Electronic Document Management: Developing Your Metadata Strategies

Many document scanning projects share the singular goal of creating a searchable database. There are several methods and software a person can utilize to create searchable images, but preparing and executing a strategy for metadata and file naming is critical for success.

We will look at a few best practices that can reduce your search time:

OCR: Although Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can create a searchable database, relying solely on its functionality can have you browsing through a large collection of search results.

File naming system: Creating a consistent file naming system can reduce your search time as you can more quickly identify if the listed files contain exactly what you are looking for.

Folder naming system: A good folder naming system can help you understand what type of files each folder contains, thus helping you isolate your search to those folders.

Metadata placement: Including metadata on coversheets, within a file name or within tags of an image file will also shorten your search time. Within many image software products, you can access a File Info dialogue box that has a meta tag creation page.

Using many, if not all, of these techniques can greatly increase the usability of your search results.


Metadata is “data about data.” Nothing like defining a term with itself, but this is a pretty accurate definition. Your strategy should include making a list of what your users will be searching for. This list can consist of categories such as

  • Type of file (e.g. license, application, study, map, correspondence)
  • Company department (e.g. Finance, Engineering, Marketing, Legal)
  • Date or date range
  • Person’s name

These categories can be used within filenames, meta tags created by image software, or included within coversheets that are part of a PDF file.

File Naming

What Are Your Limitations?

Before jumping into creating a file name strategy, you must learn how many characters and the type of characters your database software recognizes. With these rules in place, your file names can be as detailed as you wish within the boundaries of the software.

Consider the User

Users should be included in the discussion of file naming. The purpose of you creating digital documents is to expedite the retrieval of documents that users will be searching for. Creating a naming system that users can identify with and remember will make the process perform smoother. There should also be a defining of the order the information will be denoted within the file name. This builds consistency for the system and review by the user.

Ex. Department_Document type_Author_Document name_Date(YYYY_MM_DD)


Acronyms & Abbreviations

File names can include many of the same aspects as the metadata mentioned before. What can affect the file name is the length of a document title and department. Acronyms can be created to shorten these aspects of a file name. Document versions can also be denoted with the file name, thereby assisting the user in identifying which document is to be seen as a final or previous version. A key will need to be created and easily accessible for users.

If a document is a correspondence, senders and receivers can be included within a file name. A simple tactic of using the word “correspondence” will also alert a user what type of file they are viewing in their search results.

The End Game

The main goal is to enable the users to quickly determine which document they need to view from their search results. This goal should be in the forefront of your naming strategy. Remember that sometimes simpler is better. Too convoluted or too long a name can wreak havoc with a user’s search time.

Author Jim Barnes is Axiom’s marketing manager. He looks forward reading your comments

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