Have you ever worked on a project and had multiple versions of the same document circulating among your team, each of them with different file names and individual edits? This is a recipe for disaster as you attempt to piece together a final version with so many versions. Good team planning on any major documentation project, including an assigned document manager or gatekeeper designated to receive, manage, and combine various changes and edits into one document is essential. The document specialist will also maintain all of the electronic versions with a document management tool or with a traditional shared-network file repository where documents are stored and maintained manually. For huge projects, a document management tool is good, but for smaller projects, the traditional method of maintaining electronic files is preferred and far less expensive. A basic understanding of file management is all that is needed to get started. To finish you need to develop your repository project-centric with some basic and easy-to-follow features that make finding your documents fast and easy. The time you spend working this on the front end of your project will be worth its weight in gold six months in when your file count grows to unruly numbers.
The method for naming and organizing the main folders in your project should be unique to the project. Consistency and simplicity should be the standard. If your project has a projected timeline, you may want to organize your top-level main folders by milestones or quarterly, or you can name the top-level folders by business segments, such as accounting, operations, etc. If you are working a development or design project, your first-level folder structure could serve your project with folder names based on specific requirements or the developer’s road map for the developing process, such as plan, design, test, implement, and review. If you are developing policies and procedures or any other type of compliance, QA, or security documentation bound by certain standards, developing the folder names should logically follow a structure based on the document hierarchy and/or numbering scheme. The size of the project will determine how many folders and subfolders are required to keep your files organized, so it is always best to be conservative and create a minimal number of primary folders, relying more on your sub-folders and file names to keep your files in order. Developing unique project document repositories for each project is different, but if you focus on a few simple concepts, maintaining large volumes of documents will be much easier.
Giving all of your files standard names using a predefined file-naming convention is a great way to keep your file repository clean and easy to use. Just like building the folder structure, the work you put into developing a file-naming convention upfront will be time well spent down the road. Develop different abbreviated standard segments for your file names based on factors such as date, status, department, project, and tasks. Using segments from the document title is obviously good information to include in your file names. As in folder names, each document manager may have a unique system for naming files.
Some things to consider to make your file management easier
- Abbreviate where possible, but only if it informs, for example, marketing could be, mktg. development, dev, or manager, mgr.
- No spaces or special characters in file names other than _underscore or –dash. File namespaces interpreted in the IE browser will have this ugliness in the blank spaces appended to your URL , %20%
- An underscore is a good way to offset the segments separated by dashes, with a date for example mktg-guide-prod_4-20-2020
- Words and abbreviations separated by a dash are easier on the eyes and brain than no spaces, even if you use initial caps. For example, a document titled Production Guide First Draft with no spaces in the file name, prodguidefirstdraft or ProdGuideFirstDraft is harder to read and understand than prod-guide-first-draft or Prod-Guide-First-Draft
Always have an archive folder and use it. Don’t copy every file to one archive, but save them in their subfolder structure, a mirror of your main repository. I like to use an underscore in front of the folder name, _archive so it will display at the top of the list when sorting by name.
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