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Staying Organized: Tips for Naming Your Google Drive Files

3 minute read

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You probably don’t give much thought to how you name your Drive files, but given how many documents we use every day, your files can quickly get messy and lost if you don’t have a good naming convention in place. Here are some tips for creating your own naming conventions so that your Drive files stay neat, organized, and easily searchable.

First, be descriptive—make sure to include enough information

We love David Sparks’ advice on file naming: “Don’t get cryptic. Pretend future you will be drunk or senile (or both) when looking at these file names and make the name easy to understand.”

So avoid this:


Google Drive naming conventions avoid this_2

What on earth do those file names mean? Nobody knows! Not only that, but your generic “Untitled document” will also quickly get buried in your Drive files—and you’ll have a tough time finding it again. 

You’ll save yourself lots of headaches if you add some descriptive information in the file name. You won’t have to open multiple files, hunting for the right one, if the file name information is specific and clear. Don’t go overboard with too many details, but here’s some common information you might consider including:

  • Type of document – e.g., presentation, lesson plan, contract, pitch, outline, invoice
  • Date – e.g, date created, date modified
  • Name of people or group involved – e.g., student’s name, client name, company name, office branch location
  • Department – e.g., class subject, department name
  • Project or topic
  • Version #
  • Status of file – e.g., filed, for review, approved, saved, archived
  • Security level – e.g., confidential, for general use

So try something like this:

Google Drive naming conventions try this_2

This way, if you know some element of the file name (e.g., the date, topic, department, content type, etc.), you can search Drive for it and then easily find the file. This makes your search much more accurate and efficient, and you can save time by quickly finding what you’re looking for. We like using “[Date] Document name,” but create a convention that works best for you.

Best practices

  • When including dates, include the year. The format is up to you (YYYY-MM-DD or MM-DD-YYYY). Some people use hyphens (-), underscores (_), periods (.), blank spaces, or even no spaces within the dates, but use a format that works for you.
  • Separate the date from the rest of the file name with an underscore or with brackets. For example: Tech Questionnaire_07-11-2016 or [07.11.2016] Tech Questionnaire.
  • Try to abbreviate where it makes sense, in order to make information easier and faster to understand.
  • When abbreviating, use caps. For example, accounting becomes ACCT; management becomes MGMT.
  • If you’re creating different versions of a file, use “v” to denote it. For example: Employee Survey_v2. If your file is significantly updated, use Employee Survey_v3. If there are minor edits, use Employee Survey_v2.1, 2.2, and so forth.
  • If an item is confidential or high-security, note that at the beginning of the file. For example: Confidential_NYC Incident Report_06-18-2016.

Be consistent

No matter how you decide to name your files, try to be consistent. For example, if you’re adding dates in your files, stick to one format. Files can easily become disorganized and messy if you’re using all different types of formats.

And finally, make sure everyone’s on board

You might use organized file names, but your colleagues should be using them too. Because Google Apps is all about collaboration and sharing, your “Shared with me” section can quickly get cluttered if people aren’t using detailed, informative names. There’s no point in establishing a great naming convention is nobody is following it, right? Send out a quick memo so that everybody understands why naming conventions are important (e.g., it helps everyone find files faster, saves time, improves organization) and what the rules of the naming conventions are. Remember, be consistent!

For more expert tips on organizing your Drive folders and making them easier to navigate, check out this great episode of The Apps Show from our friends at Google for Work.

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