Renaming the creatively named files received from an author, supplying the latest version of a file to someone who misplaced it, ruing the time lost by my own lack of diligence in file management—all recent moments that reminded me of the importance of basic organization and file-naming techniques. Especially for multiple-file projects.
Subfolders are your friends. Copyediting projects have at least two distinct versions of files: the original and the edited. If the project includes stages for the author to review the editing, for the editor to integrate the author’s further corrections or additions, or for the editor to finalize all edits before sending the files along, several more versions can exist. Saving each stage’s files in its own subfolder before moving along to the next stage creates an archive of each version of the files and a safety net of saved work in case anything happens to the current set of files. The picture above gives one example of such a system. The main project folder uses the client or project name; the subfolders archive the versions as the manuscript goes through the editing process.
Because most file directories organize the files alphanumerically, it’s often helpful to name the files in a way that forces the order you prefer. In the case of the subfolders pictured above, I added numbers that made the folders line up in an order that matched the manuscript’s chronological progression. (The zeroes are added out of force of habit. If there were more than nine stages—may the editing gods forbid such a thing!—some programs need the zeros to properly organize the files.) You can use this same numbering technique to make multiple-file manuscripts appear in book order: 00a Author Frontmatter, 00b Author Introduction, 01 Author Chapter 1 Title, 02 Author Chapter 2 Title, etc. As shown in that example, I also recommend including the author (or project) name and a cue to the contents (such as the chapter title, subject, contributing author, etc.) in the individual file names.
Don’t be afraid of a little hyper-organization when it comes to your project files. Building safety nets, intuitive order, and project cues into your file management can save time and your sanity.
Do you have a favorite file-management technique that others may find useful? We’d love to see it in the comments.