When I first used a word processor — possibly something like WordStar or Works or LocoScript and then eventually Word 2 — there were a couple of limitations. I recall having to carry six floppy disks around with me to run the programme, and I think that was in addition to the actual file you were working on.



And those 3 1/2 inch disks were somewhat new fangled.

The other thing was that filenames were of the type abdcefgh.123. Eight characters and a suffix — txt, doc, ps. My PHD thesis, which I have most of electronically was


No, don’t ask me why the naming convention isn’t consistent.

These days we don’t have to use eight characters and we’re much more used to having nested folders — but equally used to using several machines, pendrives, clouds and gdrives. We can be sensible in our naming conventions.

Let us imagine that I am working on a chapter for a Cambridge Companion.[1] I write a file and I save it as CAMBRIDGE.DOC. That’s nine characters. Living on the edge.

Professor Neil James is editing a Cambridge Companion which consists of twelve chapters. So far, the day after the deadline, he has seven files called CAMBRIDGE.DOC.[2] This, obviously, is aggrannoying, so he renames them by contributor and then I get back a file called BUTLER.DOC. To go with the fifty or so I already have of that name.

Now, what would be more sensible is to have a naming convention where the project and author is clear. So call it CAMBRIDGE BUTLER.DOC. Or, maybe, BUTLER CAMBRIDGE.DOC, but I reckon the first will alphabeticise better. Then go a stage further and add a date or a version.

This is a whole other bundle of fun – I have a file called CAMBRIDGE FINAL.DOC. Which is fine, until I come to rewrite the file or I spot something else to change or there’s a possible edit to make but I don’t want lose the other version. So try something like CAMBRIDGE SUBMITTED JUNE 2015.DOC.

Ah, dating conventions.[3] To my eyes small, medium, large is sensible. So, day/month/year is superior to month/day/year. Fourth of July, not July fourth.

But alphabeticisation means CAMBRIDGE SUBMITTED 2015 6 14.DOC is better than CAMBRIDGE SUBMITTED 15 6 2015.DOC.

I’m noting that increasingly whatever version of Word it is I’m on, it opens the file as Read-Only and when I try to save as, I’m told the file already exists so CAMBRIDGE SUBMITTED 2015 6 14.DOC becomes CAMBRIDGE SUBMITTED 2015 6 14a.DOC. But maybe an archive of each version per day you’ve done is useful, even if you need to tidy up every few days. You risk editing older files in error if you’ve not sorted properly.

The next trick is to start investigating the tags and comments functions, to help you find the file that you are after in Windows Explorer (or equivalent). And to make sure I put this into action myself.

1. In fact I’m writing for two, but that’s another story.
2. The other five have yet to be submitted.
3. Split the bill.