Numbers in file names: now officially endorsed

I’ll expand on my smug tweet earlier regarding the question of putting numbers in file names.

Earlier this week the boss mailed me a couple of old Project schedule files. “Got any later versions of these?”, was the request. The file names included the number: 31.91 [whatever].mpp. They were last updated in 2017.

We haven’t touched that project in years, but I still have the SharePoint folder bookmarked. So, basically as fast as my hand could move the mouse, I found that folder. (The answer was ‘no’, those were the latest files.)

Now I might have been able to find those files if the numbers hadn’t been in the file name, but for sure it would have taken longer. And now I realise that having the numbers there made me convinced that, were I to look, I would find them. Whereas with no numbers it’s just a lottery and you don’t know when to give up.

Remember, these files are now five years old.

So, for a certain class of files – those that might be shared at work is squarely in that class – I am now convinced that putting the number in the file name is what you should do.

This won’t apply to everything, and I’ll think on this for the next few weeks.

What does everyone else do? Do we have any numbers-in-file-names people here?

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I’d probably be more consistent with this if I would stop moving things around lol - renaming tons of files is a pain.

As it is, it’s a mixed bag. I mostly use Alfred to find anything, and it normally works fine. However, in testing this quickly, I immediately discovered a use case where numbers would probably solve my issue (assuming I could remember the number).

I searched for ‘Account’ in Alfred. I’m looking for my main spreadsheet where I track net liquid assets. This brings up nine files, two of which are older versions (one in Numbers, one in Excel) of this file. The current version is in Numbers, but this file is stored in Google Drive, not iCloud. Alfred only finds the one in iCloud. It seems to be blind to the local copy of my file in Google Drive (MyDrive). After opening the file once it now shows up in Alfred, but still as the second option behind the iCloud Drive version.

And in JD my iCloud Drive is not numbered. I mainly let apps store things there as needed, like metadata, etc. Or files I don’t care to track. For the majority of files, Google Drive only. But Alfred wants to prioritize iCloud for some reason.

I may be able to tweak that in Alfred, but if my files were numbered it would do two things:

  1. It would quickly distinguish between JD files and other files
  2. It might help me remember the number (eventually)

Of course, once the number is remembered I just type that into Alfred and all the other versions disappear. Also, need to rename and/or archive these previous versions as well. So I guess now I need to do a lot of renaming sob

Thanks?

Can you script it? I’m no good at bash/zsh scripting so my go-to is to drop the list of stuff out to Excel and just CONCATENATE() me some commands that I can then dump back in to the Terminal. Bit janky but it works and I’m never afraid that I’ll accidentally delete my life.

Not that many files really. I use Finder first, then Forklift. If it’s more tricky I break out VSCode for regex.

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I’ve put the numbers in some files. The problem is that when I move the folder to a different section, I often dont have the time to renumber the files. The other issue I had is that I’m trying to be more intentional when naming files, so I actually know what the file is, and when putting numbers, some filenames got way too long.

I found Pathfinder to be better than Forklift for this task. I recently did some batch renumbering and Forklift couldn’t do what I was trying to achieve. Nicer interface than Pathfinder, but they’re the king for renumbering.

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Hey guys, I know a lot of folks use the Mac for their personal and work lives. Because of what I do I use Windows and found a useful utility that was helpful if I needed to add JD numbers into old file names. I use software called Advanced Renamer. It’s free for personal use but I registered it to support the developer. I’m not connected to the developer or anything like that, I just thought it was worth mentioning a useful tool for this task.