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4.6 Naming Files

Let's think about a filing cabinet again. If the files in your filing cabinet were called letter1 , letter2, letter3, and so on, you'd never be able to find anything.

The same is true on your computer. You should come up with a descriptive name for each file to create. UNIX systems let you have very long filenames. A few systems have a 14-character limit, but most allow names that are 256 characters long - certainly longer than you will ever need.

I can't tell you how to make a filename descriptive, except to suggest that rather than using names like letter , you make a filename that describes what the letter is about. In the case of a letter, using the recipient's name may help - assuming that you can easily make a connection between john_shmoe and "that's the letter about trends in gold prices" (though I'd suggest that the name gold_price_trends_oct is an even better name than john_shmoe ). Bruce Barnett has suggested that, by using long filenames, you can create a simple "relational database." For example, you could find out everything you've recorded about the price of gold with a command like more *gold*price* . Of course, this doesn't provide the fancy features that a commercial database would have - but you may not need those features and, if so, why spend good money to buy them?

Similarly, if you're a programmer, the name of each file in your program should describe what the code does. If the code diagonalizes matrices, the file should be called something like diag_mat.c . If the code reads input from bank tellers, it should be called something like teller_input.c .

Another way to distinguish between different kinds of files is by using suffixes or filename extensions ( 1.17 ) .

- ML

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