Tips for Naming Your Microsoft Word Files

Boxes full of files labeled in a warehouse.

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If you’re like most users, you probably don’t spend too much time thinking about what to name your documents when you save them. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to find the file you want without a bit of searching — you may even have to open several different files to find the one you want.

Developing a naming system for your documents and getting in the habit of using it will save you time and frustration when it comes time to locate the document you need. Rather than searching through countless documents with imprecise filenames, a naming system will help you speed up your search.

The Right Naming System

There is no single right way to name your files, and naming systems will vary from user to user. What is important is finding the method that makes sense to you, and then applying it consistently. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Include the date the document was composed in your file name: This is potentially one of the most helpful elements to include in a file name, particularly when you’re dealing with correspondence. Even if you don’t remember exactly when you composed a document, you’ll likely be able to narrow your search to a specific time period.
  • Include the recipient’s name in your file name: This is a particularly valuable practice when working with letters, but it can be a handy element for other types of documents, such as contracts, memos, and even notes.
  • Indicate what type of document the file is: Again, this will seem like a given for some users, and that’s because it is such an important part of a file name. If you’re looking for a letter you wrote, you can eliminate a file that has “contract” or “notes” in the name.
  • Pay attention to how you order the elements of the file name: While this may not help you differentiate your files, it will help you order them when you’re searching. Using the sorting controls in the Open dialog box in Word, or in Windows Explorer, you can sort your files alphabetically (or numerically) so that they’re sorted by the first character in the file name.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of tips on naming files, but it is a good place to start. Once you start a practice of naming your files in a consistent manner, you’ll develop a system that works best for you — and likely come up with some tricks of your own.