File Management

A well-organized electronic file hierarchy saves time and creates an effective work space. An effective model for organizing electronic files follows the cabinet, folder and file structure. Choosing how you organize your folders depends on the project requirements. For instance, files can be organized into folders by type (ex. all pictures go in an image folder and all documents go in a documents folder), by subject (ex. all items used in a specific chapter), or by date.

File Naming Conventions

The most important rule of file-naming is consistency. The following suggestions provide a good starting point for developing a naming convention:
  • Avoid using special characters in a file name. \ / : * ? “ < > | [ ] & $ , .
  • Use underscores instead of periods or spaces
  • Err on the side of brevity (file names of 25 characters or less are usually effective)
  • The file name should include all necessary descriptive information independent of where it is stored
  • Include dates and format them consistently (the YYYY-MM-DD format provides the easiest sorting method for dates)
  • To more easily manage drafts and revisions, include a version number on these documents (use a "v" to indicate the version)
  • Be consistent

Storage Location

File location depends on the project requirements.
  • Do you work with a team?
  • Does your team reside in different locations?
  • Do you need access to your files from multiple locations?

Teams need a shared work space either on a company network or through a secured cloud tool like SkyDrive by Microsoft or Google Apps. Cloud tools offer anytime, anywhere access. Company network space offers a more secure option.

Backup Often

Most companies have regular data backups of their network space. If your project is important, having multiple backup utilities may be advantageous. Thumb drives, external hard drives, web backup and storage systems are all viable options for backing up project data.

Source or Version Control

Version control is a critical component of document development. Version control options include commercial software like FILEHOLD or can be as simple as a spreadsheet or database with a good file naming convention.

Working with Multiple Authors

Effective and efficient multiple-author projects require more planning, conventions and processes. Defining templates, identifying member responsibilities and developing a project road map provides the foundation for a team.

File Organization for the Website

When creating a website, file organization should be the first step. First create the "parent folder" or root directory. This folder will contain all of the client's information. Within the "parent folder" or "root directory" you can create as many folders as needed to accomplish the task and keep things organized.

Why organize your files?
  • Keeping all project files in one place makes it easier to archive and backup.
  • It helps avoid the headache of having to re-do web pages or the entire website.
  • It makes it easier to post the site live to the web with all your information in one file.
  • When the client asks for files you can find it!

Creating a website directory or "parent folder" before starting a website is a time saver!

Tips to manage your files better

  1. Use Documents. Using the "My Documents" feature will allow you to:
    • Find files. Windows provides easy access to the Documents folder (and its sub folders) in many places, including the Start menu, the task pane in Windows Explorer, and common File Open and File Save dialog boxes.
    • Back up files. You should back up files regularly. Documents and libraries can help make backups a snap.
    • Keep files separate from programs. By separating document files and program files you reduce the risk of accidentally deleting your documents when you install or upgrade programs. To move files or folders from one location to another, right-click the file or folder name in the existing location and then click Cut. Navigate to the new location, and then click Paste.
  2. Adopt consistent methods for file and folder naming. When learning how to manage files and folders, it is important that you develop a naming scheme for the kinds of files you create most often and then stick to it. To change an existing file or folder name, right-click the name in the folder structure. Click Rename, and then type the new name.
  3. Keep names short. Even though you can use long file names, you should not necessarily do so. Long file names can be harder to read. Let your folder structure do some of the naming.
  4. Separate ongoing and completed work. To keep the Documents folder from becoming too unwieldy, use it only for files you're actively working on. As a result, you can reduce the number of files you need to search through and the amount of data you need to back up.
  5. Avoid large folder structures. If you need to put so many sub folders in a folder that you can't see all of them at a glance, consider creating an alphabetic menu.
  6. Use shortcuts and shortcut links instead of multiple copies. If you need to get to the same file from multiple locations, don't create copies of the file. Create shortcuts to it instead. Shortcuts are links to files or programs and are represented by icons with an arrow in the lower-left corner. To create a shortcut, right-click the file and then click Create Shortcut.


Cavanaugh, Jamie. File Organization (Website Directory Structure). Everything About Web. 28 Aug. 2011. Web 13 Sept. 2012 EverythingAboutWeb

How to Organize Your Computer Documents. 11 Sep 2012

Document Control Software. 11 Sep 2012

File organization tips: ideas for managing files and folders. 13 Sept 2012.

File Management and Backup. Social Science Network and Data Services. 30 Aug 2012

Best Practices for File-Naming. Government Records Branch of North Carolina. 07 May 2008

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard, Technical Communication Today, 3rd Ed.,New York: Longman, 2010. Print


Original Author: Catherine Hamilton
Contributors: Inez Funchess, Larita Clow
Editors: Wendy Anderson, Sandra Ramirez, Tammy Fitzpatrick