Thursday, May 11, 2017

Naming Files for D2L and for People

What's in a name?

What is in a name?

The name of a file on your computer has two parts: "name" and "extension" connected by a dot. A few examples are myfile.docx, mySlides.pptx, myNumbers.xlsx, my_image.jpg, your-file.doc. When you view file listings on your computer, you might see only the "name" part while keeping the ".extension" hidden, or you might see "name.extension" depending on your system settings. The extension to the right of the dot tells a computer how your file can be read; don't mess with it. The name to the left of the dot is where you can get creative. To avoid technical issues with uploading your files to D2L, however, there a few simple guidelines to follow.

Filename Technical Guidelines

  • Use letters and numbers, combined with hyphens or underscores, to construct your names.
  • Avoid spaces. [Why? Spaces can be interpreted differently in different situations, causing errors in file upload and download operations.]
  • Avoid punctuation or any special characters other than hyphens and underscores in your names. [Why? Symbols like &, !, #, *, $, @, /, and so forth have special meanings in computer operations.]
  • Use ONLY a letter or a number as the first character and the last character of your name. [Why? To be safe. If it doesn't look like a filename at first glance, it might not get a second glance!]
  • Don't make your name ridiculously long! A creative person can be descriptive in 12-18 characters or less.

Other Naming Tips

  • Make your names easy for humans to read by using hyphens or initial caps as word boundaries since you are avoiding spaces.
  • If you use a date in your name, the standard YYYY-MM-DD date format is a popular convention.
  • Never use "final" as part of a name, because you never know!

Bottom Line - Don't Let Word® call the shots!

Microsoft Word® kindly offers you a ready-made file name when save your document. The name often is the first sentence of your document, and it will break most or all of the guidelines above. Instead, replace the ready-made text (or the text to the left of of the dot if you are seeing extensions) in the filename box with a well constructed name of your own choosing before you save. If you forget to do that, though, you can always rename the file, or do a save-as before you upload your Assignment file.

Why bother?

The most common cause of frustrated student calls to the NLU Help Desk is difficulty uploading a file to D2L. Usually renaming the file solves the problem. Instructors also encounter upload errors on occasion, and lose valuable time trouble-shooting the issue. The fix is so simple! Just use a simple name for your files.

Will leaving a space in the name of your document cause your upload to fail? Probably not. But if you name your files as described above, you are removing the major source of will-it-work stress from submitting your work online. Save and upload with confidence!

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