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Tech Talk

by Jeff Shields 2022-06-09

In computer science it is a common axiom that the hardest thing to do is name things. I think that holds true in other aspects of life. Naming a child or even a painting or book can be agonizing.

When naming files, it is important to convey as much information as possible if you want to find it again. The modern computer often has hundreds of thousands of files from system files, applications and their preferences and cache files, to images and your creative works whether word processing, spreadsheets etc.

In the early days of the personal computer we were limited to names of 8 characters wth a 3 character extension. Today we have much longer names available to us, however that doesn’t always solve the problem. To help us organize our files we use directories or folders (depending on your terminology).

Disks are the physical medium for storing information which can contain one or more volumes or partitions.
Volumes or Partitions are logical divisions on a disk and used as a mount or entry point.
Directories or Folders are logical divisions of the volume or partition to organize and group files.

If you are sharing files between computers, operating systems and the internet, there are limitations on the characters you can use. For instance, the forward slash (linux and macOS) and back slash (windows) are used to indicate a directory or folder in the path. On the internet, other characters have special meaning and should not be used when naming files or folders.

When the components of a name are combined, they form what is referred to as the file path. e;g;

The following characters should not be used as they have special meaning in various contexts:


Volumes and partitions can be formatted to be either case sensitive or insensitive. On case sensitive volumes myfile, MyFile, MYFILE are all considered different files where on a case insensitive volume all refer to the same file. The internet is considered to be case sensitive.

I find to avoid confusion I use lowercase file names because many of my files are used on the internet.

Special Considerations for the Internet

If you are an artist and want to post images of your work to the internet, I suggest that you name your files and include your name to show ownership and copyright.

To maximize search engines results, use hyphens instead of underscores to separate words. The underscore is is considered part of the word. e.g.
my_file_name is 1 word
my-file-name is 3 words


Who would have thought naming could be so challenging?

Last Updated on: 2024-06-04