Renaming lots of files at once is a bit more sophisticated in Mac OSX than Windows

In my last post – Renaming Multiple Files in Windows – I described multiple file renaming in Windows. Here is Mac’s equivalent.

Suppose I have several photos that I would like to rename to indicate that they were all taken in Brighton. The way that I would do this on a Mac is as follows:

Select all the relevant files (in Finder) by clicking on the first file and then holding down the “shift” key while clicking on the last file (there are two shift keys on most keyboards – they are at the left and righthand edges of the keyboard and have arrows pointing towards the screen – ie away from you).

Right-click the mouse or trackpad and left-click on “Rename x items…” (where “x” is the number of files you have highlighted). Alternatively, click on the “file” command and then left-click on “Rename x items…”.

The first option to note is the dropdown box that currently shows “Replace Text” (see Figure 1). Leave that as it is for now. Note that you can see what the results will look like by referring to the example at the bottom left of the window. Just type in the text that you wish to replace and the text with which you wish to replace it and click on “Rename”. See Figure 2 for the result.

File Renaming on a Mac - Figure 1

Figure 1

File Renaming on a Mac - Figure 2

Figure 2

The next option allows us to add text to the original file names and to choose whether to add it before or after the original file name. This option is accessed by clicking on the dropdown box next to “Replace Text” and choosing, instead, “Add Text”. See Figures 3 and 4.

File Renaming on a Mac - Figure 3

Figure 3

File Renaming on a Mac - Figure 4

Figure 4

The most flexible option is accessed by choosing “Format” in the first option (see Figure 5). Against the option “Name format” we can choose to add either a date, a number (confusingly referred to as an “index”), or a counter to the name. The only difference I can find between “index” and “counter” is that “counter” pads the number out with leading zeroes. “Aah”, you might say, “that’s to make sure that numbers appear in the correct order (eg 099 would appear before 100)”. But Finder already sorts 99 before 100, so I can’t see the advantage. I spent an inordinate amount of time googling to try to find the difference between “index” and “counter” – and failed.

Then, quite confusingly, there is a box labelled “Custom format”. It doesn’t mean “format” at all. It means “Name” as this box just allows you to re-name the “name” part of the file name. Luckily, there is, once more, an example of how your file renaming will look at the bottom left of the renaming window. Other options in this dialogue box are self-explanatory. See Figure 6 for an example of the results.

File Renaming on a Mac - Figure 5

Figure 5

File Renaming on a Mac - Figure 6

Figure 6

A warning. Your Finder may be set to display “file extensions” (see the option Finder / Preferences / Advanced). These are the letters after the final full stop in filenames. In the examples above, the file extension in all cases is “tif”. These file extensions are the means by which the operating system knows which program to use to open a file. Do not touch the file extension when renaming files. This also applies to renaming files in Windows.

If you need more comprehensive renaming options, then third party programs are available. A quick google for “file renaming software” took me to, for instance. I haven’t tried this program, but it does look as if it could satisfy very complicated file naming requirements.

© 2011-2018 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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