7 Easy Methods to Rename Multiple Files Linux

TL;DR

To easily rename multiple files Linux, you can try these seven methods:

    1. rename Command: The rename command is ideal for bulk renaming files using Perl regular expressions, making it perfect for systematic changes to patterns, suffixes, or prefixes.
    2. mv Command in a Loop: The mv command within a loop is great for simple, controlled batch renaming when you need to manually specify each file’s new name.
    3. find and xargs Commands: Combining find and xargs is effective for renaming files across multiple directories based on specific criteria, perfect for comprehensive directory tree operations.
    4. Using mmv: mmv is powerful for renaming files with wildcard patterns, providing flexibility in pattern matching for complex renaming tasks.

    Tired of looking at a mess of files with names that make no sense? I’ve been there, struggling to make sense of a cluttered workspace, wishing there was an easier way to get things organized. In this simple guide, I’ll show you how to rename multiple files at once in Linux, whether you’re dealing with just a few or a mountain of them. You’ll learn handy commands like rename, mv, find, and cool tools like mmv, sed, and vidir. Plus, I’ll share some tips to help you avoid common mistakes and keep your files neat and tidy.

    Importance of Learning File Renaming Techniques

    Learning how to rename multiple files in Linux can save you a lot of time and effort. When you deal with a large number of files, manually renaming each one can be tedious and error-prone. By mastering renaming techniques, you can:

    • Save Time: Automated renaming processes can handle hundreds or even thousands of files in seconds. This is much faster than renaming files one by one.
    • Avoid Mistakes: Manual renaming increases the chance of making errors, such as typos or inconsistent naming. Automated methods ensure consistency and accuracy.
    • Improve Organization: Properly named files help you find what you need quickly. Whether it’s photos, documents, or code files, having a clear naming structure makes your files more manageable.
    • Boost Productivity: When you spend less time on repetitive tasks like renaming files, you have more time to focus on important work. This boosts your overall productivity.
    • Enhance Workflow: In collaborative environments, using consistent file names helps everyone stay on the same page. It reduces confusion and makes it easier to share and manage files.

    How To Rename Multiple Files in Linux?

    To rename multiple files in Linux, you can use the rename command. This command allows you to apply a Perl expression to modify file names in bulk. For example, if you want to change all files with the extension .txt to .bak, you would use the command rename 's/\.txt$/.bak/' *.txt. Ensure you have the rename utility installed on your system; if not, it can usually be installed from your Linux distribution’s package manager.

    That was the quick answer, below you’ll find more details on how to use the rename command and 6 other ways to Linux rename multiple files:

    7 Ways To Rename Multiple Files Linux

    1. Using rename Command

    The rename command is best suited for renaming files in bulk using Perl regular expressions. It excels in complex renaming tasks where patterns, suffixes, or prefixes need to be changed systematically.

    1. Open the terminal.
    open terminal
    1. Navigate to the directory containing the files you wish to rename.
    go to directory
    1. To list all available files in the directory use this command:
    ls
    listing available files in directory
    1. Execute the rename command with the appropriate regular expression. For example, to change all .html extensions to .htm, run: 
    rename 's/\.html$/.htm/' *.html
    rename files extensions

    2. Using mv Command in a Loop

    The mv command within a loop is perfect for simpler, more controlled batch renaming. It’s particularly useful when you need to manually specify each file’s new name. Follow these steps to Linux bulk file rename:

    1. Open your terminal application.
    2. Go to the directory with the files you want to rename.
    3. Use a for loop with mv for renaming. For instance, to prepend archive_ to all .txt files, use:
    for file in *.txt; do
     mv "$file" "archive_$file"
    done
    renaming files using for loop

    3. Utilizing find and xargs Commands

    Combining find and xargs is ideal for renaming files across multiple directories. This method works well when you need to perform renaming operations on files that match specific criteria throughout a directory tree. Here is how to Ubuntu batch rename files:

    1. Launch the terminal.
    2. Use the find command to locate the files you wish to rename. For example, to find .jpg files, use: 
    find /path/to/search -type f -name "*.jpg"

    Replace the path/to/search with the desired path or directory, you want to rename.

    using find command to locate files
    1. Pipe the output to xargs with a mv command to rename. E.g., to rename .jpg files to .jpeg, add: 
    find /path/to/search -type f -name "*.jpg" | xargs -I {} mv {} {}.jpeg

    Replace the path/to/search with the desired path or directory, you want to rename.

    using find and xargs command to rename

    4. Using mmv

    mmv is a powerful tool for renaming files using wildcard patterns. It’s best used for complex renaming needs that involve wildcard character substitutions, making it ideal for users who require flexibility in pattern matching. Follow these steps to Linux rename multiple files pattern:

    1. Open the terminal.
    2. Install mmv if it’s not already installed. To install mmv on Ubuntu, use the command:
    sudo apt-get install mmv

    The command will install mmv on your Ubuntu machine.

    installing mmv tool
    1. Navigate to the directory with the files you want to rename.
    navigating to directory
    1. Use mmv with the appropriate pattern. For example, to replace spaces with underscores in file names, use: 
    mmv "* *" "#1_#2"

    This command will replace the spaces with underscores of all the files in the directory

    using mmv command rename spaces

    5. Utilizing sed with xargs

    sed and xargs combine to form a potent solution for renaming files en masse, particularly effective for removing or replacing patterns across multiple files. This method shines in its ability to process complex renaming rules efficiently. Here is the step-by-step guide to Ubuntu rename multiple files:

    1. Start by opening your terminal.
    2. Go to the directory with the files you wish to rename.
    navigating to documents directory
    1. Use the following command to remove a specified pattern from file names:
    ls | sed -e 'p;s/pattern_to_remove//' | xargs -n2 mv

    Adjust pattern_to_remove as needed.

    renaming using sed and xargs commands

    6. Using vidir from moreutils

    vidir offers a unique, editor-based approach to file renaming, making it especially suitable for users who prefer manually curating file names in a text editor. It’s a gentle bridge between the command line and GUI methods of file management.

