM-DD)_(optional initials of the person who edited this version of the file at the back)

e.g., 02_brief-description_20180125_SK_KS

I consider the date format the most important element of file naming. Files will always be arranged from oldest to latest versions, and you prevent the age-old problem of having files labelled “_final”, “_reallyfinal”, “_toofinaltoofurious”, etc.

2.

Any folder containing files that are being replaced or updated should contain a folder for previous versions of files. This folder would contain all older versions of files that don’t need to be accessed quickly. Ideally, you would be saving a copy of each day’s work to this folder so that nothing gets discarded. The small amount of extra space required for this is absolutely worth it for the relief that you’ll feel (and the regret that you’ll avoid) when the need for a previous version does eventually arise.

e.g.,

aa_old (folder)
00_Manuscript-name_Cover-letter_20180125_KS.docx
01_Manuscript-name_Title-page_20171103_KS.docx
02_Manuscript-name_Main-document_20171212_SK_KS.docx
02_Manuscript-name_Main-document_20180124_KS_SK.docx
02_Manuscript-name_Main-document_20180126_SK_KS.docx
03_Manuscript-name_Supplementary_20171204_KS.docx

aa_old (folder)
00_projectname_raw-data_20171101_KS.sav
01_projectname_data-prep-agg_20171105_KS.sps
01_projectname_data-agg_20171105_KS.sav
02_projectname_data-prep-merg_20171108_KS.sps
03_projectname_data-hypotheses_20171111_KS.sav
04_projectname_Mplus-a_data-prep_20180102_KS.sps
04_projectname_Mplus-b_data-gen_20180102_KS.sps
04_projectname_data_20180102_KS.dat
file-that-has-yet-to-be-sorted.pdf
more-unsorted-files-etc.xlsx
some-sort-of-reference-that-needs-to-be-moved.pdf

Implementing these steps is probably particularly useful when you’re not working alone (particularly when not using options such as Google Docs). Being able to keep track of who added which changes (e.g., easily distinguishing the versions of the file that you completed from the version that your first and second proofreaders just returned to you) and knowing that all previous versions are backed up just a click away has been incredibly helpful to my work process.

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