What's in a Project Name?


Volcanoes (StHelens, Krakatoa)
Famous Hurricanes (Alicia, Katrina)
Arcane Biblical Names (Orpah, Zilla)
Trees (maple, oaktree)
Liquor (cachaca, absinthe)
Cities (Milan, Boise)
Historic slang (bounce, cat, fly)


“Famous People (eg, Sagan)”

Don’t do it! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notable_litigation_of_Apple_Computer#Libel_dispute_with_Carl_Sagan


What is the goal of having a project pet name? I mean why not just call it by the PRODUCT NAME??

I have a feeling the product name is too boring for us programmers so we have to give it a pet name so it doesn’t remind us of what we are really making! haha Or maybe it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that we are making something that has a code name too it.


We recently named one ‘Project Airwolf’ … and in thinking, there are loads of 80s and 90s TV shows which would work!

  • Deathly Diseases (appropriate for most software projects)
  • Body parts
  • Garden tools


Lord of the Rings characters seem to be a popular choice for server names (at the last few places I have worked, anyway)

As far as product/project names, from my experience (and depending on your industry), the product name is likely to change due to marketing terminology changes, as the company adapts to its market (especially if it is a long term project). So you might as well have some fun with it internally.


I’m part of the sustained engineering group in our company, meaning that I deal with released software. The feature development team loves these goofy names, but they never have to live with the consequences. Of the wombat, platypus, giraffe, shrew, bat, cat, and elephant projects, which ones belong to which products? What order are they in? Did Dingbat come before Goofball? Does Sneezy belong with Dopey or Doc?

Our documentation intermingles project and product version numbers all the time, and for newcomers to my department it’s a nightmare. It’s particularly frustrating because it’s so unnecessary. Sure, you don’t want to use product names because those change, no problem. I advocate using the original base name for the product and an integer . That way you always know which projects belong to what, and what order they happened in. It’s not fun, but it isn’t making needless trouble for others either.

Developers aren’t children, you don’t have to call something the ‘lolipop’ project to get us to work on it. We are being paid, after all.


At my workplace, I tend to give servers very simple names based on function (prebook, webserver, proxy, and fileserver), but this is mainly possible because we only need one webserver, etc.

As for project names, I tend to make short, cool names related to the purpose of the project (Blackstream for a dataflow project, for example). Mildly obscure movie references are good, too, though (Keymaster and Gatekeeper were competing for the name of one of our projects).


I always enjoyed this story about the [code]naming of Netscape’s “ElectricalFire” JVM project:

a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20060924060259/<a href=“http://www.mozilla.org/projects/ef/faq.html#Naming"http://www.mozilla.org/projects/ef/faq.html/a”>http://www.mozilla.org/projects/ef/faq.html#Naming"http://www.mozilla.org/projects/ef/faq.html/a

blockquotebHow did the project get its name?/b

Scott Silver, one of the first EF developers, originally wanted to codename the project “Sexual Chocolate”. (I’m not making this up.) That name was rejected, presumably because it would confuse Netscape’s managers: “So, this Sexual Chocolate project actually has nothing to do with chocolate ?” Instead, Silver proposed “Electrical Fire” (two separate words). For the open-source release, Scott Furman coalesced the two words into one: “ElectricalFire”, to make it apparent that the project was not to be confused with a safety hazard. A word of advice for the wise: if you end up working on a project with Scott Silver, do not allow him to handle the project codename./blockquote


oops. that Mozilla URL is 404. Here is the archived version:



I’d been pushing for Godzilla monster names:


but no one could agree on how to pronounce them. I’m using those for my computers now (typing this from my notebook, Mothra). My current agenda at work is to talk them into doing Marvel super-villains. My biggest problem is that the wikipedia list:


is just too long. Plus you just know that someone is going to choose Batroc the Leaper.


Hrm… We don’t name our projects anything creative. Just “User Management Project” or “Data Charts Project” (and yes, for some reason we tag “project” to the end of the name).

However, at home, I name all of my computers after DragonBall Z characters, ranked by how good the computer is (what it’s ‘power level’ is).

So Krillin/Picollo/Yamcha for my little linux boxes, Vegeta/Goku for my windows machines, and then DBZ bad guys for my wife’s computers since I can’t use them (which means they are enemy computers) Raditz/Nappa. :slight_smile:


At my company we used an different set per client, we used Radio Alphabet, Sylvester Stallone characters (Rocky, Rambo, …) and Harrison Ford characters last name (Solo, Jones, Ryan , etc…) . Of course the project are named in the order of the movies release.


Descriptive names.

Otherwise you end up with a million names that sounded cool when you came up with them, but now form some sort of arcane nerd language that only two people speak, of which one has left the company.


Version 2.0 of our project will completely overhaul the system from the database up. I must’ve come up with a list of twenty internal code names for this rewrite before we stumbled on the perfect one in the first planning meeting… “Jedi”.


I was thinking that the “Ski Resorts” list would be a cool list. But I don’t think I’d be able to recruit anyone to work on my “Purgatory” project. :slight_smile:


This discussion reminds me of some points I described in my book “Practical Development Environments”. They’re on my blog in more detail
(http://toolsmiths.blogspot.com/2007/11/choosing-project-names.html) but basically:

Keep it short

Since project names may appear in filenames or source code, shorter project names are preferable; four to six characters is common. Longer names will only be abbreviated anyway, and usually in two different ways.

Use distinctive sounds

Project names should sound different from each other when spoken aloud by people whose native language is not the one used by the rest of the group. Even if everyone speaks English, having two projects named “ctest” and “seebest” is too close for comfort.

Use low-frequency letters

It’s much easier to be confident that all references to a project name can be found if the name contains characters that are less common in the local language. This is a good argument for choosing project names that use unusual characters, such as the letters q and z for English.

Make it unmarketable

Sometimes a project name will be reused as a product name, but not if it is already trademarked, or if you make it odd or crude enough! Project names don’t have to have a theme, though that can be fun. They don’t even have to be meaningful, just memorable with an obvious way of pronouncing the word. You can choose a number of suitable names once and then let people decide which one they want to use next. Names of stars, types of sushi, rare diseases, and characters from comic books are some ideas to start with for project names.


These names would never fly in the government sector, where all naming creativity has to go into formulating a clever acronym out of what the application does.

Example: BGAS (Block Grant Application System). And yes, it’s a big ass monolithic application. Believe it or not, civil servants LOVE this. :slight_smile:

Back to the commercial world though: here’s one that never fails: Ski resorts! :slight_smile:


Don’t forget about: Rivers


On the Subtext project, we use nautical terms. we started off with Submarine names, but we don’t know the names of very many submarines.