Learn how to name files—hey Comcast, this means you!

People are really bad at naming files on their computer. How many times have you walked up to someone’s desktop to see half a dozen “untitled folder”s, several “documents” and files with other generic names like “resume,” “proposal” and “draft”?

Are you really going to remember what’s in that file tomorrow? In two months? In two years. No. Naming your files is just like writing email: be clear, concise and remove redundancy.

When you’re creating files for distribution over the web, remember where this is going to end up — on someone’s desktop. Two quick tips:

  • If you’re a job seeker, resume.pdf is a terrible name. Think of the hundreds of resume.pdfs the recruiter will have on his or her computer. PaulSchreiberResume.pdf is a much better name. No spaces, punctuation or accents makes the file URL easier to read and type (Paul%20Schreiber%20Resume.pdf just looks awful), and ensures it will be compatible with the Unicode-hostile mess that is corporate email.
  • If you’re a musician, actor, comedian or other performer, avoid names like headshot.jpg, bio.pdf and onesheet.pdf. Make sure your name is part of the file name. (And don’t forget to credit the photographer!)

Now, on to Comcast. They helpfully let you download your monthly invoices as PDFs. However, they look like this:
67899012345_05-27-2008.pdf

So what’s wrong with the name? Aside from the fact that starting off with an account number impairs scanability, look what happens when you have a good number of bills saved up:
67899012345_05-27-2007.pdf
67899012345_05-27-2008.pdf
67899012345_05-27-2009.pdf
67899012345_06-27-2007.pdf
67899012345_06-27-2007.pdf

That’s right—the files appear totally out of order. A much better idea would be to use an ISO standard date format like 2008-05-27, which—in addition to being a standard—sorts more cleanly.

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