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Renames files using regular expressions

Project description

Renames files using regular expression matching. This enables elegant handling of multiple renames using a single command.


This script requires Python 2.4+ with the argparse library. It can be used standalone or installed using pip or easy_install:

pip install rename
easy_install rename


Basic syntax:

rename [-t] "regex" "target"


-t, or –test

When used, the script will only fake renaming and verbosely state what it would do. Use this if you’re unsure of the effects your expression may cause.


Regular expression that matches source files which are to be renamed. Examples:



Name of the target file with references to regular expression groups caught in the source matches. References to groups are formed by a backslash character followed by he group number. Groups are indexed from 1. The group number can be contained within parentheses to disambiguate a reference followed by digits. Examples:



  1. The script will not let multiple files be renamed to a single name.

  2. The script will not let existing files to be overwritten.

  3. Both checks above are made for all matches before any renaming is performed.

Other remarks

  1. Regular expressions supported by the script must conform to the syntax handled by Python’s re module.

  2. The regular expression is global by default (e.g. writing "[0-9]" means "^[0-9]$. This is to avoid accidental partial catches. If you want to match all files that start or end with a specific expression, add .* to the expression, e.g. ".*\.mp3" will match all files that end with .mp3.

  3. Actual renaming of a single file is done by the os.rename() function from Python’s standard library. No additional atomicity is ensured, e.g. if a single rename fails halfway through, the filesystem is left in a state of partially complete renaming.

  1. Due to differences in behaviour of different shells, the recommended form of execution is to put both arguments in quotation marks.

Possible future enhancements

  1. Automatic numbering with \(auto) target reference.

  2. -p option to create intermediate directories for the target. One tiny problem is maintaining atomicity of the whole transaction.

  3. -v except_regex option to constrain source matches to those that don’t match except_regex. This would enable easy handling of special cases.

  4. -r option to make the source match recursive. Tricky to get right I guess, e.g. where to rename? Existing directory structure or new one?. Let the user decide? What’s the default? Etc. etc.

  5. -s option to enable a “translate” mode to replace certain substrings with other, example (translating underscores to spaces): ".*\.txt" -s "_" " "
  6. -l option to enable translating all letters to lowercase. -U option to translate letters to uppercase.


This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, version 3 of the License.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

DON’T PANIC. This code has been successfully used by its author. However, be especially wary under these conditions:

  1. Renaming between filesystems.

  2. Renaming under case-insensitive filesystems.

  3. Renaming within very long paths.

  4. Renaming volatile state (e.g. rotating logs).

And if you do lose any data, it’s your fault. Have a nice day!


Script glued together by Łukasz Langa.

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