Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Use Filenames That Sort Properly.

Use Filenames that Sort Properly

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 20, 2024)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


It is not uncommon to work on projects that require several documents. For instance, you may be working on a manual that has several parts. When you are naming files for this project, you should use names that will later sort properly when you use various functions of Word.

For instance, when you choose to open a document, you see the standard Open dialog box that shows the files in the current directory. If your files are named properly, they will always appear in order on the list. I ensure this by starting all files related to a project with two digits that represent the order in which the document appears in the project. For instance, if the project entails an introduction, three sections, and an appendix, then the files may be named as follows:

01 Introduction.docx
02 Section 01.docx
03 Section 02.docx
04 Section 03.docx
05 Appendix.docx

Without the leading two digits, of course, the files would be displayed in the dialog box in an entirely different order. For me, the above approach ensures that the files are always in the logical order I need. The only drawback is that if I need to add a new section (such as Section 04), then I need to change the number of the 05 Appendix.docx file to 06 Appendix.docx so that the new section can become 05 Section 04.docx. This renaming is a small price to pay to keep my files in the desired order.

One way around the renaming issue is to change the way you do the digits at the first of the filenames. You could, for instance, increment the numbers by tens, such as this:

10 Introduction.docx
20 Section 01.docx
30 Section 02.docx
40 Section 03.docx
50 Appendix.docx

Now you can "insert" files in the sequence by simply using a number that indicates where you want it to occur. For instance, if you wanted to add a file between the one starting with "20" and the one starting with "30," you could just start that file with "21" or "25."

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10840) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Use Filenames That Sort Properly.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 3 + 7?

2024-04-23 13:52:03

Kathy R.

Along those same lines... I create a weekly bulletin. If you name it "Jan 2 2024" or "1-2-24 bulletin," In these cases April will come before January, or January will be followed by October, November, and December, before February (1, 10, 11, 12, 2).

I use the yymmdd format (240102 bulletin) which makes it very easy to sort by date.

Kathy R.

2024-04-22 11:41:40

Paul Stregevsky

Thanks, Steve Wells, for sharing your findings. Who knew that Name 1.txt would sort before Name.txt?

Allen, thanks for your brilliant tip on using "decade numbering" (10, 20, ... 90) to accommodate unplanned insertions (10, 11, 12, 20, 30...).

2024-04-20 22:15:29

Steve Wells

I wanted to mention a few details about the way Microsoft Windows sorts filenames and some ways to place names so they appear after alphabetic names. I discovered many interesting details that were not readily available on the internet, even with some searching. The following is my resulting "treatise," but I can't seem to type tabs here, so sorry if things don't line up well.

Character names below use terminology of the Character Map applet. Colloquial terms may follow. I've thrown in a bunch of Unicode characters that might make visually appealing prefix characters.

The following keyboard characters cannot be used in file names
\ U+005C Reverse Solidus (Backslash)
/ U+002E Solidus (Forward Slash)
: U+003A Colon
* U+002A Asterisk
? U+003F Question Mark
< U+003C Less-Than Sign
> U+003E Greater-Than Sign
| U+007C Vertical Line
" U+0022 Quotation Mark

Non-alphanumeric characters in sorting order. Keyboard characters are marked (kbd).
! U+0021 Exclamation Mark (kbd)
# U+0023 Number Sign (kbd)
$ U+0024 Dollar Sign (kbd)
% U+0025 Percent Sign (kbd)
& U+0026 Ampersand (kbd)
( U+0028 Left Parenthesis (kbd)
) U+0029 Right Parenthesis (kbd)
, U+002C Comma (kbd)
. U+002E Full Stop Period (kbd)
; U+003B Semicolon (kbd)
@ U+0040 Commercial At At Sign (kbd)
[ U+005B Left Square Bracket (Left Bracket) (kbd)
] U+005D Right Square Bracket (Right Bracket) (kbd)
^ U+005E Circumflex Accent (Circumflex) (kbd)
_ U+005F Low Line (Underscore) (kbd)
` U+0060 Grave Accent (Back Accent) (kbd)
{ U+007B Left Curly Bracket (Left Brace) (kbd)
} U+007D Right Curly Bracket (Right Brace) (kbd)
~ U+007E Tilde (kbd)
´ U+00B4 Acute Accent
‖ U+2016 Double Vertical Line
‽ U+203D Interrobang
+ U+002B Plus Sign (kbd)
⁄ U+2024 Fraction Slash
∕ U+2215 Division Slash
= U+003D Equals Sign (Equal Sign) (kbd)
± U+00B1 Plus-Minus Sign
× U+00D7 Multiplication Sign
÷ U+00F7 Division Sign
§ U+00A7 Section Sign
† U+2020 Dagger
‡ U+2021 Double Dagger
• U+2022 Bullet
[Numbers in this order: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9] (kbd)
[Letters Case is preserved but not differentiated.] (kbd)
[Certain Unicode characters]

Spaces are not allowed as the first character of a filename, but are allowed when placed directly into other parts of a filename, including the end.
U+0020 Space
U+00A0 No-Break Space

Prefaces The following four characters, when preceding a space, sort before all others while following the order below. When preceding any other character, they sort with that character, but preceding the character itself.
' U+0027 Apostrophe (kbd)
­- U+00AD Soft Hyphen
- U+002D Hyphen-Minus (kbd)
‐ U+2010 Hyphen (Unicode 2010)

After Z It may be desirable to create filenames, especially prefix characters, that sort after all alphabetic characters. Several of the following Unicode characters look presentable in a prefix arrangement.
ο U+03BF Greek Small Letter omicron
о U+043E Cyrillic Small Letter O
꞉ U+A789 Modifier Letter Colon
꞊ U+A78A Modifier Letter Short Equals Sign
Example Yak
ο Funny Pictures

Base+Suffix Filenames with a spaced suffix sort preceding the simpler base filename. Unspaced suffix filenames sort following the simpler base filename. See the following example. Thanks for nothing, Microsoft.
Name 1.txt
Name 2.txt

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