File Naming Conventions

There are some basic rules we follow at UW Extended Campus (UWEX) to ensure our files are web server friendly and are named consistently.

Basic Rules

Everyone on every project should use these rules. Doing so will help you get into the habit of following the naming conventions, making your files instantly recognizable and easy to read for other people working on or sharing your projects and files.

Never Use Spaces

Always use underscores or dashes instead of spaces. Web servers generally don’t like spaces, and they translate them into “%20” to make a URL work. This convention produces ugly and hard-to-read URLs.

Only Use Lower Case Characters

For ease of linking files, it is essential to use only lowercase characters. Our web server is case-sensitive, and to avoid any confusion or miss-capitalized links, we only use lowercase characters.

Only use Periods for File Extensions

Just as a simple rule of thumb, we do not use periods for anything but file extensions (.mp4, .pdf, etc.). As an alternative, use a dash instead of a period.

Limit the Types of Characters you Use in File Names

As a general rule in all file naming, it is best to avoid using anything but A-Z, 0-9, underscores, dashes, and periods. This means no ampersands, parentheses, colons, commas, slashes, or other punctuation.

No Symbols Between Numbers and Text

We do not put underscores between numbers and their related descriptor as a general convention. This helps with quick and easy reading of file names. smgt115_lesson1a.mp4 is correct, smgt_115_lesson_1a.mp4 and smgt-155_lesson-1a.mp4 are incorrect.

File Name Structure

We follow some basic rules at UWEX to structure our file names. This helps us know exactly what course or project a file is for and helps us understand what is going on when we share projects or dig into an old project.

The Broad to Specific Method of File Naming

Generally, we follow a methodology that could be referred to as “Broad to Specific” when naming files. This means we start with the broadest descriptor and continue with more descriptors getting more specific with each one. So this means starting with the course name and number, then going to the unit number, chapter number, lesson number, then the part, then the content descriptor if needed.

Parts of a Filename


Course/Project Descriptor: smgt115

This is either the course the file relates to or a short name for the project.

File Content Descriptor: lesson1_tropical-biomes

This is what the file is. For course content it might be the lesson, the chapter, the presentation topic, etc. You can separate multiple distinct descriptors with dashes for easier readability. This is optional, but dashes should only be used for this purpose.

File Extension: .mp3

This tells us what type of file it is, such as: .pdf, .mp4, .mov, .indd, etc. It is important to note that in course content projects, this is enough to describe what type of file it is. We don’t have to add -video, -audio, -transcript to the end of file names because these are indicated by the file extension.


 Correct Examples

  • abt700_lesson4b-cell
  • hwm410_lesson3_part1.pdf
  • msmgt750_sage-hall-part1
  • himt320_chapter4.mp3
  • hwm440_final-project-slide07

 Incorrect Examples

    abt700_lesson4b cell
    Space between 4b and cell

    Capital letters are used
    Periods are used not just in file extension

    Parentheses are used

    Dashes and underscores are used between text and numbers

    Published on September 14, 2022 at 8:45:41 am CDT. Last modified on September 14, 2022 at 11:30:55 am CDT.