Good File Naming Conventions

There are a number of good tips to keep in mind when you name your folders, files, and web pages. These tips will help to keep your URLs short and specific to what they involve. Good file naming will also help with search engine optimization.

  • Don’t include spaces or other punctuation in your folder or file name. If necessary, use dashes in this manner: “my-new-file.pdf”.
  • Try to keep your folder or file name short while still making sense.
  • Use key words.
  • Use lowercase.
  • Pick a filename and stick to it. Besides our CMS restrictions, not renaming your file will keep the file indexed by any search engines.
  • Try to avoid using years, version numbers, or other naming patterns that date a file. Maintenance is reduced and user experience is sustained when you can just overwrite the old file with the new one each year and keep the filename the same. However, for archiving purposes, different filenames may be important (e.g., FY09). To ensure that your new filename updates properly, please let the CMS team in University Marketing and Communications know when you change a filename.

You may only work in one operating system, however your web files will be viewed by numerous systems. Therefore, it becomes essential that you play it safe and avoid common illegal directory and filename characters. Some are illegal because a specific operating system doesn’t support them, others because they are used as variables or reserved characters. Naming conventions are important in web addresses (folder names) as well as for binary files.

Do not use any of these common illegal characters.

  • # pound
  • < left angle bracket
  • % percent
  • > right angle bracket
  • & ampersand
  • * asterisk
  • { left bracket
  • ? question mark
  • } right bracket
  • / forward slash
  • back slash
  • + plus sign
  • : colon
  • = equal sign
  • “ double quotes
  • | pipe
  • ‘ single quotes
  • ` backtick
  • ! exclamation point
  • @ at sign
  • $ dollar sign
  • and blank spaces

Also, keep these rules in mind:

  • Don’t start or end your filename with a space, period, hyphen, or underline.
  • Keep your filenames under 31 characters.
  • Most operating systems are case sensitive.
  • Non-ASCII characters need to be escaped.
  • Separate words with dashes (not underscores).
  • Keep the overall filename length reasonably short.
  • Selecting Great URLs

Example:

Bad filenames Translates to
F&A Costs.html F&amp;A%20Costs.html
my PDF file#name.pdf my%20PDF%20file%23name.pdf
Good filenames
fa-costs-index.html
my-pdf-file-name.pdf


Note: This list is not exhaustive. It is meant to help you avoid common errors in filenames.

Renaming CMS Filenames

Its important to understand that although you can rename the filenames of items in the CMS (pages, pdfs, documents, spreadsheets, etc) it is not a good practice to do so. Besides the lost advantages of keeping consistent filenames, you will also incur some disadvantages to file renaming. Let’s say you have a PDF named “office-names.pdf” on your website. You wish to rename it to “office-names09.pdf” because it is a new PDF for the new year. When you rename your filename, the old file (office-names.pdf) and the new file (office-names09.pdf) will both be on your website. This is because the CMS does not remove files from your website unless they are archived. If they are simply renamed, the old one will be left online and a new one will be created. If any of your users are linking to or bookmarking the old file, they will not be aware that a new file exists and will instead view the old file. Please be aware of this and keep your filenames the same. Please let the CMS team in University Marketing and Communications know when you change a filename if it necessary.