Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 25, 2017)


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 having to change the number of the Appendix.docx file each time a new section is added is to initially replace the leading zero with 1 as the first of the assigned two digits. This assures the Appendix.docx file always follows the sections.

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, and 2016. 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 two less than 7?

2017-11-27 09:33:12


My method is something like
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3

In other words, except for the "out-of-order" files, I let Windows do the sorting, which it seems pretty good at, whether sequencing with numbers, letters, etc.

2017-11-25 13:31:18

Guru Aum Jah

While the recommended system of sorting file names works well enough, rather than rename various files after inserting an additional file inside the list, my successful approach is to add a letter to the sequence such as Love 01; Love 02, Love 03, Love 03a: Love 04, with Love 03a being the added file.

Aum Jah here ...

2017-11-25 11:27:27

Bill Beschman

Excellent tip, Allen, as usual.
Similar to other comments already provided, another option would be to name the first item <00 Introduction.docx> and the last item <99 Appendix.docx> to guarantee the first and last place items don't wander from their intended locations. Also, using numbers in increments of 10 (10, 20, 30 etc) in place of 01, 02... would allow the easy insertion of new material between sections (charts, graphics, etc). For instance, a graphic that is to be included in Section 2 could be filed as <21 graphic.jpg> (or similar).


00 Introduction.docx
10 Section 01.docx
20 Section 02.docx
21 graphic.jpg
30 Section 03.docx
99 Appendix.docx

I often download recurring statements from vendors that I want to see displayed in chronological no matter when they were last saved. The solution is to preface each statement with with an 8 digit date code in YYYYMMDD order such as 2017-12-25. I add the hyphens for clarity.

Again, thanks for the tips.

2017-11-25 11:20:24


Another handy tip that I use is to start the file name with a non-alphanumeric character like “ ~ “.

Windows sorts that character first at the top of the list (or conversely at the bottom).

So I use it to identify and name files and folders that I use most frequently. It is a great time saver.

2017-11-25 06:24:43

Dori Schmetterling

I have been doing a variant of this for 20 years. I have a central store for all files regardless of type (docx, xlxs, wpd, pdf...).

There is no need to start with numbers. For example, you may wish to file by company name, so you can do this:


If you need to insert files later, then use a 'suffix' like 0101a.

I use 4 digits as I may exceed 99 items per company (or subject) but so far never 9999...

Alternatively use dates, something I do for photos:

The latter approach means you can add files anytime in the right position.

I hope this helps.

2017-11-25 06:06:33

Rod Grealish

An alternative if you need to insert new documents is to number in steps of, say, 10 which allows gaps in the numbering which you can use to number the inserted documents eg

010 Introduction.docx
020 Section 01.docx
030 Section 02.docx
040 Section 03.docx
050 Appendix.docx

Insert new Section 04 at 041 Section 04.docx.

This trick goes back to the "good old days" of programming when source code was held on punched cards in sequence number order and you needed to leave gaps in the sequence to insert new lines of code for the inevitable bug fixes and enhancements.

2017-11-25 05:40:40

Trevor Bellinger

You frequently provide us with Macros to allow us to perform a lengthy process with a one key operation. However, you have never informed us how to record the macro in the first place. I have previously asked you to do this but you have not done it yet to my knowledge. Also I think that when you advise us of your "tips" your "steps" always seem to be too complex and not easily understood. As a Computer tutor for the past 10 years dealing with mature-age people, I have found that it is necessary to simplify my instructions so that they are easily understood, otherwise people will not read them. One thing that I learnt many years ago was to give instructions to someone who is not familiar with the process or task, and if my instructions are clear they will be able to perform the task. If not my instructions need to revised and improved.
So please can you provide some simple and easy to follow instructions for recording macros, perhaps giving a few every day useful examples.

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