How to rename multiple files at once on a Mac

Renaming a single file on a Mac is very easy. But often you need to rename more than just one file. Sometimes you need to rename hundreds or thousands of files at once, and nobody really wants to select each file one by one and change each name manually. In cases like that, you should use apps that can easily rename multiple files at the same time.

How can you rename files in bulk on a Mac easily?

To batch rename files on a Mac, you can use:

  1. Finder, the built-in file manager of macOS
  2. Batch file rename apps, such as ForkLift
  3. Terminal, the built-in command line interface of macOS

Multi-rename in Finder

Finder is the built-in file manager of the macOS and you can also use it to rename a single file or multiple files at once. In Finder, you can only use three basic rules to bulk rename files, which is helpful if you only want to use simple ways to rename your files. In Finder, you can replace text, add text, and format the file names by setting a new name and adding numbers to it. The numbers added to the name can be the current date, an index, or a counter.

How to rename multiple files at once in Finder

  1. In Finder, select the files you want to rename. Select multiple files by Command-Clicking each file individually or using Shift-Click to select contiguous files.
  2. Choose Rename from the right-click context menu, Action menu in the Toolbar, or File menu.
  3. In the pop-up that opens, select a rule from the drop-down menu on the top.
  • If you want to replace a part of the names, then select Replace Text from the drop-down. Into the Find text field enter the part of the name you want to replace. Into the Replace with field, enter the term you want to use in the new names.
Rename Finder items and replace text in the filenames on macOS
  • If you choose Add Text from the drop-down menu, then you can enter a term that you want to add to the new names. Next to the text field, you can select if you wish to insert that term before or after the existing name.
  • If you select Format from the drop-down, then you can choose from 3 different format types. In the Name Format drop-down menu, you can choose Name and Index, Name and Counter, or Name and Date. Enter the new name into the Custom Format field. If you choose Name and Counter or Name and Index, you can set a starting number in the Start numbers at field. In the Where drop-down menu, you can choose if you want to place the numbers before or after the names. If you choose counter, the numbers will be generated as five-digit numbers, with leading zeros if needed, which can help by sorting the files on certain operating systems. If you choose Name and Date, then the current date is automatically added to the new names.
Rename Finder items and change the format of names on macOS
  1. At the bottom of the pop-up, you can see an example of what one of the new file names will look like. Click Rename to rename the files if you like the new format.

If you want to revert the names to their original, then select Undo Rename from the Edit menu or use the Command-Z shortcut.

Batch-rename on a Mac with ForkLift

ForkLift is a file manager for macOS that you can also use to connect to remote servers, like FTP servers, or cloud providers, like Google Drive. It also has a lot of advanced features that are missing from Finder, and you can use ForkLift as a batch rename utility. Renaming files in ForkLift works similarly to renaming in Finder, but in ForkLift:

  • you have more options to rename
  • you can find and delete strings from the original names
  • you can combine the renaming rules to handle more complex tasks
  • you have a clear overview of the changes that are going to happen, which means that you can see conflicts immediately
  • you can save your rename settings as favorites and use them easily in the future
  • you can change the extensions of the files
  • you can change the case of the letters

How to rename multiple files simultaneously on macOS 

  1. Select the files you want to rename in ForkLift by Command-Clicking each file individually or using Shift-Click to select contiguous files
  2. Hit Enter to rename the files. You can also choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, the right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. In the Multi-Rename Window, click the plus sign in the bottom left corner to add a renaming rule. You can choose one from five options: Change Case, Replace Text, Add Text, Add Date, or Add Sequence
  4. In the Apply to drop-down menu, select which part of the file names you want to make changes to. The most used option, Name, is selected by default
  5. Change the other settings according to your preferences – see detailed tutorials below
  6. Add new renaming modules with the plus sign if you want to use more than one option.
  7. Check the new names in the Before and After overview on the right side of the window, and click Rename if everything looks fine
  8. If you want to undo renaming, then select Edit > Undo from the menu

TIP: You can combine as many renaming rules as you want. For example, you can change the case of the file names, replace a part of the names and add a date to them in one go. You can add new rules with the plus sign and delete a rule by clicking the X in the top right corner of the renaming module. You can change the order of the rules by dragging and dropping them into a new place. ForkLift executes the rules from top to bottom.

