Filenaming conventions

Why start a filenaming convention?

Creating a naming convention for your assets allows users to quickly see basic information about the file’s contents without opening up more windows. It acts as a quick reference guide and increases the speed it takes to search and find assets.

This becomes especially important when sharing files externally. Generic filenames give no indication of what type of asset, which version and to what family of assets it belongs.

A well-considered naming convention also makes versioning of assets less problematic, so you can track which version of the asset is being used. Without a date or version number, saving files locally increases risk, as it’s impossible to tell whether the locally stored asset is current.

A naming convention may also allow you to simplify your folder structure, reducing unnecessary levels.

So when embarking on a naming convention, it’s best to keep the following in mind:

Who does filenaming benefit?

The naming convention should benefit all users. You obviously need to consider your internal users, as you want them to quickly see basic information about the file’s contents without needing to open up more windows.

You should also consider external users that have assets sent or shared with them. How useful is the naming convention to them?

And don’t forget about your uploaders. If you have a large team uploading files to the DAM, following a file naming convention becomes critical. It’s easier to monitor and be consistent in the naming when there is a small admin team but in larger companies where multiple admins contribute to the library, naming files is harder to enforce without a naming convention.

Therefore, everybody needs to be on board and the naming should be simple.

When should filenaming occur?

Filenaming should occur before you, the customer, receive the file. If you have a photographer or designer creating assets for your company, discuss your naming needs with them. Brief them on the information you want in the name and what metadata you want captured. They should be able to provide you with the files already named and embedded with metadata.

If you have existing files without unique names, edit those as early as possible, at upload or when adding metadata to them.

Ensure you document your filenaming convention and provide that information to all stakeholders, so everyone has a reference guide to follow.

Filenaming Convention Content

How should you name your files?

There are multiple ways and strategies to name files but first of all, keep it simple!

Simplicity is especially important if you have a larger team involved in naming files. You want to include enough information to make the filename unique, but not too much that it becomes too cumbersome and difficult to manage.

Remember that the filename is not the sole source of information about the asset. All file information should be included in the searchable metadata — so the name is really just an initial reference point.

Sometimes, looking at the existing folder structure of your files can help you think through the beginnings of a naming convention. For example, including additional information in the filename may help you get rid of a level or two of subfolders, and thereby simplifying the folder structure.

Always ensure that the important information gets added to the description of the files too, making it easily searchable.

Depending on the DAM that you utilise, the search tool will search different properties. For example, Brand Toolbox searches the following properties:

Most DAMs are not this comprehensive.

Consistent filenaming conventions

Ensure a considered and consistent filenaming strategy is applied. Naming strategies assist with legibility and are also important for file stability. Thoughtlessly named files confuse user interaction and can cause various problems with search.

In the filenames and image names that you upload to the media section, consider the following:

Filename convention Examples

Avoid special characters so your filenames are web-usable and cross-platform compatible.

  • No TABS
  • No # & % + * = @ ~ ^ $
  • No < > ( ) [ ] { } : ; ? ! | \ /
  • No Other Unusual Characters

Use underscores, dashes or upper/lowercase letters to help with readability.


Periods should only ever be used to separate the filename from the format extension, never in the filename itself.




Avoid overlong filenames. For example, the Windows API imposes a maximum length such that the filename, including the file path, can't exceed 255 characters.

Start with general information on the left and get more specific as you move through your filename. This helps your files sort logically, from the top down.

  • BT_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos.eps
  • BT_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos.jpg
  • BT_Audio_Name_FullLength.mp3
  • BT_Audio_Name_30secEdit.wav
  • BT_Image_Name_00001.jpg
  • BT_Image_Name_00002.jpg

Consider including a general prefix (customer, product) and/or a specific suffix (version number, colour).

  • BT_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.eps
  • BT_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.jpg
  • SubBrand_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.eps
  • SubBrand_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.jpg

Keep abbreviations short but significant, 2-3 letters if possible, as long as they have a commonsense meaning. And if you have multiple brands, ensure the filenames are branded.

“BT” = Brand Toolbox
“AP” = Australia Post
“MW” = Melbourne Water

  • BT_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.eps
  • BT_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.jpg
  • AP_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.eps
  • AP_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.jpg
  • MW_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.eps
  • MW_Logo_Name_RGB_Pos_V01.jpg

If adding dates, they should go “Year-Month-Day” (with or without dashes) in order to have the files sort chronologically.

