Options for Renaming Batches of Files

Digital cameras assign filenames to files that are not likely to be meaningful. For example, Canon uses file names such as IMG_9819.CR2  (for a camera raw file) or IMG_2904.JPG (for a jpeg file).  It is almost always advisable to rename these files.  Ideally the best time to to do this is when you import images from your camera memory card to the computer.

However at some point you may want to rename files that you previously imported or already have on your computer– possibly a large number of files.  For example, if you took photos at the beach, you may want to rename them so that they would all have “beach” in the filename.

The following techniques for changing filenames should normally be used before importing files into a cataloging program such as Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture.  If you are using a cataloging program and use the following techniques after you have imported files, you will probably need to re-import them. This is also an issue in video editing programs such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere. If you are NOT using a cataloging program, you don’t need to worry about this. I’ll describe techniques for renaming files within Adobe Lightroom in a future post.

Windows Explorer

To rename multiple files in Windows explorer, do the following:

1. First, select the files you want to rename. You can do this by selecting the first filename that you want to rename, holding the shift key, then selecting the last file you want to rename.

2. While all the filenames selected, press F2 and then enter a new name for one of the files.  All the selected files will automatically be renamed, with incremental numbers attached to the filenames (Filename(1), Filename(2), etc.).

This method works well but is limited. For more flexibility, use a third-party utility or Adobe Bridge.


On the Mac, batch renaming of files can be done using a Mac utility called Automator, which is included on all Macs (described on the Apple website at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2488).

Automator allows you to create lists of actions (called a workflow) that will be carried out automatically on a group of files. You can then save the Automator workflow and reuse it later.


Macintosh Automator

Other Macintosh Utilities: If you find Automator a bit intimidating or too cumbersome, there are several free or low-cost Macintosh utilities available that make the process of renaming files very easy.  Name Mangler ($10 from the Apple App Store) is one of the better ones. It includes several options which make it flexible and easier to set up than Automator.

Name Mangler

Name Mangler

Renaming files with Adobe Bridge 

With Adobe Bridge, you can rename a batch of files by choosing Tools > Batch Rename.  Terry White describes this process in a video tutorial at:

http://tv.adobe.com/watch/creative-suite-podcast-designers/batch-rename-files-with-custom-strings-in-bridge-cs5-/ .


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