Simplify renaming multiple files in the Finder

Rob Griffiths
3 April, 2009
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If you use the Finder to rename lots of files, and you use column or list view mode, you’re probably well aware of what I call the “jumping files” problem. Say you’re renaming a series of images from a camera; all are named DSC_nnnn.jpg, where nnnn is a four-digit number. When you rename the first file in the series, the Finder (helpfully?) re-sorts the list by name shortly after you rename the file—but it also keeps that file selected. So after renaming the first file, to rename the next, you have to manually scroll back to the DSC section of the file list. If you’re renaming more than one or two files, this can be a time-consuming process.

There are a few workarounds to this problem. You could look into a third-party renaming utility, such as A Better Finder Rename or Name Mangler. Those utilities, however, are really designed for doing mass replacements—replacing all instances of one word with another, for instance. They’re not really designed to change a number of filenames to new, unique filenames.

You could also switch to icon view before starting your renaming task, because (unless you’ve set that folder’s icon view option to keep files arranged by name) the icons won’t jump about as you rename files. But if you have a lot of files to rename, icon view doesn’t let you see very many at once, even at the smallest icon size.

So here’s another simple alternative—really simple in list view, not quite as simple in column view. Before starting the rename task, change the sort order of the Finder window to sort by size, not name. In list view mode, this is easily one by clicking on the Size column. In column view mode, you’ll need to activate the View -> Show View Options window (Command-J), then set the Arrange By pop-up menu to Size. If you’re renaming a bunch of photos, they should still be relatively-closely grouped, as they’ll have similar file sizes. When you rename one file, it will stay at its current position in the list, making it simpler to move to the next.

This isn’t a perfect solution, as if the file sizes aren’t similar, you’ll probably wind up doing even more scrolling to select each of the files you’ll want to rename. It may, however, help in some situations, so it’s a good trick to be aware of. Thanks to Mac OS X Hints reader sforichard for submitting this one.

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