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  • Using multiple periods in file names

    Posted on WSyoree Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody support Productivity software by function Using multiple periods in file names

    This topic contains 30 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  WSkevmeist 3 years, 2 months ago.

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    • #505870 Reply

      WSyoree
      AskWoody Lounger

      I have a colleague with whom I frequently share files with. We are both independent contractors and accordingly do not work in typical office environments, and more importantly, we do not have an IT that we can ask for help and direction. I have a bit more savvy than him when it comes to word-processing and spreadsheets skills, so I often pass along advice or solutions when asked.

      He has an interesting and I believe unique file-naming convention. It possibly caused me a minor but annoying inconvenience, but I was not 100% sure that the file-naming convention was at fault.

      He uses MULTIPLE periods in his file names, e.g., THIS.PROJECT.MAY.2015.docx.

      I want to say “NO! STOP THAT! NO ONE DOES THAT and it could cause big problems!” (And I want to use all caps!)

      Would I be wrong in gently suggesting (in lowercase) that he stop that and replace the periods with an underscore? or spaces? If so, does anyone have a web source that discusses why one should not do this!

    • #1567255 Reply

      Berton
      AskWoody_MVP

      I have a colleague with whom I frequently share files with. We are both independent contractors and accordingly do not work in typical office environments, and more importantly, we do not have an IT that we can ask for help and direction. I have a bit more savvy than him when it comes to word-processing and spreadsheets skills, so I often pass along advice or solutions when asked.

      He has an interesting and I believe unique file-naming convention. It possibly caused me a minor but annoying inconvenience, but I was not 100% sure that the file-naming convention was at fault.

      He uses MULTIPLE periods in his file names, e.g., THIS.PROJECT.MAY.2015.docx.

      I want to say “NO! STOP THAT! NO ONE DOES THAT and it could cause big problems!” (And I want to use all caps!)

      Would I be wrong in gently suggesting (in lowercase) that he stop that and replace the periods with an underscore? or spaces? If so, does anyone have a web source that discusses why one should not do this!

      I’ve seen similar and with the latest versions of programs and Operating Systems there’s not much problem. HOWEVER, it must be kept in mind that the extension of a file name such as .docx will always be after the last period in the name. Delete that extension and the name/word that results after the last period can cause the file not to be recognized. In other words, THIS.PROJECT.MAY.2015 will no longer be a valid file and can’t be opened. Adding to the issue is the default of Windows hiding the display of file extensions, makes it harder to determine where problems exist. I prefer separating parts of a file name by using the underscore _ or maybe the dash – instead of the period.

      Before you wonder "Am I doing things right," ask "Am I doing the right things?"
    • #1567256 Reply

      RetiredGeek
      AskWoody MVP

      Yoree,

      IMHO you are correct you should not to this. That said it is not against the “Rules”.

      Here’s the reference on File Naming Rules direct from the Horses Mouth!

      HTH :cheers:

      May the Forces of good computing be with you!

      RG

      PowerShell & VBA Rule!
      Computer Specs

    • #1567259 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      Because Windows uses file name extensions to associate programs and data I avoid the use of periods. Saves any possible complication.

      cheers, Paul

    • #1567331 Reply

      bharder
      AskWoody Lounger

      There is a rule of thumb in Windows. It’s not official and it isn’t enforceable. However it says, essentially, don’t use periods in file names.

      Quite a while now (I think it was introduced with Windows XP), Microsoft decided to simplify the data presentation of files. As part of this they started hiding the file extensions by default. It was a settable option you understand, but many users never found the switch to reveal the file extensions. You were supposed to understand the file type by it’s icon, or perhaps by the Type column.

      Anyhow after some time had passed, certain malware authors decided to take advantage of this behavior. They started distributing malware infested files with names like “Urgent Request From Finance.pdf.exe”.

      The idea was that the default file presentation was to strip off the extension. Thus the file would appear to be named “Urgent Request From Finance.pdf”, it would appear to be important and not a security concern. In reality the file was a virus injection program. The client would be induced to run the program and then they had a big problem.

