How to Rename Files and Folders on Mac

With all the files we create on our phones and computers, it can often be challenging to keep track of them and organize them. Files created by other applications are often just given a meaningless name. We often need to rename them to more easily identify them.

Thankfully renaming files and folders on your Mac is a relatively straightforward process. You can rename files using the Finder application or even through the command line using Mac Terminal.

My name is Eric, and I have been a software engineer for over 25 years. I have been a computer enthusiast for even longer. Renaming files and folders is something that I do almost daily, and I will be glad to show you how to do it on your Mac.

Stick around if you want to learn a few different methods for renaming files and folders. I will walk you through the steps, and you will be on your way to doing this yourself.

Different Ways to Rename Files or Folders on Your Mac

The process for renaming either a file or a folder is the same. The first three methods I will describe use the Finder application on your desktop to navigate to the file or folder and then rename it. 

You can use Finder to search for the file or navigate to the location. Use whatever method works best for you to get to the file or folder, and then follow the instructions below to rename it.

Method 1: Click on the Name

Step 1: Select the item you wish to rename by clicking on it once.

Step 2: Click on the name of the item again, but be careful not to double-click it, or it will open the item. This will highlight the name of the item.

Step 3: With the item’s name highlighted, start typing the new name. If you wish to keep part of the existing name, use your mouse cursor to highlight just the part you want to remove. Then type the new text you wish to add, or you can hit the delete key to delete that part.

Note: If you make a mistake or wish to go back to the original name before the name change has taken effect, just hit the ESC key, and it will revert to the original name.

Step 4: Click anywhere else on the screen, and the name change will take effect.

Method 2: Press the Return Key

Step 1: Select the item you wish to rename by clicking on it once.

Step 2: Press the RETURN key. This will select the text in the item’s name.

Step 3: Type in the new name for the item. 

Note: If you make a mistake or wish to go back to the original name before the name change has taken effect, just hit the ESC key, and it will revert back to the original name.

Step 4: Click anywhere else on the screen, and the name change will take effect.

Method 3: Use the Context Menu

Step 1: Select the item you wish to rename by clicking on it once.

Step 2: Right-click (or CONTROL+click or two-finger click on a trackpad). This will open up the context menu.

Step 3: Select Rename from the menu.

Step 4: Type the new name.

Step 5: Click anywhere else on the screen, and the name change will take effect.

Method 4: Command Line

Step 1: Open a Mac Terminal session.

Step 2: Navigate to the location that contains the file or folder you wish to rename.

Step 3: Use the mv command to rename the item.

mv CurrentName NewName

Example:

mv test1.txt newname.txt

Finding the Best Method

As you can see above, there are multiple ways to rename a file or folder. The first three use the Finder application on your desktop and are probably the methods that most common users will want to use.

If you are learning how to use Mac Terminal or are an experienced command-line user, you may want to use the command-line method. In the end, they all produce the same results, so find the one that you are most comfortable with, and that will be the best method for you.

FAQ

Why Can’t I Rename a File or Folder on My Mac?

This is generally due to a permissions problem. Either another user or the root user owns the item, and you don’t have permission to rename it, or the file could be in use. If you have it open in an editor or another application, that will prevent you from renaming it.

Can I Rename Multiple Files or Folders at One Time on My Mac?

Yes, macOS does provide a way to rename multiple files and folders simultaneously. Select the items, then use the context menu method. A popup screen will appear that will allow you to specify a naming format for the files or folders and then use that format to rename all of them.

This can also be done in Mac Terminal using the mv command and wildcard characters. This method can be a little more involved, but you can certainly do it.

Can I Add Text to Multiple File and Folder Names on Mac?

Yes, the same tool mentioned above that allows you to rename multiple items will also let you append or prepend a text identifier to multiple items all at one time. 

Conclusion

There are multiple ways to rename files and folders on your Mac. Using Finder on your desktop is the simplest, but Mac Terminal users may prefer the command-line method. 

Either way, you have multiple options. I hope one of them works for you.

As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you!

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