How to Batch Rename Files on Mac OS X Easily from Finder

May 28, 2015 - 30 Comments

Finder of Mac OS X Modern versions of OS X include a built-in batch file renaming tool that allows Mac users to instantly rename large groups of files, folders, photos, or anything else residing on their file system in a single action. This bulk rename item utility is part of the Finder, meaning there are no add-ons, downloads, or DIY Automator tools to use, and the rename function is very powerful, yet extremely simple to use.

We’re going to demonstrate how to rename a group of files on a Mac by matching a string of text and replacing it with another string of text. You’ll find the basic rename tool works quite similar to other Find & Replace functions found throughout other applications, except that it’s limited to the file or folder names of items you choose in the OS X Finder. You’ll also find abilities to append text to file names, or to completely format existing file names and replace them with new text.

How to Batch Rename Files on Mac with the Rename Finder Item Function of OS X

  1. Select the files in the Finder of OS X that you wish to batch rename
  2. Right-click (or Control+Click) on the selected files and choose “Rename X Items” where X is the number of files selected
  3. select the files to batch rename in Mac Finder

  4. In the “Rename Finder Items” tool that appears, choose ‘Replace Text’ from the dropdown (this is the default)
  5. Modify the “Find” search to match the string you wish to replace, then modify the “Replace With” box to match what you want the files to be renamed to, the “Example:” shown at the bottom of the Rename Finder Item window will show what the files renamed will look like
  6. Choose how to rename all selected files in bulk with the batch rename tool of Mac OS X

  7. Click on “Rename” to instantly rename all the files that were selected

Batch renamed files in Mac OS X after running through Finder Rename Item tool

The renaming process happens almost instantly, though if you’re renaming hundreds or thousands of selected files it will take a moment or two to complete the renaming procedure, as it occurs on a file by file basis. When it’s finished, you can immediately see the results in the Finder, the file names will be changed to what you chose in the rename utility.

The Rename Finder Items tool has three renaming options, the aforementioned find and replace text match, the ability to add text to file names, and finally, the ability to completely rename and change the file name format to anything sequential. These options are selected through the dropdown menu of the rename tool panel, all are equally simple to use.

Other batch renaming file modifiers in Mac OS X

The brief video below demonstrates the bulk rename of files by replacing existing text with new text, using this renaming tool in the Finder of OS X:

Batch renaming is undeniably useful, whether used to make many files have more descriptive file names, or even to reduce long file names to shorter ones. There are a myriad of purposes for bulk renaming functions, and for those who make heavy usage of the file system, you’ll likely find yourself using this feature very often.

The Rename Finder Items function requires that the Mac be running OS X 10.10 or later to have this feature available, earlier versions of OS X can batch rename files by using this Automator tool instead. That Automator script continues to work in modern versions of OS X as well, it’s just less necessary now that the Mac includes a native utility to perform bulk renaming functions.

Oh and by the way, if you select a single item in the Finder and use a right-click, you’ll find the “Rename” function is missing from the contextual menu. That’s because renaming a single file or folder is done through the item name itself, either by clicking into the file name or by hitting the Return key as the file or folder is selected.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

30 Comments

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  1. Sheryl says:

    Very handy! I did not know about this — or about the Automator tool — and have been using my own Automator tool. This is better. Thank you for sharing! <3

    • Paul says:

      You’re very welcome! This little rename utility is one of those great features in OS X that is easily overlooked. It’s pretty great as is though it could use wildcard support, but otherwise quite full featured and very simple to use for just about any Mac user.

  2. ChuckBlack says:

    I like “R-Name” for Mac. You get to preview the changes before applying them, it has more options too and it’s free.

  3. The other steve says:

    This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

  4. mark says:

    Big fan of “A Better Finder Rename 9” lots of options and you don’t need 10.10

  5. Tom Tyus says:

    I hate to sound stupid here, but I’m running 10.10.3 and I cannot find that rename feature anywhere in my screen top menu bar. It’s not under FILE, it’s not under EDIT, nor anywhere else. HOW do you invoke that choice?

    • John says:

      Tom Tyus, try right-clicking on multiple highlighted files. Do you then see the Rename option?

    • Walker says:

      Tom, as the article says you have to select files in the Finder, then right-click them in the Finder to bring up the contextual menu. There’s a little short video that shows how that works. The menu is not at the top of the screen, it’s contextual in the finder. Then you can rename the files.

  6. fedya says:

    Really its nice to learn. While using 10.10.4 and its a real handy tip. I use BatchRenameFiles Tool for something similar in mac too.

  7. Ox says:

    Awesome! Many thanks.

  8. Ox says:

    BTW, sometimes this trick of Control clicl (or right mouse button) does not work because it is not possible to highlight some item names in the Spotlight window (Command F). You must go to the specific folder enclosing such item to edit its name on a one-by-one basis.

    The problem is that if you search (Command F) for something (for instance, et al) and then select some hits to Control click and rename (for instance, etc), it does not work if such items indicate above are included, because the Rename is not shown until the culprit item(s) are not selected this way. And you must find it(them) by trial and error. Really frustrating.

    Is there an application or script that searches for a particular string (eg., et al) in the Mac disk, shows the results, allows to select some of them and then replaces the selected ones for other string (eg., etc)?

    I wanted to do it because it seems that “et al” should be used with persons, but not with things, and I had hundreds of wrong “et al” in item names in the Mac (I I wanted to change those by etc). But some of them like Smith et al were correct and those I did not want to replace. See:

    Et cetera vs Et al
    http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/33304/et-cetera-vs-et-al

    Thanks!