      For this reason, multiple file extensions automatically raise red flags for anyone who knows about the problem. And since the file extension system is open-ended, theoretically anything after a period can be a file extension. This has meant that periods in file names also raise those red flags even if used innocently.

      The truth is, it’s pretty easy to determine what potentially dangerous file naming syntax is. Therefore even as a rule of thumb, this rule is weak. It has a kajillion exceptions and most don’t endanger anybody. And when it is rigorously followed it is mostly to avoid guilt by association. Malware has a terrible reputation and lots of people simply don’t want to be connected with it in any way at all.

      Interesting historical fact: In modern file systems (NTFS, etc.) the period is a real character, which is why it can be used multiple times in a file name. In the original FAT file system the period was a separator character only and wasn’t actually part of the file name. The period wasn’t stored on disk for instance. The result was that there was an absolute prohibition on using it in any context other than the file extension. It was impossible to use it multiple times in a file name.

      Perhaps this too, is part of why some shy away from periods in file names. There was a time when it was truly “against the rules.” That’s a long time ago now but some of us still remember.
      :^_^:

      • #1576284 Reply

        tonyl
        AskWoody Lounger

        There is a rule of thumb in Windows. It’s not official and it isn’t enforceable. However it says, essentially, don’t use periods in file names.

        Cracking post, Gromit! I couldn’t have put it better myself.

        OP, why doesn’t your colleague just use spaces, like the rest of the human race?

    • #1575262 Reply

      Erik_S47
      AskWoody Plus

      That’s interesting. I’ve never heard these explanations. I’ve never left my defaults to allow hidden extensions, and I’ve named most all my files, thousands of them at home and work, ending with dates [space] YYYY.MM.DD.[extension]. Examples:

      Annual Report 2014.06.30.pdf
      Annual Report 2015.06.30.pdf

      That way I can have lots of identical filenames but I’ll always know which is the newest — and they’ll be listed in Explorer in chronological order.

      I guess I could use the underscore instead.

      • #1575265 Reply

        macropod
        AskWoody_MVP

        I guess I could use the underscore instead.

        Indeed, you could use any other valid filenaming character, including a space or hyphen…

        Cheers,
        Paul Edstein
        [Fmr MS MVP - Word]

      • #1575571 Reply

        Lugh
        AskWoody_MVP

        There is a rule of thumb in Windows. … don’t use periods in file names

        I’ve always followed this ‘rule’, both in Windows and on the internet [eg when naming website folders and files which end up in URLs]. With the proliferation of devices and access/reading methods, I aim to minimize the chance of various future obscure failures.

        Annual Report 2014.06.30.pdf
        Annual Report 2015.06.30.pdf
        I guess I could use the underscore instead.

        I avoid underscores because of their readability problem in underlined links–ie they look like spaces.

        Annual Report 2014-06-30.pdf
        Annual Report 2015-06-30.pdf

        I use the same chronological sorting method, with the full year like you, so people around the world aren’t wondering what 10-11-12 means.

        Lugh.
        ~
        Alienware Aurora R6; Win10 Home x64 1803; Office 365 x32
        i7-7700; GeForce GTX 1060; 16GB DDR4 2400; 1TB SSD, 256GB SSD, 4TB HD

        • #1575587 Reply

          macropod
          AskWoody_MVP

          so people around the world aren’t wondering what 10-11-12 means.

          So what does 2010-11-12 mean to someone who doesn’t know your ‘method’? If you have to tell someone, it’s hardly any more apparent to them than 10-11-12. The ISO format (yyyymmdd) is a recognised standard but neither yyyy-mm-dd nor yyyy-dd-mm is.

          Cheers,
          Paul Edstein
          [Fmr MS MVP - Word]

          • #1576011 Reply

            Lugh
            AskWoody_MVP

            So what does 2010-11-12 mean to someone who doesn’t know your ‘method’?

