We always find ourselves coming back to this conversation, year after year. New players in the field, students joining us in the eLearning industry for the first time.
Applying naming conventions, and naming “things” properly, are an important consideration as we travel the road to development and project success.
What are naming conventions?
First of all, what are naming conventions? Good question! Our definition first, then we’ll share some wider thoughts on the topic. Naming conventions allow us to apply a pattern and standard to the way we name things within our computer environment. This could be from names of actual files and folders, to how we store contacts in a CRM (“First name, Last name” or “Last Name, First Name” for example). If we have a standard by which we name things, it makes it easier to search, organise and see at a glance, what things actually are.
According to Wikipedia, “A naming convention is a convention (generally agreed scheme) for naming things. Conventions differ in their intents, which may include to: Allow useful information to be deduced from the names based on regularities.”
Why should we care?
Well, that ‘s a great question as well! If any of you have ever had kids, or even pets, the first thing we do is name them, right? Why? Well, if we are at the park, or we’re yelling out for them to clean their room, or come to the dinner table, we want to specifically address the living creature that belongs to us. It ultimately makes it easier to find them, and associate them with us. Similar to “things” on our computer.
Naming conventions in development
Inside the programming and development environment, and by using eLearning authoring tools like Adobe Captivate, we end up with lots of “things” inside our projects. Images, shapes, buttons, variables, videos, audio files, and the list goes on.
Sometimes, these “things” can end up in a dropdown menu with everything else listed together. We need to remember “what is what” as we may need to select the “thing” out of the list to make reference to it, from somewhere else within the project. For example, when we create Advanced Actions, we need to make references to objects from a long list of objects that could be made up of different types of objects. We need to be able to see the difference between an image and a shape or a button, just by looking at the name of the object in a list. Using naming conventions, we can apply a pattern to the name of the object by including the “type” of object in the object name.
There is no right or wrong way when it comes to naming conventions, apart from the technical limitations the authoring tool has on the way you can actually name objects.
For example, most of the time, names can’t begin with numbers, or have special characters, apart from “-” or “_” (hyphens or underscores). So you couldn’t have a name of an object that looks like this – “1+image:start”.
Also, should we follow case rules? Once again, people will have their own personal opinion. Our rule of thumb is that EVERYTHING is CASE SENSITIVE, so if you approach your naming conventions that way, you should be safe.
One last thing, try and make them descriptive, without being too long. This is easier said than done, and actually requires a bit of practice, but hang in there, you’ll find your groove, and you’ll have your naming conventions set up in no time!
Example Naming conventions
These examples are applicable to Adobe Captivate but could be adapted for other environments. A lot of people avoid using slide numbers in object names as slide numbers can change. We agree.
- Smart Shapes – SS
- Buttons – BTN
- Shapes as buttons – SS_BTN
- Images – IMG
- Variables – VAR
These are just a few examples, but hopefully you get the idea. Be sure to document your naming conventions so when you need to hand over your project to someone else, it will make it easier for them to know what is going on behind the scenes!
What are your tips to using naming conventions?