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Naming your data

One of the most important steps when you import your data is giving it a name. The title of your data can make it much easier (or harder) for people to find and use.

When naming your data, your goal should be to help users understand what your data describes without the use of a thumbnail, map preview, or opening the data in any software.

We’ve put together the following list of things to keep in mind, followed by a template for naming your data.


The title should be descriptive without being confusing or unnecessarily long.


Titles should be preceded with the applicable region or Government name, e.g. town, city, county, state, region or country name.

Use accurate terminology

While it’s tempting to avoid technical terminology, don’t confuse skilled users in an effort to reach non-skilled data users. For example, an ortho-photography layer should be named "Auckland 10cm Aerial Photos (2007)" not "Auckland 10cm Satellite Photos (2007)".

Use common terminology

Similar to ‘use accurate terminology’, for common data variants, try to use the well known name, for example "Aerial Imagery" or "Aerial Photography", "Contours", "Hillshade", "DEM", and so on.

Things to avoid

Avoid punctuation, special characters or acronyms (unless the acronyms are commonly used to refer to the data or project funding the data).


Include a date in brackets at the end of the name if it is particularly relevant to the data set or if the data is part of a time series. Usually a year is sufficient, but in some cases the month or specific date might also be appropriate.

Use of years in the data title can be very useful, but they should be avoided if the data is regularly updated. Years are most useful for datasets that only describe a particularly known date/year range or point in time, e.g. contours, aerial photography, satellite frames, etc.

Avoid information that will become out-of-date

Remember that the title of your data can be preserved in external catalogs which don't necessarily update themselves very well, so you ideally want to avoid including information in your title that might become out of date. A good example is to avoid including data versions in the title of regularly updated datasets.

For aerial photography

Include the photo resolution (if known) with the words "Aerial Photos" and the year it was taken, or a more specific date if the photography relates to a specific event, or is part of a shorter time series.

For Digital Elevation Models

The DEM acronym isn't well known outside the GIS community, and the term "Elevation Model" is much more widely understood. Include the model resolution and a date if appropriate.

Dataset naming template

Your organisation may have its own conventions for naming data. Alternatively, a general template to follow when naming data is:

Region / Government + Description + (Date)

For example:

Wellington City Wind Zones

Wellington City 10cm Aerial Imagery (2009)