            I can’t say, as I’ve never encountered a person who didn’t know this seemingly universally understood-by-humans method. A machine could interpret differently of course, so care is needed there.

            I try to use 2010-Nov-12 format in general correspondence when I think of it–although as said, it’s probably unnecessary in practice.

            Lugh.
            ~
            Alienware Aurora R6; Win10 Home x64 1803; Office 365 x32
            i7-7700; GeForce GTX 1060; 16GB DDR4 2400; 1TB SSD, 256GB SSD, 4TB HD

            • #1576017 Reply

              Paul T
              AskWoody MVP

              I can’t say, as I’ve never encountered a person who didn’t know this seemingly universally understood-by-humans method.

              You should get out more. πŸ™‚

              cheers, Paul

            • #1576217 Reply

              Lugh
              AskWoody_MVP

              Surely it is better to use (for example) “12DEC2010”?

              I agree, as I said…

              I try to use 2010-Nov-12 format in general correspondence

              …but the context of my 2010-11-12 example was in a situation where sorting by filename is needed.

              lots of identical filenames … listed in Explorer in chronological order.

              You should get out more.

              Well, I’ve been to your stated Location πŸ˜€

              Lugh.
              ~
              Alienware Aurora R6; Win10 Home x64 1803; Office 365 x32
              i7-7700; GeForce GTX 1060; 16GB DDR4 2400; 1TB SSD, 256GB SSD, 4TB HD

            • #1577022 Reply

              Erik_S47
              AskWoody Plus

              I can’t say, as I’ve never encountered a person who didn’t know this seemingly universally understood-by-humans method. A machine could interpret differently of course, so care is needed there.

              I try to use 2010-Nov-12 format in general correspondence when I think of it–although as said, it’s probably unnecessary in practice.

              It’s not universally understood. It’s USA understood. In the United States 2016-11-12 would “universally” denote November 12, 2016. In Europe it would “universally” denote December 11, 2016.

          • #1576016 Reply

            Coochin
            AskWoody_MVP

            So what does 2010-11-12 mean to someone who doesn’t know your ‘method’?…

            “2010-11-12” is ambiguous; it could mean either “12 November 2010” or “11 December 2010” depending on the interpretation of the reader.

            Surely it is better to use (for example) “12DEC2010”?

      • #1577053 Reply

        Linus3
        AskWoody Plus

        Just run all the number together. Save space. All my photo files (70K+) start with the date in NATO and US military format: YYYYMMDD. Works well for retrieval

    • #1576533 Reply

      WSdogberry
      AskWoody Lounger

      Would I be wrong in gently suggesting (in lowercase) that he stop that and replace the periods with an underscore? or spaces? If so, does anyone have a web source that discusses why one should not do this!

      You had better not cite me as ‘a web source’ (web sources are notorious for their unreliability, and when it comes to computers I admit to that), but I can offer several plausible explanations for points raised in the thread.

      If you are reading this in a browser that has the web address displayed, you will see any number of right-slashes (I’m sure they have a proper name, but I don’t know what it is), and any number of periods e.g. windowssecrets.com FULL STOP. Too many periods floating around without spaces might get a filename confused with a web address.

      The logo for the State Library of New South Wales is an interrobang, and the web address is www.sl.nsw.gov.au.

      Days are shorter than months and months are shorter than years. You can work from left to right, as with gasoline pumps where the leftmost digit runs the fastest and the right digit the slowest, or you can count down, as with sending your backyard rocketship into space – either way, put the months in the middle.

    • #1576594 Reply

      WSRolandJS
      AskWoody Plus

      When I have to save files for a future sort, I remind myself to:
      — 20160808etc rather than 201688etc; 2016Aug08 works too
      — 01, 02…09, 10, 11 sorts correctly than 1,2..9,10,11 ’cause often 1s sort first regardless of 100, 10, 1
      Obviously, whatever works for the end-user, and for most of the office staff πŸ™‚

      "Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee." Ben Franklin, revisted

      • #1576610 Reply

        WSdogberry
        AskWoody Lounger

        When I have to save files for a future sort, I remind myself to:
        — 20160808etc rather than 201688etc; 2016Aug08 works too
        — 01, 02…09, 10, 11 sorts correctly than 1,2..9,10,11 ’cause often 1s sort first regardless of 100, 10, 1
        Obviously, whatever works for the end-user, and for most of the office staff πŸ™‚

        There may not be an ‘official’ way of recording dates, but I’ll bet I can give you the next best thing.

