Search and replace filenames

Josh Sherman
1 min read
Command-line Interface

Recently, while working with a bunch of files, I came to realize that I needed to rename every single file. Not just that, I only needed to rename a small bit of the filename. If I was working with a document, I wound have leveraged a “search and replace” feature, but since this was files, I reached for my trusty command-line.

The filenames in question don’t really matter, what happens is that I wanted to take a file that was named like this:


And rename it to something like this:


There was no way in hell that I was going to do this manually in my file explorer since it was over 100 files!

When I originally approached this, I ended up throwing a loop into the mix that would generate a series of mv commands that used sed to do the string replacement on the destination filename.

This worked great and made for a fun one-liner, but was also overkill once I had discovered the rename command that I wasn’t aware existed initially.

The rename command is quite similar to mv in terms of usage and some of the available options (like -i, --interactive which will prompt you when overwriting files and keeps you safe).

Where rename is different than mv is that it takes an expression to match against and a replacement to use before the filename / pattern that will be used to match files.

A simple example would be renaming a bunch of files in a directory from one file extension to another, something that mv can’t do with multiple files:

rename .ext1 .ext2 *.ext1

For my scenario with the aforementioned filenames, you can create some files to follow along at home like this:

mkdir /tmp/joshtronic-rename
touch /tmp/joshtronic-rename/some-great-filename-{1..100}.ext

And then rename all of the files like so:

rename great amazing /tmp/joshtronic-rename/some-great-filename-*.ext
Join the Conversation

Good stuff? Want more?

Weekly emails about technology, development, and sometimes sauerkraut.

100% Fresh, Grade A Content, Never Spam.

About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

Currently Reading

Parasie Eve

Previous Reads

Buy Me a Coffee Become a Sponsor

Related Articles