This is not strictly speaking a TeX question, but I think every TeX author will have been confronted by it at some point.

What convention do you follow when naming PDF copies of articles downloaded from the web?

I used to follow the same naming convention I used for BiBTeX entries, i.e. main author:year:title initials. For example, the "Go To Statement Considered Harmful" by Dijkstra (1968) would be saved as dijkstra:68:gtsch.pdf.

Now I'm not so happy about this convention because the colon, which was fine while I was working under Windows, is a reserved character under UNIX.

Corollary question: what convention do you follow for BiBTeX entries?

  • 2
    I would not recommend using colons in a file name. On some OSes, it can make things harder, especially if you need to script stuff with these files.
    – raphink
    Jul 8, 2011 at 8:27
  • 6
    Nevertheless, the colon is not a reserved character in UNIX.
    – lhf
    Jul 5, 2012 at 2:31

5 Answers 5


Author, year in a Harvard-like manner, i.e. Djikstra68.pdf. Multiple papers from the same author and year have letters appended (Djikstra68a.pdf, Djikstra68b.pdf). This has limitations, but is enough assuming you have one .bib file per (major) project.

BibTeX reference keys are the same as the corresponding PDF file, without file extension.

  • This is also similar to the automatic naming scheme of Jabref. It uses the full year, though.
    – sebschub
    Jul 5, 2012 at 10:31
  • 4
    I don't like the a,b,... distiction for articles in the same year, since it may often happen that an aricle Surname12b.pdf gets [Sur12a] biblabel when only Surname12b.pdf and Surname12c.pdf are cited in a document.
    – yo'
    Jul 5, 2012 at 14:51
  • @tohecz The internal reference used by (La) TeX and BibTeX or Biber is not related to how the citation appears in the document... Jan 25, 2013 at 10:26
  • @PaulGaborit I cannot help myself, but you must consider me begin stupid.
    – yo'
    Jan 25, 2013 at 10:33

In my group we use author-year-venue/journal, that is, dijkstra-68-cacm.pdf or liedtke-95-sosp.pdf. As You, we append letters if there is more than one paper from the same author and year in the same venue; however, that is very unlikely to happen.

I personally find the encoding of the venue into the name very helpful to recall the entry during writing (more helpful than a keyword or an encoded title). In CS, where the top conferences have displaced journals as the premier publication channel, papers are colloquially often mentioned by venue and year: You know the stuff John has presented in their OOPSLA '06 paper, do you?


Our university group has strict rules for paper names in the repository. I'm using them for much more than only papers, because I am used to this naming convention.


An example: A Guide to Natural Naming by Daniel Keller from 1990 will be named


This will sort the PDF Files corresponding to year, name and content.

The bibtex key is made simpler by omitting the first two digits and stop words:



I can't remember what paper is what by knowing only author's name and year. I use

Abate, Bracci, Sua, Tovena 2010, Localization of Atiyah classes.pdf

The spaces in the name are never a problem, because I never process these files through any software. Spaces are a pain for .tex files because you want to apply tex to them.


Just to add a bit of noise here, I add a where field to my bibliographies, where I record the URL where I found the document. The documents themselves I store just under the original name (as long as it isn't the very original book.pdf).

Edit: If you use something like Zotero (a tool to organize bibliographies) it saves the webpage as 'url' field and even adds a 'urldate' (the time you visited the webpage). (But still, Zotero is not perfect.)

  • +1 for recommending zotero, you may wan to have a look at my answer here for workflow that invests in Zotero + biblatex+biber+ text editor that supports biber backend (I use TexStduio).
    – doctorate
    May 20, 2013 at 12:18

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