        Find out what the civil service does in your particular nation-state (a.k.a. country), and that will get you further than any other way. For their purposes it will be the ‘only’ way, and ‘whatever works for the end-user’ is irrelevant.

        Just try submitting something to the government that doesn’t meet their specifications, especially something like a resumΓ©, and see how fast you get thrown out on your ear.

        I see that I had better add spelling to the list of state-specific standards – I could be in trouble in that regard myself.

        Edited (again) to add:

        If you are a glutton for punishment you might like to visit Writing for Results (.net),
        which is an extensive

      • #1576771 Reply

        Lugh
        AskWoody_MVP

        right-slashes (I’m sure they have a proper name

        / are called forward slashes;
        are called backslashes.

        As for date formats, this map shows a large majority of the world uses Day-Month-Year, and almost everyone else [except USA+] uses Year-Month-Day, for general usage.

        When I have to save files for a future sort … 2016Aug08 works too

        No, that ends up with eg August dates sorting before March or June, since after 2016 it’ll sort on the “A”.

        Lugh.
        ~
        Alienware Aurora R6; Win10 Home x64 1803; Office 365 x32
        i7-7700; GeForce GTX 1060; 16GB DDR4 2400; 1TB SSD, 256GB SSD, 4TB HD

    • #1576616 Reply

      WSRolandJS
      AskWoody Plus

      dogberry, I was aiming for the US’s normal in-home end-user “market,” not the whole world πŸ™‚ I have no idea what different governments want, I shall let each end-user working with government and large business/industrial entities, national and international, work those sort requirements out.

      "Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee." Ben Franklin, revisted

    • #1576725 Reply

      WSdogberry
      AskWoody Lounger

      As can be seen from my post, my provider dropped the carrier before I could toss in any references to Yes Minister or The Ministry of Silly Walks. Today’s news that the latest and greatest cell phone of all time, that I bought less than two weeks ago, is equipped with an exploding feature that may blow my head off at any time – and I have lots of well-wishers in that department – will fit right in.

      As for ‘the US’s normal in-home end-user’, Microsoft provided all with the linguistic and typographic requirements of pretty much all of the inhabited world, and to they are catering to a bigger market than home users in the United States.

      • #1576742 Reply

        WSRolandJS
        AskWoody Plus

        …As for ‘the US’s normal in-home end-user’, Microsoft provided all with the linguistic and typographic requirements of pretty much all of the inhabited world, and to they are catering to a bigger market than home users in the United States.

        [Que Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS/Quantico Naval Base]…and this explanation helps me in what way with the Doohickies in the Thingamagingies?

        "Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee." Ben Franklin, revisted

    • #1576776 Reply

      access-mdb
      AskWoody MVP

      Just out of interest, does anyone know why the USA uses the MDY format? To me it would seem not logical that the day comes between the month and year – surely it should be in either increasing or decreasing unit, like decimal numbers.

      • #1576998 Reply

        WSkevmeist
        AskWoody Lounger

        I suspect (but don’t know) that this is due to the habit of the likes of England (where I was born) saying “the 5th of September” versus the USA (where I have lived for the last 39 years) saying “September 5th”.

        K

        Just out of interest, does anyone know why the USA uses the MDY format? To me it would seem not logical that the day comes between the month and year – surely it should be in either increasing or decreasing unit, like decimal numbers.