    1. Ensure vidir is installed on your system by installing moreutils by running the following command: 
    sudo apt install moreutils
    installing moreutils
    1. Navigate to your desired directory and run the following command:
    vidir

    The command will launch the vidir editor.

    launching vidir editor
    1. In your text editor, rename the files as needed and save your changes to apply them.
    renaming files using vidir editor
    1. The output will be:
    renamed files

    7. Utilizing a Graphical File Manager

    Graphical file managers offer a visually intuitive method for renaming files, perfect for those who prefer graphical interfaces over command-line operations. This method is best for quick, one-off batch renames. Follow these steps to Linux rename multiple files using GUI:

    1. Open File Manager
    opening filemanager
    1. Navigate to the folder containing the files you wish to rename.
    navigating to directory containing files
    1. To select multiple files, hold Shift or Ctrl while selecting.
    renaming multiple files
    1. Right-click on the selected files, choose Rename option, and use the interface to apply new names.
    renaming simultaneously

    Best Practices for File Renaming in Linux

    When renaming files in Linux, following a few simple best practices can make your life a lot easier. Here’s how to keep things smooth and organized:

    • 📝 Keep It Simple: Choose clear and descriptive names for your files. This approach lets you know exactly what’s inside a file without having to open it.
    • 🚫 Use Dashes or Underscores: Go for dashes (-) or underscores (_) instead of spaces in your file names. This trick keeps things tidy in the command line, where spaces can throw a wrench in your commands. 
    • 🔡 Stick to Lowercase: Always use lowercase letters in your file names. Since Linux treats uppercase and lowercase as different characters, using one style helps you avoid mix-ups. 
    • 📅 Add Dates Wisely: When you add dates to file names, format them as YYYY-MM-DD (for example, 2024-03-25). This method lines up your files in chronological order, making it easier to track versions or events. 

    Linux Rename Multiple Files: Final Thoughts

    In this article, I’ve covered several ways to rename multiple files in Linux, from basic commands like mv and rename to advanced techniques with find, xargs, and mmv.

    To further enhance your Linux skills, I suggest exploring:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What is the rename Command?

      The rename command is a Unix utility used to rename files and directories based on specified patterns. It enables users to make batch modifications to filenames using simple or regular expressions, facilitating the renaming of multiple files at once. This command is particularly useful for organizing files systematically or adjusting naming conventions efficiently.

    2. What is mv Command?

      The mv command in Linux is a command-line utility used to move or rename files and directories. To use the mv command, you specify the source file or directory and the target location or new name. This command is essential for managing filesystems, reorganizing files, or renaming them without opening a graphical interface.

    3. What find is Command?

      The find command in Linux is a powerful utility used to search for files and directories in a directory hierarchy based on various criteria such as name, modification date, size, and other file-specific details. It enables users to locate files across extensive file systems efficiently and can execute commands on the files found using the -exec flag, making it extremely useful for batch processing and system maintenance tasks.

    4. What xargs is Command?

      The xargs command in Linux is used to build and execute command lines from standard input. It takes input from a pipe or standard input and converts it into arguments for a command. Typically used in conjunction with commands like find or grep, xargs is useful for handling a large number of inputs that might exceed the command line’s maximum argument length, thereby allowing more complex commands and operations on a vast set of data.

    5. How can I undo a bulk rename operation if I make a mistake?

      If you’ve accidentally renamed files and want to revert the changes, there’s no direct undo command in Linux. However, you can prepare by creating a backup of your files before running a bulk rename. For future operations, consider writing a script that logs original and new filenames, allowing you to reverse the operation manually if needed.

    6. Can I use wildcards or regular expressions with the mv command for renaming?

      The mv command does not support wildcards or regex for batch renaming. Use it within a loop for manual renaming or opt for tools like rename or mmv, designed for complex, pattern-based renaming tasks using regular expressions.

    7. Is there a way to preview changes before actually renaming files?

      To preview file renaming changes without applying them, use the -n option with the rename command. This dry run shows the proposed changes, ensuring the command aligns with your expectations before you proceed with actual renaming.

    8. How do I handle filenames with newlines or other unusual characters?

      For filenames with newlines or special characters, utilize find ... -print0 and xargs -0 for secure handling in scripts and commands. Always quote variables and use null delimiters to process such filenames accurately, avoiding common scripting errors.

    9. What’s the best way to rename files in a case-sensitive manner?

      Linux treats filenames in a case-sensitive way, allowing precise control over case during renaming. To change filename cases, like converting to lowercase, use rename 'y/A-Z/a-z/' *, effectively adjusting all file names in the directory to lowercase.

    Ojash

    Author

    Ojash is a skilled Linux expert and tech writer with over a decade of experience. He has extensive knowledge of Linux's file system, command-line interface, and software installations. Ojash is also an expert in shell scripting and automation, with experience in Bash, Python, and Perl. He has published numerous articles on Linux in various online publications, making him a valuable resource for both seasoned Linux users and beginners. Ojash is also an active member of the Linux community and participates in Linux forums.

    Akshat

    Reviewer

    Akshat is a software engineer, product designer and the co-founder of Scrutify. He's an experienced Linux professional and the senior editor of this blog. He is also an open-source contributor to many projects on Github and has written several technical guides on Linux. Apart from that, he’s also actively sharing his ideas and tutorials on Medium and Attirer. As the editor of this blog, Akshat brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to provide readers with valuable insights and advice on a wide range of Linux-related topics.

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