SOAS University of London

File Names and Folders

ELAR requires that you systematically name your files.

File names are important to minimise problems when being processed by different computer systems. We will outline file naming conventions and additional considerations for working in teams of researchers. In addition, there is some background information to help you understand the guidelines.

Getting started: clearing up file naming terminology

A file name consists of three parts.

  • base name of the file
  • dot/full stop
  • file extension
base name dot extension
ikaan001 . wav


Each file name consists of a base name followed by a dot followed by the file extension, e.g. ikaan253.wav or ikaan253.mp4. The dot and the file extension are given automatically by the computer; you only have to decide on a system for the base names. Base names may contain the lower case letters a-z, the numbers 0-9, the underscore symbol _ and the hyphen symbol - . Please note that base names may not contain any blank spaces. Instead of blank spaces please use an underscore _ .

1. For base names, first pick a keyword from your project description and write this in lower case letters, separated by an underscore if needed (do not use any blank spaces), e.g.


2. Then for each file add a sequential number to the word or phrase, e.g.

uruan001,uruan002, ..., uruan359, ...
uruan_dirges001, uruan_dirges002, ..., uruan_dirges339, ...

3. Sometimes files belong together thematically (e.g. a series of photographs of for example women; boat building; workshop…). In this case,

a. Give all files the same beginning of the base name.
b. Then add a hyphen and another sequential number
c. The dot and file extension will be automatically created by the computer.

uruan003-3.jpg, ...


For series like this, please add a summary file with metadata. This file has the same base name, minus the hyphen and the second set of sequential numbers, e.g.


If you follow this file naming convention, we know that everything that has the same name up to the hyphen (if there is a hyphen) belongs together.
We will provide instructions for automatically renaming and numbering picture files as well as for printing out file listings and providing short file-by-file metadata for series of files. These will be downloadable from the ELAR website.

Managing file names in projects with more than one researcher

When two or more people are collecting and managing data at the same time, file naming may lead to clashes. Imagine that you have recorded the whole day, your colleague has recorded too, and in the evening you arrive at home only to realise that both you and your colleague have named their recordings ikaan253.mp4. Unfortunately, the two files called ikaan253.mp4 are of course two different recordings which now ended up having the same file name and might end up overwriting each other when you share files or copy to your backup. The solution to this problem involves coordinating with your colleague(s) while sticking to the same basic principles outlined above.

Option 1

Use the same kind of base name for all researchers. Make sure that this base name follows the guidelines set out above. However, instead of using the numbers purely sequentially, let Researcher A assign numbers 001 to 499. Researcher B assigns the numbers 500 to 999, e.g.

Researcher A: uruan001, uruan002, ..., uruan498, uruan499
Researcher B: uruan500, uruan501, ..., uruan989, uruan999

Using this solution means that recording uruan300 will probably be recorded months after ikaan502. This may strike you as wrong, but it is in fact nothing to worry about because in the metadata it will be clear when each recording was done. File naming is not done for aesthetic or sentimental reasons, it is purely practical.

Option 2

Use different base names for all the researchers, e.g. the surname or initials of the researchers:
Researcher A: salffner001, salffner002, salffner003, ...
Researcher B: adekanye001, adekanye002, adekanye003, ...
Just make sure that the file names follow the guidelines outlined above.

Grouping files

Files that are derived from each other belong together and must receive the same name.

If you extract an audio file from a video file, the audio file and the video file belong together. If you annotate the video and audio, the ELAN annotation file also belongs to this set. These files that belong together must have the same base name but will have different file extensions, e.g.

video file uruan001.mp4
extracted audio file uruan001.wav
ELAN annotation file uruan001.eaf

Files that are created in the same recording session but that are not derived from each other receive different names.

For example, you are video recording a session with many people and at the same time, you are also one particular speaker within that crowd with a separate audio recorder and a lavalier mic. In this case you create two bundles, one for the video recording of the entire group and one for the audio recording of the single speaker.
All files you derive from the main recording file (video or audio) will be named the same but the two bundles have two different names, e.g.

video file uruan001.mp4
extracted audio file uruan001.wav
ELAN annotation file uruan001.eaf
separate parallel audio file uruan002.wav
ELAN annotation file uruan002.eaf

Note that the corresponding annotation files may also be quite different: the annotation based on the video includes all speakers, whereas annotation based on the parallel audio includes only one speaker.

File naming summary

1. File names consist of a base name only using letters (without special characters like accents), numbers, hyphen and underscores and no spaces; a dot and an extension determining the file type (wav, doc, pdf) will be given by the computer automatically when saving the files

2. Files that are derived from each other get the same base file name and different extensions, e.g.

uruan001.mp4, uruan001.wav, uruan001.eaf

3. Files that are not derived from each other get a new base file name, e.g.

uruan001.mp4, uruan002.wav

4. Series of files that conceptually belong together have the same beginning of the base name followed by a hyphen followed by a sequential number, e.g.

uruan003-1.jpg, uruan003-2.jpg, uruan003-3.jpg, ...


Please put all your data in one folder. Do not use sub folders for your archive deposit. First of all, for an archive deposit there is no need for sub folders. Second, if you put everything in one folder you will immediately notice if you accidentally use the same file name twice because the computer will warn you.