    • #1576780 Reply

      RetiredGeek
      AskWoody MVP

      Access,

      That depends on whether you’re a bit-endian or a small-endian! πŸ˜† Jonathan Swift’s 1726 epic Gulliver’s Travels. In the fictional kingdom of Lilliput people have to open their soft-boiled eggs at the small end (it’s a royal decree). While in Blefuscu, eggs are cracked from the other end. Lilliputians are small-endians while Blefuscudians are big-endians.

      Or as Tevye would say…Tradition! … from Fiddler on the Roof

      I personally like the last entry at this link by Lee Ballentine.

      HTH :cheers:

      May the Forces of good computing be with you!

      RG

      PowerShell & VBA Rule!
      Computer Specs

    • #1576811 Reply

      access-mdb
      AskWoody MVP

      Interesting RG, the link gives some reasons for the order, though I think that they seem to mix up what’s good for computers and what’s good for people. I say, when asked the date, it’s the 5th of September, so dd/mm is logical for me. But as I’ve posted before, perhaps people on here should remember that others have different date formats, so saying 5th July, or July 5th is better than 05/07 or 07/05 as these can be ambiguous. Indeed, I first learnt the Americans had a different system to us Brits was from a children’s Western TV series, where one character saved another by pointing out the difference, where the date was significant. The Cisco Kid as I remember (via Google!).

      But to get this back on topic, isn’t one reason filenames shouldn’t have periods (full stops) in their names is that some OSs couldn’t handle them well (though that may no longer be true. Having spaces also causes problems – in DOS you have to quote names with spaces. However, it all depends on what you’re using them for. If they never go anywhere, and you don’t use command line interfaces, you can use whatever you want. But yyyymmdd is better for sorting of filenames (sorting of dates in e.g. Excel the format is irrelevant of course).

    • #1576824 Reply

      WSRolandJS
      AskWoody Plus

      “…When I have to save files for a future sort … 2016Aug08 works too…” — Roland
      “No, that ends up with eg August dates sorting before March or June, since after 2016 it’ll sort on the “A”.” — Lugh

      Lugh — you’re correct! I was meaning that 2016AugXX works for “quick-spotting” monthly reports within a given year and when not caring about the sort. If caring about the sort, you’re absolutely correct — 2016AugXX is not a good way to go.

      "Take care of thy backups and thy restores shall take care of thee." Ben Franklin, revisted

    • #1576888 Reply

      WSdogberry
      AskWoody Lounger

      I have a colleague with whom I frequently share files with. We are both independent contractors and accordingly do not work in typical office environments, and more importantly, we do not have an IT that we can ask for help and direction. I have a bit more savvy than him when it comes to word-processing and spreadsheets skills, so I often pass along advice or solutions when asked.

      He has an interesting and I believe unique file-naming convention. It possibly caused me a minor but annoying inconvenience, but I was not 100% sure that the file-naming convention was at fault.

      He uses MULTIPLE periods in his file names, e.g., THIS.PROJECT.MAY.2015.docx.

      I want to say “NO! STOP THAT! NO ONE DOES THAT and it could cause big problems!” (And I want to use all caps!)

      Would I be wrong in gently suggesting (in lowercase) that he stop that and replace the periods with an underscore? or spaces? If so, does anyone have a web source that discusses why one should not do this!

      It could be awkward if he pointed out to you that what you assumed were periods are decimal points.

      We have a lot of characters here.

    • #1577772 Reply

      Scott Mcnay
      AskWoody Plus

      YYYYMMDD or YYYY-MM-DD is an international (ISO) standard — it’s the only format which makes sense for computers.

      There is no “US military format”; there are a hodgepodge of formats.

      No country uses YDM as a common or official standard, therefore you’d confuse everyone with a date of 2010-11-12 where 12 is the month.

      Yes, date format is VERY relevant in Excel — when you’re importing data. Instead of assuming that an entire document or column was created with the same format, it determines the format for each value independently. πŸ™

      Periods are assumed by some email protection programs to be attempts to trick the user, and they block the email or attachment.

      Being based on DOS, some Windows tools still have issues with spaces and periods — but mostly spaces.

