Saving: File Naming Rules

The first time you save a file, you should tell it what "file name" to store your work under (note that "some" programs will automatically put a file name in, but it is much better if you name your own files, so you have a better chance of finding them later).

The first time you save your work, you should use the "Save As" command, to tell your computer what "file name" to save your work in (in "some" programs, if you use the "Save" command the first time you save, it will act as if you clicked on the "Save As" command, but this is only in some programs, so you should develop a habit of using the "Save As" command the first time you save a new file). The "Save As" and "Save" commands are usually under the File menu (in most programs).

So, when you are typing a new document on your word processing program, the first time you go to save it, click on "File" to bring the File menu down, and click on "Save As" to bring the "Save As" dialog box up.

In the Save As dialog box, you can tell the computer where to put your file and what to call it. I won't get into where to put your file here, except to say that if the computer is putting your files in "My Documents" that is fine for now.

Then you have to tell the computer what "file name" to call your file. You should name your file according to what is in it (for example, if it is a letter to your son John, call it "Letter to John" not "Letter"). When you name your file, on computers with Microsoft Windows, there are also some computer requirements:

  1. Use letters and/or numbers.
  2. Use NO punctuation (and especially NO periods).

In fact, your file names can contain some punctuation, but some of the punctuation characters have special meanings to the computer, and cannot be used. Your file names can contain apostrophes, dashes, underscores, and commas, but it is much easier to remember the rules if you use only letters and/or numbers, and avoid all punctuation.

You can even use periods, but you should not put periods near the end of the file name, within the last 4 characters. If you accidentally use a period near the end of your file name, you will probably have trouble getting that file back again later (if this happens, a technician can help you get your file back again).

Here are some examples of GOOD file names:

 2004 Taxes for Bob Smith
 Personal Budget 2004
 Car Prices 2004
 Investment Notes from June 2003 Course
 Daily Weight for John starting March 2003
 To Do List
 Letter to Prime Minister, Feb 23, 2004

Note the use of two commas in this last file name. This is ok, and it is rather handy, but just be careful not to use periods, especically at the end of your file names.

Here are some examples of BAD file names (the problem is listed below each one):

 John This does not say what is in the file (if this is a letter, calculations, genealogy information, etc.).
 Letter This does not say who it is for.
 Letter to John. This has a period at the end of it, which causes problems.
 To Do List March 20/04 This file name has a slash "/" between the "20" and the "04" so the computer will not accept it.
 Letter to "Mom" The quotes around Mom will not be accepted by the computer.
 Interest * Principal - List of Payments This file has an asterisk "*" in it, which the computer will not accept. The dash "-" is ok.

So, rather than memorizing all the details and risk having a problem, keep it simple: When you name a file, use only letters and/or numbers, and use no punctuation.

Written by Jim McGinn
Copyright 2004, McGinnovation Inc.

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