Rebooting creationThe Essential Mac


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File names

Being able to name your files anything you want seems like a simple and self-evident concept, but it took the first Macintosh to introduce this revolutionary concept to computer users stuck with DOS. Prior to that folks were constrained by the ridiculous system of 8 characters and a 3 character extension: "buslettr.doc".

So please use this file naming freedom to your advantage to help you organize your hard drive. Take a few extra seconds to give your files long and descriptive names. The Mac allows a file name to be 31 characters long including spaces and punctuation. Six months from now you will thank yourself for creating "WriteDesign Project draft3-Oct2" rather than "WriteDn proj3".

We have learned the hard way that if you work on two different machines — like one at work and one at home — and carry files back and forth, it is critical that you date each version of the file and update the file name each time you work on the document. We have too often written over a newer version of a document with an older version when we merely tried the classic numbering system: WriteDesign Project 1, WriteDesign Project 2...

File names

The only character that you are prohibited from using in filenaming on a Mac is the colon (:) — other than that you can use numbers, spaces, punctuation, and special characters like bullets (•) and tilde squiggles (~). You cannot use file names already reserved for the system like "Trash", but your computer will warn you about this at the time.

When you set up your hard drive to View by Name, your files are organized alphabetically, but you can override this system by using numbers, spaces and special characters. A common way to bring a file to the top of a directory list is to add a space or a number to the beginning of the filename. A common way to push a file to the bottom of a directory list is to add a special character (e.g., a bullet • (Option-8) or a tilde ~ (upper left of your keyboard next to #1) to the beginning of the filename.



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