Click here to download ForkLift to try out batch renaming

How to change the cASE of multiple file names on macOS

In ForkLift, you can convert file names from Lower Case to Upper Case or from Upper Case to Lower Case very easily. You can also use Title Case, which means that the first letter of each word in the name gets capitalized. Or you can use Sentence Case, where only the first letter of the entire name gets capitalized.

How to batch rename files to lower case:

  1. Select the files you want to rename
  2. Hit Enter, or choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, the right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. In the Multi-Rename Window, click the plus sign in the bottom left corner and select Change Case
  4. In the Apply to menu, select which part of the name you want to change. If you only want to change the case of the name in front of the dot, then select Name, if you want to change the entire name, select Name with extension. It is also possible to change the case of the extension only.
  5. In the Case field, select Lower case.
  6. Click Rename
Batch rename files and change the case of the letters in the filenames

You can use any of the four available cases, simply select the one in step 5 that you want to use. For example, if you want to batch rename files to upper case, then in Step 5, select Upper case.

How to replace multiple file names on macOS

As shown above, you can replace filenames in Finder too but you can only replace an exact part of the name. In ForkLift, you can replace the entire file names or multiple parts of the file names in one go. You can even use regular expressions to define a rule to tell ForkLift which part of the name you want to replace.

To batch replace a part of the filename:

  1. Select the files you want to rename in ForkLift
  2. Hit Enter, or choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. Click the plus sign in the bottom left corner of the Multi-Rename Window and select Replace Text
  4. In the Apply to drop-down menu, select which part of the name you want to change. Usually, you only want to change the Name (the part of the name in front of the dot)
  5. In the Occurrences menu, set which occurrences of an expression you want to replace.
    • You can replace the first, the last, or all occurrences.
    • Select Regular Expression if you want to define a complex rule using a regular expression.
    • Select Entire text if you want to change the entire names of the files. In that case, you will also need to combine the Replace text rule with at least one additional rule to make the names unique.
  6. Check the Case sensitive check box if you only want to replace the case-sensitive version of the typed-in text. (If “apple” is case-sensitive, then ForkLift doesn’t replace “ApPle” but if “apple” isn’t case-sensitive, then ForkLift replaces APPLE and APple and other versions too.)
  7. Into the with Text field, enter the text you want to use in the new names in place of the text(s) you want to replace.
  8. Click Rename
Batch rename a lot of files and replace parts of the filenames on macOS

How to batch delete parts of the file names

You can use the Replace Text module to remove parts of the file names too.

  1. Select the files you want to delete a part from
  2. Hit Enter, or choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. Click the plus sign in the bottom left corner of the Multi-Rename Window and select Replace Text
  4. In the Apply to drop-down menu, select which part of the name you want to change, usually, that is Name
  5. In the Occurrences menu, set which occurrences of an expression you want to delete.
  6. Check the Case sensitive check box if you want to delete only the case-sensitive version of the typed-in text.
  7. Leave the with Text text field empty
  8. Click Rename

Since you don’t type anything into the with Text field, the text you want to replace will be replaced with nothing, meaning, it gets deleted.

Batch rename files on on your Mac and delete parts of the file names quickly

How to bulk add text to multiple existing file names on a Mac at the same time

  1. Select the files that you want to batch rename in ForkLift
  2. Hit Enter, or choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. Click the Plus sign and select Add Text
  4. From the Apply to drop-down menu, choose which part of the name you want to modify
  5. Into the Text field, enter the text you want to add to the names
  6. From the Position menu, select if you want to add the text at the beginning or end of the existing names
  7. Click Rename

How to add a date and time to multiple filenames on a Mac at the same time

Adding timestamps to the names of folders and files can help you organize your files more easily. If the names contain a date, then it’s easy to sort your files and folders chronologically, and you will be able to find your files more easily.

To add a date and time to multiple files, do the following:

  1. Select multiple files in ForkLift
  2. Hit Enter, or choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. Click the plus sign in the bottom left corner of the Multi-Rename window and select Add Date
  4. In the Apply to field, select what part of the name you want to change, usually, that is Name
  5. In the Date drop-down menu, you can select what kind of date you want to add to the name. You can choose between four options:
  • Modified: Adds the time when the file or folder was last modified or altered
  • Created: Adds the time to the name when the file or folder was created.
  • Added: Adds the time when the file or folder was added to the current computer or location
  • Now: Adds the current time to the name
  1. In the Date format menu, choose from a set of date presets or create your own date format. To do that, just delete the selected preset and type in your own format. 
  2. In the Position field, select if you want to place the date at the beginning or at the end of the file name
  3. In the Prefix field, you can add a text that will appear in front of the date.
  4. In the Suffix field, you can add a text that will appear after the date
  5. Click Rename to rename your files
Bulk rename multiple files on macOS and add date to the filenames

