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Document codes

Do you manage a lot of documents? Do you worry about old versions getting confused with new versions?

This is why you see a document code on many documents, especially those from major organisations. They make it easy to tell one version from another at a glance – this is known as version control and can save a lot of problems.

Where do document codes come from?

There is no central system for giving documents codes – each business makes up its own system and introduces it as it is the business who needs to use the codes.

What does a document code include?

While there is no single coding system, most codes will include the date as that is the simplest way to determine how old a document is.

Other than that, it is up to you how the code is created. The complexity of your code will also depend on the number of documents you deal with – a few documents can be numbered 1 to 20 for example, but a large number of documents may be better divided into types and then given a number (e.g. F1 is form 1 and L24 is letter 24).

Tips for creating document codes

Here are a few tips from the systems I have created and used in the past:

  • include a version number so it is easy to refer back to previous versions. Particularly useful if two versions come into the same date period!
  • leave a gap between numbers so it is easy to add related documents later. For example, application form is F1 and change of address form is F5 so you can later add an increased cover application as F2
  • use dots rather than slashes to separate sections of a code – slashes can be misinterpreted by scanning software. So try 09.2010 instead of 09/2010
  • group like documents for simplicity, and consider naming them differently
  • if documents change fairly regularly, use month and year, not just the year in the codes
  • choose a consistent spot to place document codes – e.g. bottom left corner of the last page. It won’t work for all documents but it helps to have a starting point
  • record the document codes so it is easy to update them and to know which version is the most recent

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