The mundane act of changing a computer file’s name seems so simple that many of us take it for granted. But if you’re trying to rename multiple files on macOS, things get weirdly complicated—you’ll see way more options than you may think possible for such a humdrum task.
How to rename multiple files on a Mac
To change the identity of a bunch of photos, documents, videos, or whatever you have saved on your computer, you’ll first need to select every last one. That’s easy: press Cmd + A to grab everything in a folder, hold Shift and click on two files to choose them and everything in between, or hold Cmd and click to highlight whatever you want. You can also use a combination of the two click-based options for super-efficient selection.
Now it’s time to rename. On Windows, this step is straightforward: right-click on one file, choose Rename, enter something like “Wedding,” and hit Return. That will instantly replace the name of every other selected item with its new identifier and a parenthetical number (“Wedding (2)” and “Wedding (3),” for example). Try that on a Mac and the moment you click Rename you’ll get a new dialog box with a drop-down menu offering three groups of options:
The easiest of the three is Add Text. It offers a single text box where you can type anything and tack it to the beginning or end of the existing selected file names via a drop-down menu to the right of the entry field. As you type, a preview of what your file names will look like will appear in the bottom left of the dialog box (true for the other two options as well). If your original files were named something like “IMG_2002,” adding “Wedding” would result in either “WeddingIMG_2002” or “IMG_2002Wedding.”
A step up from adding text is Replace Text. This option gives you the opportunity to find a string of characters in your file names and replace them with anything else. So if you type “IMG” into the Find field and “Wedding” into the Replace with box, it’ll swap the two and you’ll get something like “Wedding_2002.” Just note that this function works exactly as promised, so if you selected a file called, say, “TimGrant” among your “IMG” files, you’ll rename that as “TWeddingrant.”
The most complicated but most customizable of the three options is Format. Here you get yet another trio of number-focused options, each one offering a Custom format text box for naming the files and a Start numbers at field for numbering them. Leave the former blank and it’ll just add a number to your existing names; leave the latter blank and numbering will start with zero. You also have the choice to put the number before or after the file name.
- Name and Index: With this protocol, anything you put in the text box will replace the full file name of every selected item. Numbering will be standard, such as “Wedding 1” and “Wedding 2.”
- Name and Counter: Anything you put in the text box will replace the existing file names, but the numbering will always include at least five digits: “Wedding00001” and “Wedding00002” for example. You can add more digits if you want.
- Name and Date: Unlike the other two, there’s no numerical counter for this option. Instead, it will add the exact date and time, to the second, of when you changed the file names. Then it will add its own numbers, resulting in names like “Wedding 2022-01-19 at 3.03.15 PM” and “Wedding 2022-01-19 at 3.03.15 PM 2”.
Now, finally, after you’ve chosen your path forward, you can click Rename. Phew.