Apr 222008

Renaming Photos with Sortable Dates
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This tip comes from my photo filing system that I’ve developed over the years. Filing systems are very personal. If you’ve devised a system that works for you – that’s cool – no need to change. But, if you haven’t … read on.

Making a date ‘sortable’
I’m very date-oriented and I like my pictures to be in date order regardless of what program I’m using or what device they are being seen on. I get lots of emails about wanting photos to play in date order when a Gift CD is played on a TV. Usually, the TV is just going to play them in order by the filenames. Filename is often used for sorting whether you want it to or not, so why not have the filename be a sortable date? Sample of Sortable Dates

Notice that each file in the right column starts with 8 digits. This is the only way to represent the date that sorts properly. Spelling out the date will result in all the April’s being sorted together, regardless of what day or year. Using standard 4-21-2008 type of date notation will produce equally erroneous results. The 8 digits that sort properly are referred to as yyyymmdd. That means the first 4 digits represent the year, the next two are the month, and the last two represent the day.

Using Picasa to rename files
In Picasa, you can accomplish this by selecting all the photos that you want to rename to a particular date, press F2, and type the appropriate 8 digits. Picasa knows that no two files can have the exact same name and it will add a -1, -2, -3 etc. to the end. That’s OK. As long as the first 8 characters of the filename are a sortable date, these photos will automatically be kept in date order, regardless of what program you are using to view them.

Realize that you cannot add a prefix number to filenames when you rename. Therefore, I rename photos immediately after importing them from the camera. So, at the very least all my photos have a filename that means the date it was taken. Then, if you want words after the date, you can add them later. See the Picasa Show-Me-How video, "Renaming photos with a sortable date."

Date-based folders
I also like to group my photos together by month, so each month I create a folder named with the corresponding 6 digits: 200802, 200803, 200804 etc. This makes it especially easy to keep track of backups. At the end of each month, I create a backup of that month’s folder.

I used to create a folder for a year, then have subfolders for each month: January, February, etc. However, in Picasa, if you sort by name – you would end up seeing all the April folders, then all the August folders regardless of year. Using the sortable date system for my folders works much better.

Show-Me-How video tutorial: It’s a lot easier to show you what I mean than to explain it all in writing. Check out the new video on Picasa and Sortable Dates.