by Barry Dysert
(last updated June 26, 2017)
If you don't mind doing a little more typing and a little less mouse clicking, you can perform a lot of actions from the command line. (Displaying the Command Prompt Window is covered under another tip.) One thing you can do from the command line is rename files. The command-line rename command is REN (or RENAME) and it takes two parameters. The first parameter specifies the file that is to be renamed, and the second parameter specifies what its new name should be.
Let's say you have a file called "C:\Temp\OldFile.txt" and you want to rename it to be "NewFile.txt". You would type the following at the command line:
C:\> REN C:\Temp\OldFile.txt NewFile.txt
Note the fact that the second parameter to the REN command does not include any path information but the first one does. This means you cannot rename a file to a different device or directory.
You can also rename multiple files at once by using the wildcard characters "?" and "*". The "?" character stands for exactly one actual character in the file name; the "*" character stands for one or more actual characters in the file name. So, for example, you can easily rename all of the .tmp files in a given directory to instead be .txt files:
C:\> REN *.tmp *.txt
You can use the "?" to be more specific and/or rename only a part of the file name. Let's say you have several files in a folder and some are named like "file01.tmp", "file02.tmp", "file03.tmp", etc. You just want to rename the "file??.tmp" files to have a ".txt" extension. One way to do this is like this:
C:\> REN file??.tmp file*.txt
You can even rename part of the name piece (regardless of extension) with a little creativity. So if the files to be renamed are like "file01.txt" and "file02.txt" the following command will rename them to "file71.txt", "file72.txt":
C:\> REN file??.tmp file7?.txt
Finally, you can use REN to remove pieces of a file name. Say that you have files named "Jan-numbers.xlsx", "Feb-numbers.xlsx", thru "Dec-numbers.xlsx". You can rename these files to remove the "-numbers" part of the name like so:
C:\> REN ???-numbers.xlsx ???.xlsx
The rename command, especially with wildcards, can be a great timesaver if you're careful with your parameters. Personally, if I want to do anything more sophisticated than the examples presented here I use one of the free file-renamer tools available from various download sites.
This tip (13085) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.
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