  9. Dorian Markich says:

    I prefer using special software for this task. From all the ones I’ve tried, KrojamSoft was the best. It’s great for renaming photographs or audio files that you want to keep organized or cataloged. Let’s you add prefixes and suffixes too, as well as change the case of the characters! Thumbs up from me.

  10. Andy T says:

    I have several batches of files that I need to change the names and include dates — for example:

    11-19 – NameOfFile
    11-26 – NameOfFile
    12-03 – NameOfFile
    etc. . . .

    The file name needs increase in increments of seven days and increase in months 1 = January, 2 = February . . . etc.

    Any suggestions of utilities that will allow me to do that?

    Thanks,
    Andy

  11. 6GenTexan says:

    I had 300 file name I need to update and this worked great for me. Thank you for posting the info. It saved me a couple of hours and did all the file in 10 min.

  12. 6GenTexan says:

    Finding this info saved hours of work. I had 300 files I needed to update the file name on. I am on Mac and running El Capitan. Thank you for posting the info.

  13. Geoff says:

    Many thanks for the info.

  14. Brad says:

    FYI – Just discovered this today. If you run into a scenario where you select a bunch of files, right-click and the rename option is missing, check “Get Info” on the files. If any are “Locked” for whatever reason or you do not have permission to modify the files, the option does not show up.

    Our photographer went to bulk rename today…he had about 1000 photos to do and the first half worked. when he selected the 2nd half, it was not available. It wasn’t until we identified a few locked ones that, once unlocked, the option had returned.

  15. R Miller says:

    One very big problem that will cause you no end of headaches if you aren’t aware of it: If any part of the file name that you are replacing has a forward slash (/), then the OSX file renamer will automatically delete everything in the file name that comes before the forward slash. For example, Freddy_3578_b/2945.jpg will be changed to 2945.jpg.

    The freeware called NameChanger from MRR Software (I have no connection to this company, am not promoting them, just stating a fact) worked great replacing the forward slash in file and folder names. It also correctly recognised that the forward slash in a mac file or folder name is actually a colon (:), just rendered as / by mac….

    • kittrkat says:

      Thank you! Saw this in action and was annoyed (chopping off everything before the forward slash (/)…
      Hopefully your “freeware option” will work for us because we have a ton to convert in order to move it cloud storage that uses window naming convention. AWESOME…

  16. Ronald says:

    You can use Long Path tool for renaming long filenames. It’s quick and easy.

  17. Brian Colgate says:

    Will this also work for changing extensions.
    I have a whole lot of old files ending in .mbx that were from an old Eudora eMail software. They are readable as .html files, so I’d like to batch change only the extensions.

  18. Brian Forbes Colgate says:

    Unfortunately, this will not work — practically — to change extensions.

    I have a folder of files from an old Eudora eMail program that I ran on my PC, before I converted to Mac. The extension .mbx can be changed to .html as internally they are web files.

    Trying to use Rename causes a query to come up, asking for confirmation in changing the extension, and unfortunately there is no “Apply to All” button, so this won’t work for a couple of thousand files … unless I can invent something to click the mouse for me.

    • Paul says:

      This approach batch renames the file name. You can use the ‘replace text’ option to find and replace the file extension if you’d like however, but you must have file extensions shown in the Finder to accomplish this. Additionally, you can disable the extension change warning if you’d like: http://osxdaily.com/2012/04/11/disable-the-file-extension-change-warning-in-mac-os-x/

      You might also find it interesting to change file extensions by using the command line, since there would not be a confirmation for adjusting the file extension. For example: http://osxdaily.com/2012/11/22/add-file-extension-group-of-files-os-x/

      For example you could append the html file extension to all files with:

      for i in *; do mv "$i" "$i.html"; done

      Or if you want to batch rename the file extensions from .mbx to .html:

      for file in *.mbx; do mv "$file" "${file%.mbx}.html"; done

      That would be the approach I went, but I am comfortable with the command line. You may want to read more about the bash approach, it’s scripting at the command line but works well for things like this.

      If the command line approach is too cumbersome, you could also use Automator from the GUI

  19. Bastiaan says:

    Although renaming files in OSX this way is very handy for most circumstances, it still is a bit limited if you need some more control.

    For renaming photos and mp3 files, I would like to recommend my little (Free) utility called Transnomino. In addition to standard file renaming actions like prefix/suffix/search replace with regular expressions it supports adding EXIF and ID3 tags to the filenames.

  20. JF says:

    Hope this isn’t a dumb question, but what if you want to have files names shown as DateThenName, i.e.,

    06/02/2016Backup
    05/15/2017Backup
    11/13/2017Backup

    When you are in the Finder, how do you get it to sort by Name showing the oldest first (as shown above)?

    Whether I use slashes in the dates or don’t use them, I can’t get it sorted as above (it always sticks the one with 2016 in the middle).

    Appreciate any suggestions.

  21. JOAN CENEDELLA says:

    I’m fine until I get to the Modify the “Find” search to match the string you wish to replace, and I have no idea what to fill in. I know the name I want but I don’t know how to identify the ‘string’ I want to change. Joan

    • JOAN CENEDELLA says:

      I’m fine until I get to the Modify the “Find” search to match the string you wish to replace, and I have no idea what to fill in. I know the name I want but I don’t know how to identify the ‘string’ I want to change. Joan

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