TIP: Use one of the year-month-day formats (such as yyyy-MM-dd) to make sure that you will be able to sort your files correctly everywhere, even on different operating systems. Pay attention to the cases of the letters in the date format pattern. Use y for the calendar year, M for the month, and d for the day of the month. It is possible to add the time to the names as well, and the lower case m stands for minutes. The pattern yyyy-MM-dd-HH:mm:ss stands for year-month-day-hour:minutes:seconds. You can find the full list of patterns here.

How to add a sequence to multiple files on a Mac

One of the most common ways to rename files is to add a numbered sequence to the file names.

  1. Select the files you want to add a sequence to
  2. Hit Enter, or choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. Click the plus sign in the bottom left corner of the Multi-Rename Window and select Add Sequence
  4. In the Apply to drop-down, select which part of the name you want to change, usually, that is Name
  5. In the Start with field, you can set a starting number. If you leave that field empty, the numbering will start at 1.
  6. Enter the desired step value into the Step value field. The default step value is 1, so if you leave that field empty, the numbers will increase by one.
  7. In the Padding field, you can specify the minimum number of digits to display. That is an optional field, if you leave it empty, then no padding will be used.

TIP: If you set a padding, then leading zeros will be displayed if needed, and more digits will be automatically displayed to show the full number if the sequence is longer. If you set the padding to 3, then the number 25 becomes 025, but 1654 will be displayed as 1654.

  1. In the Position field, you can choose if you want to place the sequence at the beginning or end of the name
  2. In the Prefix field, you can enter characters that you want to add before the sequence. That is an optional field: leave it empty if you don’t want to add anything in front of the number
  3. In the Suffix field, you can enter characters that you want to add after the sequence. That is an optional field: leave it empty if you don’t want to add anything after the number
  4. Click Rename to add the sequences to the file name

Batch rename your imported photos to give the file names more meaning

After you import pictures from your phone or camera, their names look something like this: IMG_9128.JPG. If you keep these meaningless names, it will be hard to find these pictures in the future. If you share them with somebody online, then they will find it hard to make much sense of the file names. It would make more sense if your files looked something like this: 2022-07-23-Rome-Holiday-01.jpg.

Rename holiday pictures. Give multiple IMG images meaningful easy-to-find and easy-to-use names

To create the above name formats, you should add the date when the pictures were taken and add a descriptive name, such as Rome-Holiday. Restart sequencing and change the case of the extension to lower case.

Here is how you can do that in one go in ForkLift:

  1. Select the pictures you want to rename and hit Enter.
  2. In the Multi-Rename Window, click the plus sign in the bottom left corner and select Replace Text. Apply the changes to the Name. In the Occurrences menu, select the Entire Text option and and enter a descriptive name into the with Text field that will help you to find and work with your files later, for example, Rome-Holiday.

TIP: At this point, yellow caution triangles are warning you about the conflict in the new names. Adding more criteria will solve the conflict.

  1. Click the plus sign again to add a new rule, and select Add Date. Apply the changes to the Name, and in the Date field, select Modified. For sorting purposes, select one of the year-month-day (yyyyMMdd) Date formats, for example, yyyy-MM-dd. Set the Position to Beginning. As a Suffix add a hyphen (-).
  2. To add a sequence at the end of the name, click the plus sign and select Add Sequence. Apply the changes to the Name. Set the Position to End. Change the padding to 2 and enter a hyphen (-) into the Prefix field.
  3. Click the plus sign and select Change Case. In the Apply to field, select Extension and set the Case to Lower case.
  4. Click Rename

How to save batch rename rules as favorites for easy reuse

If you often use the same or similar rename settings, then instead of setting up and changing the rules every time, save your settings as favorites and use them from the sidebar of ForkLift. 

How to create a Batch Rename Favorite:

  1. Select the files you want to rename in ForkLift
  2. Hit Enter, or choose Rename from the Actions toolbar button, from the right-click context menu, or Commands menu
  3. In the Multi-Rename Window, set up your bulk rename rules
  4. Click Add to Favorites
  5. In the pop-up, give your Favorite a name that describes the rule well and choose a favorite group to save the favorite into
  6. Click Add
  7. If you want to rename the selected files, then click Rename. If you don’t want to rename, then click Cancel

How to use the Batch Rename Favorite:

You can use the multi-rename favorites in two different ways. To batch rename the selected files, click the multi-rename favorite in the sidebar or drag the selected files and drop them over the favorite in the sidebar.

