Linux Tactic

Mastering File Renaming in Linux with mv and rename Commands

Renaming files and directories is an essential task when working with Linux. The mv command is the primary tool for renaming files and folders, and it comes with a few options that make the process of renaming quick and efficient.

However, renaming multiple files manually can be time-consuming, and therefore, automating the process is necessary. This is where the rename command comes in handy.

In this article, we’ll explore the mv and rename commands, their syntax, and options, and how to use them efficiently.

MV command for Renaming Files and Directories

The mv command is the standard tool for renaming files and directories in Linux. It works by moving files and directories from one location to another.

When used for renaming, the source and destination of the move are the same.

To use the mv command, type mv followed by the current name of the file or directory and the new name.

For instance, to rename a file called doc1.txt to report.txt, you would type:

mv doc1.txt report.txt

The mv command can also be used to rename directories. For instance, to rename a directory called old_folder to new_folder, you would type:

mv old_folder new_folder

Need for Automating the Renaming Process

Renaming files and directories manually can be tedious, especially when dealing with a large number of files. Automating the process saves time and eliminates errors.

One way to automate the process is by using the rename the rename command

The rename command is a powerful tool that you can use to rename multiple files simultaneously. It can manipulate filenames based on regular expressions, allowing you to rename groups of files that share a common naming pattern.

The syntax of the rename command is simple. It follows the format:

rename [options] expression replacement input_file

The expression is the regular expression to match against the filenames, the replacement is the new name, and input_file is the file or group of files to rename.

Understanding the rename command

Syntax of the rename command:

The syntax for the rename command comprises several components. The first component is the command itself, followed by options enclosed in square brackets.

After the options comes the expression to be searched, followed by the replacement. Finally, we have the files or directories to be renamed.

Available options with the rename command:

The rename command comes with several options to make the renaming process easier.

– -v (verbose): This option displays the names of the files that have been renamed.

– -n (no-act): This option performs a dry run, showing what the result of the renaming would be, without actually renaming the files.

– -o (overwrite): This option overrides existing files with the same name in the destination directory.

– -f (force): This option forces the renaming process and does not prompt for confirmation, even when overwriting files.

– -s (symlink): This option creates symbolic links instead of physically renaming files.

Installing the rename command on Linux distributions:

The rename command is not installed by default on all Linux distributions. Fortunately, it can be found in the default repositories of most distributions.

For instance, to install the command on Ubuntu or Debian, you can use the following command:

sudo apt-get install rename


To rename multiple files in Linux, the mv command can be a great tool for simple renaming tasks, while the rename command is perfect for automating the renaming of multiple files with complex patterns. The two commands work in harmony, with mv handling single-file renaming, while rename handles complex pattern-based renaming.

With the options and syntax presented in this article, you should be well-equipped to carry out any renaming task you may encounter in Linux.

Practical Scenarios for using the Rename Command

The rename command is a powerful tool used to rename files and directories in Linux. It enables file renaming to be precise, quick, and efficient.

In this section, we will explore some practical scenarios where the rename command is useful. Scenario 1: Replacing characters in filenames

Removing spaces from filenames and replacing them with underscores:

Having spaces in filenames can make file searching and management a bit of a challenge.

Therefore, it is often desirable to replace spaces with an alternative character such as underscore or hyphen, for ease of file management. We can use a rename command to accomplish this task.

To replace all spaces in filenames in the current directory with underscores, we can run the following command:

rename ‘s/ /_/g’ *

The ‘s’ specifies the substitution instruction. The / /_ specifies the replace command, replacing all occurrences of space with an underscore.

The final ‘g’ specifies that all occurrences should be replaced in the global space. Renaming all matching files in sub-directories:

If we want to rename all filenames of a type in multiple subdirectories, we can use the ‘-execdir’ option with the ‘find’ command to execute the rename command within every subdirectory.

For example, let’s say we wanted to rename all filenames with a ‘.txt’ extension present in any subdirectory under the current directory recursively. We can use the following command:

find .

-type f -name “*.txt” -execdir rename ‘s/ /_/g’ {} ;

This command finds all files of type ‘*.txt’ in all subdirectories under the current directory, and uses the rename command with the expression ‘s/ /_/g’ to rename all spaces in filenames to underscores. Scenario 2: Changing file extensions

Renaming multiple files with a particular extension to another extension:

It’s typical to have files with a specific extension and later realize that it’s not the ideal format for that file type.

Instead, we may opt to rename these files with a corresponding extension. To accomplish this, we can use the rename command.

For instance, to rename all files with a ‘.txt’ extension in the current directory to ‘.md,’ we can use the following command:

rename ‘s/.txt$/.md/’ *.txt

This command replaces the ‘.txt’ extension with ‘.md’ in all filenames ending with ‘.txt’ in the current directory. Renaming all matching files in sub-directories:

If we want to change the extension of all files in multiple subdirectories, we can use the command below:

find .

-type f -name “*.txt” -execdir rename ‘s/.txt$/.md/’ {} ;

This command finds all files with a ‘.txt’ extension in sub-directories under the current directory and renames them with the ‘.md’ extension.


In conclusion, the rename command has significant advantages when it comes to renaming files and directories in Linux. Perhaps the greatest of all is its ability to rename multiple files at once based on regular expressions.

By using the rename command, we can solve tedious tasks such as replacing spaces in filenames and changing file extensions quickly and efficiently. As a personal preference, I use the rename command over other methods such as manually editing filenames due to its efficiency.

However, simple renaming tasks can still be handled by the mv command. Finally, by understanding the practical scenarios for using rename command, we can effectively manage a large number of files and directories on Linux systems.

In conclusion, renaming files and directories is an essential task in Linux, and the rename command offers efficient solutions for performing this task. By using the rename command, we can save time and automate the renaming process for multiple files with complex patterns.

The available options and syntax presented in this article provide a deep understanding of the command and its practical uses. Takeaways include replacing characters in filenames and changing file extensions, among others, using the rename command.

Ultimately, mastering the rename command is a crucial skill for managing files and directories in Linux systems.

Popular Posts