Monthly PC Tips

Organize Your Files by Date

August 2011 – by Per Christensson

Most of us use photo organization software to store our photos. But in some situations, it's nice just to store images in a folder, so you can easily open them, edit them, or share them with others. Unfortunately, the default filenames of pictures imported from a digital camera are not very helpful. It's hard to tell what the difference is between IMG_2095.JPG and IMG_3544.JPG without actually opening the files. Therefore, it can be helpful to rename the files with more useful information.

While you can rename files with descriptive names (e.g., "wakeboarding at the lake.jpg"), it can be very time consuming. Plus, if you have many similar photos, it can be difficult to come up with unique names for each one. Therefore, using the date when the photo was taken is a simple way to label the photo with identifying information. The proper way to include a date in a filename is as follows:

2011-07-26 (or YYYY-MM-DD)

This format puts the year first, followed by the month, followed by the day. By using this date format, your files will always be listed chronologically when you sort them by name. Below is an example:

2008-06-12 - flowers.jpg
2008-09-01 - trees.jpg
2009-02-10 - mountain.jpg
2010-05-31 - river.jpg
2011-07-23 - sunset.jpg
2011-07-24 - sunrise.jpg

By putting the date first in the filename, your photos will automatically be organized by date. This makes it easy to find specific photos at a later time.

While this filename dating strategy is great for photos, it has many other applications as well. For example, if you are working on a paper and want to save multiple revisions, you could save them as follows:

Research Paper - 2011-03-02.docx
Research Paper - 2011-03-17.docx
Research Paper - 2011-03-28.docx
Research Paper - 2011-04-05.docx
Research Paper - 2011-04-11.docx
Research Paper - Draft.docx
Research Paper - Final.docx

This method allows you to sort first by file name, then by date. Therefore, all the "Research Paper" documents will be saved together, but will be ordered by date.

Filename dating can also be used for audio recordings, video projects, presentations, and any other type of document. Whenever you need to save several similar files or multiple revisions of a document, including the date in the filename is a smart choice.

Important: If you have a large number of files that you want to sort by date, you can also create multiple folders and label each of them with a specific date. Then you can drag the files into the appropriate folders instead of renaming each file individually.

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