If you click the favorite, then the Multi-Rename window opens, and you can take a look at the changes that will take place and can change the settings if needed.

  1. Select the files in ForkLift you want to rename
  2. Click the multi-rename favorite in the sidebar
  3. In the Multi-Rename window, check or modify your settings
  4. Click Rename

If you drag the items over the favorite, then they will be renamed instantly and automatically.

  1. In ForkLift, select the files you want to rename
  2. Drag the selected files and drop them over the multi-rename favorite in the sidebar

How to batch rename on a Mac in Terminal

You can also use the Terminal to rename files but that needs some kind of programming knowledge. The Terminal is the Command Line Interface (CLI) of the macOS. The Terminal app is located in the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder. In the Terminal, you can enter commands to interact with the operating system. Most users never use Command Line Interfaces since Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) such as Forklift, are much easier to use. However, developers and system administrators still rely on CLI since there are some tasks that can’t be executed in Graphical User Interfaces. If you know how to write scripts, then you can write and run your own rename scripts in Terminal.

If you are not familiar with Terminal and don’t know what the lines inside Terminal mean when you open it, then it might be better to keep your hands off Terminal and close it right away:)

In Terminal, you can rename files with the move (mv) command. 

mv old_filename new_filename 

To rename a file called apple.pdf into pear.pdf, use the move command like this:

mv apple.pdf pear.pdf

The move command literally moves the files, so if a file with the same name is already in the same folder, then that file will be overwritten by the file you are renaming. To avoid that, use the mv -i command. In that case, Terminal will ask you to confirm the move operation if there is a conflict. You can answer with y (yes) to overwrite, or with n (no) to abort the move.

mv -i old_filename new_filename

Use the mv -n command to prevent existing files from being overwritten:

mv -n old_filename new_filename

With the move command you can only rename files one by one. If you want to rename multiple files at once, then you need to write a script to handle the complex task.

Comparing the batch rename options on macOS

Let’s take a batch rename question from the Apple Support Community to see how you can use Finder, ForkLift, and code/Terminal to solve a real-life multi-rename problem. A user wanted to rename files on his Mac like this:

Current file namesDesired new names
stock6920689EP01_001stock6920689
stock03874EP01_002stock03874
stock4169463EP01_003stock4169463

According to the answer, you can’t do that in Finder because Finder can add a string to the file names, but it can’t also add a sequence at the same time. As a solution, the user who answered the question came up with this Apple Script to solve the problem:

Use Apple Script to rename multiple files on macOS

As you can see, that script is pretty complicated if you have no idea how to code. But even if you know how to code, you probably wouldn’t want to create that script if there was an easier way to change the file names.

In ForkLift, it is super easy to rename the files into the desired name format. You only need to use the Add Sequence rename module:

  • Apply the changes to the name
  • Add a 3 digit padding at the beginning
  • Use the EP01_ Prefix
How to easily rename multiple files on macOS Ventura

Comparing table of the top features of the batch rename tools on macOS

Top FeaturesForkLiftFinderTerminal
Simple rename rulesYesYesYes
Complex rename rulesYesNoYes
Chain multiple rulesYesNoYes
Full preview of the new namesYesNoPossible
Graphical User InterfaceYesYesNo
Create favorites for reuseYesNoNo
Option to delete parts from existing nameYesNoYes
Undo renameYesYesNo
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3 thoughts on “How to rename multiple files at once on a Mac”

  1. James says:

    Thank you for an informative article.

    I can rename an example blue_sunset.jpg to Blue-sunset.jpg or blue sunset.jpg to Blue Sunset.jpg (title case).

    But how can I rename (blue_sunset.jpg, blue-sunset.jpg or Blue-sunset.jpg) to Blue-Sunset.jpg?

    Do I have to make multiple renamings (add spaces > title case > replace spaces to dash) or at once with complex rule?

  2. James says:

    Correction. After I replaced spaces to dash I cant’t use title case to last words.

  3. James says:

    That seems to work:
    Replace text: (space) & with Text (-)
    Change Case > Apply to: Extension with dot & Case: Sentence case

    Blue Sunset.jpg > Blue-Sunset.jpg.

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