Computer File Names

Well formatted file names will help keep you organized but can also keep unexpected problems from arising when using different computer technologies.

When uploading files to a system the names should:

  • Be unique
  • Be descriptive
  • Use alpha-numeric characters – US-ASCII characters (universally displayable, unaccented characters)
  • Use underscore, dash or capitalization to delimit elements
  • Contain no special characters like: ! # $ % & ‘ @ ^ ` ~ + , . ; = ) ( \ / : * ? “ < > | [ ]
  • Have no punctuation except for the dot right before the extension
  • Always include the file type extension
  • Not be longer than 60 characters
  • Have no spaces

Good example: david_smith_headshot.jpg

Bad example: image1
In this example, if someone has already uploaded an image called “image1” the computer may save over the image.

Bad example: david smith.headshot.jpg
In this example, the computer may get confused and think that “headshot” is the file type and not display the image.

Many of the same rules apply to URL address names.

Extra BenefitBenefits

Search engines not only crawl the text on your webpage, but they also search for keywords within your file names.

Learn More

Best practices for file naming from Stanford University Libraries.

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