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Meaningful filenames

Revision as of 22:34, 21 July 2008 by Duncan (talk | contribs) (GRAMPS ID based)

After thinking about the limits to how we can structure our files and folder (see Portable_Filenames) the next step is developing a semantic controlled vocabulary.

Before launching too deep into this lets look at what we want to achieve.

  • Understandable filenames
  • Computer readable filenames
  • A system simple enough to remember

To be understandable we need to be able to use full words where appropriate.

To be computer readable we need to seperate the parts in a way which a script can easily recognise and, more importantly, in a way which would never occur in real language. So it would be no good to mark a name section with the word name if we also can use the word name somewhere in the file where it is not meant to be a marker.

To be simple enough to remember the system should not be too complicated, after all GRAMPS is meant to store the real information, this is just a supplement.

What name-parts do we need?

It would be nice if we could have files called

Marriage of Mary Angus Jones and Matthew Williams, 2nd Dec 1923 (William Angus is to Mary's right).jpg

But this meets only one of the criteria above, that of understandable filenames. How can a computer know who got married? what their surnames are? and so on. And anyway because of the limitations of Portable_Filenames we can't have file names like that. We have to drop the reliance on capitalisation, drop the spaces, drop the comma and drop the brackets. To be computer readable we need to separate the sections with a system of markers to indicate where the surname, event name etc are.

So what sections do we want to be able to identify? Here's a basic list that should be enough for most situation, remember that GRAMPS stores the more complex information, we're just trying to give a useful structure to our files.

  • Surname
  • Firstname
  • Date
  • Event type
  • Place
  • Source
  • Note


GEDCOM based

Here is a proposed system contributed by Duncan Lithgow.

Each marker ends with two hyphens (--). Two because we can't rely on the marker being recognised as capitalised, so a surname like Besour-Jean could be mistaken for beSOUR-Jean and the system thinks that SOUR- marks a source section.

Marker Meaning Example value GRAMPS XML equivalent GEDCOM equivalent
PLAC-- place marker london__england ? ?
INDV-- individual marker mary_jones ? ?
EVNT-- event marker marriage ? ?
DATE-- date marker 2008-12-31 ? ?
SOUR-- source marker lds_church_website ? ?
SURN-- family name marker jones ? ?
FIRS-- first name marker mary ? ?
NOTE-- note marker is_that_marys_father_beside_her ? ?

In order for the file name to be parsed as meaningful text I think some we also would need

Marker Description Example Rendering
_ space indicator mary_jones mary jones
__ comma followed by space indicator jones__mary jones, mary


Image file



This could be parsed (by GRAMPS?) as the description:

Event: Marriage
Surname: Jones
Firstname: Mary-jean
Surname: Williams
Firstname: Matthew
Date: 2nd Jan, 1923
Note: William angus to the right of mary

or it could make the text:

Mary-jean Jones and Matthew Williams, marriage 2nd Jan 1923. (William angus to the right of mary)

Source text

File name


This could be parsed (by GRAMPS?) as the description:

Source: Uk census
Place: London, england
Date: 21st March, 1840
Surname: Jones
Firstname: Mary-jean

or it could make the text:

Uk census, Place: London, england, on 21st March 1840. This is a source connected to Mary-jean Jones


This is another attempt by Duncan Lithgow to find a good system.

GRAMPS ID's use the first character to denote the type of item the ID refers to. This could be converted to work in filenames.

Marker Description GRAMPS ID equivalent
P-- place P
I-- individual I
F-- family F
E-- event E
S-- source S
O-- media object O
R-- repository R
N-- note N

Extending this idea a bit with some more markers for firstname (FN--) and surname (SN--) we could get a filename like:


This can store the same information as in the GEDCOM based schema.