Use OS X Yosemite to Batch Rename Your Files

By the time I write this post, OS X Yosemite has been available as a full release to the public for nearly a year, and each day, I still learn something new about how it can improve my workflow and productivity. Today's tip is something I learned recently that used to require a 3rd-party app to accomplish... renaming files in batch.

Not everyone batch renames files all the time, but when you need to, you need an easy way to do this. There are plenty 3rd-party apps that will help you to do this. Some of them are good, and most of them cost money. In a previous post, I even showed you how to batch rename using the built-in Automator app (click here for that tip), but that turns out to be a little more complicated than most people are comfortable with. In today's tip, I will show you how to batch rename files so easily and quickly, it will make your head spin with excitement.

First, we need to select a series of files we want to rename. In this example, I have a selection of photos and videos from a recent family vacation that are numbered sequentially, but as you can see, there are gaps in the numbers from files that I decided not to keep. Because I suffer from self-diagnosed OCD (half-joking), I want to close those gaps and keep the numbers nice and tight.

With the files selected, we will right-click (Control+click) on the section to bring up the contextual menu, and choose "Rename __ Items..." (where the underscore would be the number of files you have selected).

Ordinarily, choosing to rename a file simply allows you to enter a new name for that file, but when you have multiple files selected, a whole new window appears.

There are 3 types of renaming operations here: Replace Text, Add Text and Format.

Replace Text simply looks for a specific string of characters in the filename of each file you have selected and replaces it with a new string defined by you. Using the files in my example, I could replace "IMG" with "Family Vacation", leaving the rest of the filename (numbers) in tact.

Add Text allows you to add additional text to existing filenames either before or after the original filename. Using the files in my example, I could add the location of our vacation (i.e.: "San Diego IMG_0029.MP4"), making it easier to sort and locate these files later.

Format allows you to completely replace the exiting file name with something brand new as well as create sequential numbers (or date & time stamp) for each new filename. This is the type that I want to use for this example, since I want to rename my files using sequential numbers. There are three options next to "Name Format" dropdown, each with a slightly different purpose. Play with all three to get a sense for what they can do.

Now that we know which type of renaming to use, let's proceed. This is what the screen will look like to make the changes I want:

In this example, I want to start each new filename with "Family Vacation_" (the underscore will help to separate the name with the number... I could also just use a space or any other character), and end each name with a numerical value (using 5 digits) starting at 1. The next time I go through this process for this particular event, I will want to start at number 15 to continue with the sequence.

You will also notice that a sample of the new filename will appear at the bottom of the window. This is a great way to verify what the result will be prior to committing to the change. If it doesn't look like you expect it to, now's the time to tweak it, not after you have made the changes.

When you're ready to rename, click "Rename". That's it! Give your system a few seconds (or a little longer, depending on how many files you have to rename), and you're all done!

Posted on August 6, 2015 and filed under How To, Mac.