How to batch-rename and manage multiple files in OS X

FinderIconYosemiteXWhen organizing files and folders in the Finder, you will often need to manage multiple files at once. Not only might you select groups of them to move around, but also need to create new folders containing them, tag them, lock them, and even rename them. While for the most part the approaches for managing individual files scales up to multiple files, there are some relatively hidden features of OS X that can make managing multiple files a bit easier.

1. Managing selections

The core of managing multiple files is in adding items to or removing them from your current selection. At its basics, just hold the Command key when clicking multiple files, and clicking files will then add or remove them from the current selection. You can also hold the Shift key to do the same, though with slightly different behavior as in some views this will select all files in the range between the last one and the newly selected one. Try shift-selecting files in various Finder view modes, and also try using the arrow keys with the shift key held to see how this behavior expands and contracts a selection of files.

Keep in mind that while you can technically select multiple files across different windows, when performing actions on those files you will only be able to work on the group from one window at a time.

2. Creating folders and archives

Once you have your desired selection, you can create a folder containing the selected files, instead of having to first create the folder and then make a selection and drag them into the folder. To do this, simply right-click a member of the selection, and choose the top-most contextual option for “New folder containing items.” This will arrange the items in a new directory, and then place the directory’s name in edit mode so you can quickly rename it.

Similarly, you can quickly save a selection of files in a zip archive by choosing either “Archive” or “Compress” from the contextual menu with you right-click the selection. This will create the new archive containing files and folders. For single items the archive will be named similar to their original name, but for multiple items the archive will just be named “”

3. Renaming files

Apple offers a quick batch-renaming service in OS X, and while minimal, can be useful for appending a date or number sequence to a selection of files, replacing common text in the file names, or adding a more text to the names. You may have to apply this renaming scheme a few times to get the results you want, and it is somewhat limited in comparison to third-party batch-renaming tools, but can tackle the most common batch-renaming routines.

Finder batch file renaming options in OS X

The Finder’s batch-renaming routine allows you to append text to or serialize the names of a selection of files.

4. Printing selections

If you have a selection of documents that you would like to print, then you can do so quickly by choosing Print from the File menu or pressing Command-P for a selection in the Finder. Note that this will only work for files, so while files in your selection will print, folder contents in your selection will not.

5. QuickLook and multi-file info

Apple’s QuickLook service allows you to preview information or content of files, and if you have a selection in place, then pressing Space Bar or otherwise activating Quick Look will only show a series of previews for the selection. You can cycle through these quickly by pressing the left and right arrows (note that up and down will change your selection). Additionally, you can get info on the common aspects of any selected set of files by pressing Option-Command-i on a selection. If you just press Command-i, you may see a number of separate information windows show up, whereas the single selection information window will allow you to quickly change the default handling application, file lock status, stationery pad flags, and file permissions (if needed).

5 thoughts on “How to batch-rename and manage multiple files in OS X

  1. Derek Currie

    This is a great feature in the Yosemite Finder. Meanwhile, if you want a great dedicated utility with bells and whistles, try ‘A Better Finder Rename’. I’ve been using it for years. It has regular updates and features added. $20. 64bit, OS X 10.7 and higher. There are older versions available.

  2. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll definitely save this one. I was unaware of the one about selecting multiple files with the Shift key. The rename multiple files feature is apparently not available in Mavericks. At any rate I don’t see “Rename” in the contextual menu with multiple files selected. Viewing multiple files in Quick Look does not work well on my late 2013 27″ iMac (24GB of RAM and a 3.5 GHz quad core CPU). Maybe Quick Look is still a 32 bit app? It’s quirky using the Up and Down arrow keys on one file at a time as well, but works better than using the left and right arrow keys on a group of selections. I haven’t tried Quick Look in Yosemite yet. Still waiting for Apple to get the bugs out.

  3. Julia B.

    “Apple offers a quick batch-renaming service in OS X…”

    I think “in OS X” translates here to “in Yosemite”.

  4. Mark

    I am a new convert to Apple / Mac ( Yosemite 10.10.3) and I really WANT to like Apple BUT….I am shocked by how clumsy and inefficient Mac is compared to PC in its handling of Photos. Why, for example, can one NOT batch select ( photos) files in ICON view ( being photos, one really needs to actually see the thumbnails ! )???

    1. Topher Kessler

      You can click and drag a selection around a group of files, or hold the Shift or Command keys to click individual files to add to a selection (or remove from the selection). To preview this batch, press the Space bar with them selected to see a quick-look preview window of their contents.

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