      Spaces don’t work well with file names in URLs — they get changed to %20.

      As mentioned, underlines get hidden by URL and text underscoring.

      Hyphens may be the way to go — as long as you don’t need to worry about them being confused with end-of-line word breaks.

      –Scott.

      • #1577984 Reply

        WSkevmeist
        AskWoody Lounger

        The last comment about hyphens is why many software developers use the underscore in filenames (yes, I know some object to this method) however it allows the reading of a filename “segments” without seeing a “-” in the middle of each segment) the “-” seems to be more “obvious” when used and parsing the filename in one’s mind). Many software developers use the hyphens in variable names for the same reason.

        YYYYMMDD or YYYY-MM-DD is an international (ISO) standard — it’s the only format which makes sense for computers.

        There is no “US military format”; there are a hodgepodge of formats.

        No country uses YDM as a common or official standard, therefore you’d confuse everyone with a date of 2010-11-12 where 12 is the month.

        Yes, date format is VERY relevant in Excel — when you’re importing data. Instead of assuming that an entire document or column was created with the same format, it determines the format for each value independently. πŸ™

        Periods are assumed by some email protection programs to be attempts to trick the user, and they block the email or attachment.

        Being based on DOS, some Windows tools still have issues with spaces and periods — but mostly spaces.

        Spaces don’t work well with file names in URLs — they get changed to %20.

        As mentioned, underlines get hidden by URL and text underscoring.

        Hyphens may be the way to go — as long as you don’t need to worry about them being confused with end-of-line word breaks.

        –Scott.

        • #1578005 Reply

          Linus3
          AskWoody Plus

          Ah, Scott, we get to the same place (YYYYMMDD) but in NATO all the militaries use YYYYMMDD or a riff on that (YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY/MM/DD) for official dating. Also it is the common usage in all or at least most for the Nordic countries. Spelling out first three letters of months doesn’t work either because of different languages.
          Periods get you into trouble with many operating systems. Heck, I remember well when even spaces would cause MS OSes to choke.

      • #1578199 Reply

        Linus3
        AskWoody Plus

        Learn something all the time. Just a quibble, but my military time (60s-80s) was centered around commcenters not general correspondence.

    • #1578149 Reply

      Scott Mcnay
      AskWoody Plus

      AR 25-50
      http://corpslakes.usace.army.mil/employees/pdfs/AR25-50.pdf

      Chapter 1
      Preparing Correspondence
      1–23. Expressing a date
      a. Dates on memorandums. Express dates on memorandums in the following formats: 1 January 2013 or 1 Jan 13.
      The four digits for the year will be used only when the month is spelled out or when date stamps use abbreviated
      months and four-digit year.
      b. Dates on letters. Express dates on letters and refer to dates within letters only in the following format:
      January 1, 2013.

      Chapter 3
      Preparing Letters
      3–6. Format
      (1) Date. Express the date in civilian style (for example, January 4, 2013) centered two lines below the last line of
      the letterhead.

      https://www.refactortactical.com/blog/military-date-time-group/
      DDHHMM(Z)MONYY

      It appears that yyyy.dd.mm is used in Kazakhstan, per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_date#Gregorian.2C_year-day-month_.28YDM.29

      ISO 8601 is the international date standard.

      For programmers, the international standard (including years of at least 4 digits) is the only way to go. Anything else can result in ambiguity.

      –Scott.

      • #1578279 Reply

        WSkevmeist
        AskWoody Lounger

        Absolutely, anyone remember Y2K? LOL

        I remember (many moons ago) having to change some assembler code that used half word addressing once we implemented an IBM operating system (DOS/VS) on the mainframes I worked on. Once the OS relocated these programs “higher” in memory to run, they all crashed as a half word was NOT big enough to hold addresses in memory. Somewhat similar issue.

        K

        AR 25-50
        For programmers, the international standard (including years of at least 4 digits) is the only way to go. Anything else can result in ambiguity.

        –Scott.

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