  • Filename_20170931
  • Filename_2017_09_31
  • Filename_2017-09-31

If you end up with more than one similar filename, use 2-3 numeral spots at the end and start with zeroes (001, 002).

  • BT_Filename_20170931
  • BT_Filename_20170931_001
  • BT_Filename_20170931_002

If you start filenames with numbers, use 2-3 numeral spots and start with zeroes so that your files sort correctly. Additionally, if you intend to have a library of over 10,000 images, ensure you use a 5-digit number.

  • BT_00001_Filename
  • BT_00002_Filename
  • BT_00003_Filename
  • BT_12397_Filename
  • BT_99999_Filename

When versioning files, use the designator “V” and a number.

  • BT_Filename_V01
  • BT_Filename_V02

Also consider whether you intend to use dates to version filenames or numbers. I prefer to use “V” numbers rather than dates but use the method to suit your taxonomy. Again, start with zeroes so that your files sort correctly.

  • BT_Filename_Product_V01
  • BT_Filename_Product_V02


  • BT_Filename_Product_20170931.jpg
  • BT_Filename_Product_20171113.jpg


How to easily rename files

Once you’ve decided on a filenaming convention, it’s time to implement it. If you have a large batch of files that need to be similarly named, there are numerous apps that can help you change those names. These apps allow you to add numbers, replace existing text, or even swap from number sequencing to letter sequencing.

In many DAM applications you can change filenames at the upload stage and also later once the files are uploaded.

Whatever you decide, it is imperative that you share the procedure with your content creators, so the files are delivered to the library already named correctly. Pushing the filenaming up the chain to the point of creation takes the burden off the file manager and thus has a much higher chance of long-term success.

On the Mac OS, we use the NameChanger app:


NameChanger helps you rename a list of files quickly and easily, and see the changes as you type. Change names by Replace First Occurrence, Replace Last Occurrence, Replace All, Wildcard, Prepend, Append, Character Removal, Case Changing, Regular Expressions, Sequence and Date. Advanced options for file extensions and selective renaming. Also contains an Image Browser for visual reordering of photos, integrated Quick Look and ability to save a rename for later use.

There are many Windows apps available including:

File Renamer Basic

A solid utility to rename multiple files, images and photos with regular expressions. File Renamer Basic has a very appealing, polished interface that has a directory tree, a file listing, and tabs below. Beyond the basic features File Renamer Basic also supports regular expressions, ID3 v1 and ID3 v2, EXIF, renaming lists, saved profiles for repeat tasks, and ID3 tag editing which is a good feature. And, the help files are excellent.

Bulk Rename Utility

A file renaming software that is easy to use, powerful and highly functional. Bulk Rename Utility is one of the best renaming tools out there for Windows. The home screen is intimidating for first time users, but it is really easy to use once you get familiar with it. The app is absolutely filled with features you will need, no matter what your renaming requirement is. Some of the best features include but aren’t limited to removing, adding or changing text in the file names; changing the case of filenames; appending or prepending text to filenames; removing characters, words, digits or symbols; changing extensions; moving or copying files; and support for regular expressions.


Loaded with features and covers most renaming aspects for technically minded users. PFrank is loaded with features and covers most of the renaming aspects. Besides all common renaming features, PFrank supports meta data tags for many different file types. It can also modify meta tags and file properties. The downside, affecting casual users for the most part, is that PFrank has a steep learning curve compared to the other renamers. Even the simplest rename will require a little studying of the help file. Nevertheless, technically minded users will pick up the syntax quickly enough to make it worth their while.

Advanced Renamer

It has an attractive interface and renames multiple files and folders with renaming methods. Advanced Renamer has an attractive interface and works a little differently than other renamers. After you select the files you want to rename, you select the “Renaming method” you want to use. You then select pre-defined tags from multiple menus as commands. You can switch between methods to add different types of tags.

Brand Toolbox Auto-Filenamer

Filename Sequencer Result

If naming your image files just seems too hard, let Brand Toolbox do the hard work for you.

Brand Toolbox can automatically and sequentially number images, so there is no need to individually and manually name the files before upload.

Having the system automatically generate image numbers prevents duplicate image filenames from entering the system. It also keeps a consistent naming convention that suits your individual filenaming taxonomies.

For more information, visit Automated image numbering.

Or to learn how to apply a killer naming convention, please contact the asset management experts at Brand Toolbox.

2 October 2017