Two ways to batch rename files on a Mac

If you ever find yourself needing to rename several files at once, Mac OS comes with several inbuilt options for getting the job done.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
2 min read
Taylor Martin/CNET

If you're working with a bunch of files on a Mac and you find yourself needing to uniquely name each and every one of them, you don't have to rename them one by one. You don't need to buy or download an app to do it either.

Every Mac comes preloaded with at least two options for batch renaming files. Here's how it's done.

Using Finder

With Yosemite came a powerful and very lightweight inbuilt tool in Finder for renaming a large selection of files.

To use the tool, select all the files you want to rename and right-click. In the menu, select Rename X items. A Rename window will appear with a number of drop-down fields to select from. You can search and replace certain words or numbers, add text to all the file names or completely reformat the names. You can also choose how to number the files -- either by index starting with a set number, a counter that starts at 00001 or with a date and time.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Once you've entered a new format and tweaked all the desired settings, click Rename. All the files will take on the new naming scheme.

Using Automator

Prior to the Yosemite (Mac OS 10.10) update, you had to use a tool like Automator to create a workflow and set a series of rules each time you wanted to rename files.

Enlarge Image
Taylor Martin/CNET

Automator is still a very valid and powerful option. It's an app which comes built into every Mac. It has a bit of a learning curve, which is a bit silly for something as simple as renaming files. But once you've setup a workflow for renaming files, the process will be much quicker in the future. To create the workflow:

  • Start by opening Automator and selecting New Document and Workflow.
  • In the leftmost column, click Files & Folders.
  • In the middle column, double-click Get Selected Finder Items.
  • Next, double-click Rename Finder Items.
  • A popup asking if you want to create copies of renamed files will appear. You can select either option. For this tutorial, I selected Don't Add.
  • In the first drop-down menu, there are several options for renaming the files. What I use most often is Make Sequential.
  • Click the radio button beside new name and enter the desired name for the files. You can leave or change the other settings.
  • In Finder or on your desktop, select the files you wish to rename. Click the play button in Automator to change the selected files.
  • Before closing out of Automator, be sure to save the workflow for future purposes.

This method provides more settings for tweaking and more granularly changing the names of files in batches. For instance, you can automatically add a label to all the renamed files, as well. (Just click Label Finder Items in the middle column before running the workflow.)

When it comes to renaming files, both methods accomplish the same thing. No option is better than the other. It comes down to preference and how in-depth your renaming needs to be.