Quickly rename batches of files with ease

Quickly rename batches of files with ease
Mac Tip #532, 18 April 2012

Sometimes I need to rename bulk lots of files, especially if they’re to be uploaded to the web. For such tasks I always turn to my favourite app A Better Finder Rename (US$19.95, free trial available). It’s paid for itself many times over with its simplicity and power. Here’s how to start using the app.

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Quick Start

  1. Drag files to the A Better Finder Rename window.
  2. Choose the Actions to perform.
  3. Choose the portions of the filename to work on.
  4. Make the actions Active.
  5. Perform the renames.

Want more detail? Read the full Tip below.

Add files to the A Better Finder Rename window

First download and install A Better Finder Rename. It should put itself into the Applications folder on your Mac.

Then double click the app to start it up. A window appears that lets you control which files to rename and how to rename them.

Open a Finder window that shows the files you wish to rename. Then drag the files on to the right-hand side of the A Better Finder Rename window.

Drag files on to the right-hand side of the A Better Finder Rename window.

Drag files on to the right-hand side of the A Better Finder Rename window.

The files are displayed in the window in 2 columns. The left column displays the current name of the file. The right-hand column previews what the name will be after you’ve applied one or more changes.

In my screenshot I’ve added a bunch of images with wildly differing file names:

  • 2011-10-13.jpeg
  • any Old     File  .jpeg
  • Aunt Jess (01).jpg
  • cute-kitty.jpg
  • demo.jpg
  • DSC 11247.jpg
  • holiday_snaps_December_2011.jpg
  • ipad-movie-rental-01.jpg
  • MyFile.jpg

As you can see, some have several spaces, some have upper case letters, others have numbers, dashes, underscores and even brackets. Also, some use the file extension jpeg while others use jpg.

I could fairly easily create a sequence of actions to make all the filenames conform to a standard, removing and replacing unwanted characters such as brackets or spaces.

Make a single change

A Better Finder Rename is enormously powerful. It lets you build up sequences of changes and even store them as presets. This Tip aims to introduce the app though, not to explain everything it can do. We’ll start with a single change.

As a demonstration we’ll start by making all file names lower case only.

On the left side of the A Better Finder Rename window you can choose actions.

A drawer appears to the extreme left, allowing you to select which actions to apply, and allowing you to build a sequence of steps.

Make lower case

First select Conversions from the Category drop-down menu. The Action drop-down menu displays relevant actions.

Next select Convert to lowercase from the Actions drop-down menu.

Now look at the Change section below the drop-down menus. You can selectively make just part of the entire filename lowercase, or apply the change to the entire filename.

Choose the action, how to apply it and make it active.

Choose the action, how to apply it and make it active.

File names, extensions and separators

An entire filename such as cute-kitty.jpg has 3 parts:

  1. extension: the part (usually 3 characters) after the dot. In my example the extension is jpg.
  2. separator: usually a dot.
  3. filename: the part before the dot. In my example the filename is cute-kitty.

As you can see, sometimes filename refers to the entire filename with separator and extension, but sometimes it refers to only part of it.

When you choose renaming actions it’s useful to be able to choose exactly how much of a filename to change.

In my example, I want to rename the whole thing. As it happens, none of the extensions have any uppercase characters, but they easily could have.

With more complex actions it may be useful to be able to exclude the extension.

Make an Action active

Even though you’ve selected the option to make the filename lowercase no changes would be made because we haven’t indicated that we want this change to be active.

This often trips me up: I’ve created the step, I can see it, but it isn’t applied because I forget to make it active.

To make a step active select the checkbox in the drawer at the left side of the window. Once you make a step active the preview list shows how the filenames will be changed when you perform the renames.

See a preview of which names will change and how they will change.

See a preview of which names will change and how they will change.

Notice in my screenshot that several filenames are dimmed and will not be changed when I Perform the Renames. Those file names will not be changed by the lowercase action because they are numbers and dashes or already lowercase. My action will change the names of 5 out of 9 files.

Perform the Renames

If the preview satisfies you that nothing you didn’t expect will happen then you can go ahead and actually Perform the Renames.

Confirm that the app should rename this or all files.

Confirm that the app should rename this or all files.

Click the Perform Renames button at the bottom of the window. An alert appears. Note that you can turn off the alert in the Preferences.

To go ahead and rename the files click either the Rename or Rename All button. The files are renamed and a Confirmation message appears.

Be careful: after renaming files there’s no quick and easy way to undo the renaming unless you saved a list of filenames first.

Use multiple steps

For the list of files I provided above I would actually want to make all these changes:

  • change all multiple spaces into a single space
  • replace all spaces with a dash (-)
  • remove any brackets
  • make everything lower case
  • change jpeg to jpg
  • change underscores (_) to dashes (-)

Things like that can be important for people who work with images on web pages.

One of the strengths of A Better Finder Rename is that it’s easy to set up a sequence of actions and to preview how things will turn out before going ahead.

As I’m sure you can see, the sequence of changes could be quite important. If I replaced spaces with dashes before reducing multiple spaces to a single space I’d end up with names full of dashes for some files.

Then I’d have to add a step to reduce multiple dashes to a single dash.

Doing a single rename, as I showed in this Tip is the simplest possible way of using the app, but it gives you a bit of an intro. I’ve been using A Better Finder Rename for years now. I don’t need it very often, but when I do need it I find it invaluable. I’ve used it to change filenames on hundreds of files at once.

I guess an indication of how important changing file names is to me is that I’ve now explained several different ways of going about it:

Other ways to rename files on a Mac

  1. How to rename files by adding them to a folder
  2. Rename a file
  3. Rename batches of files
  4. Use Get Info to rename a file
  5. Automate It

Of all the methods though, if I have more than 2 or 3 files to rename I always turn to A Better Finder Rename.

Let us know how this Tip helped you. To leave a comment if you’re reading this by email or RSS feed please visit the Tip at the MacTips website. There should be a link from the title.

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  1. Daniel said:

    a US$20 dollar software? I though you were going to explain how to do it with automator, since it is able to do it. This is not a Mac Tip, is a buy expensive software tip.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Thanks Phil. As I said, I’ve been using ABFR for years now – probably a decade – and feel it’s worth every cent. :-)

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