How to rename a file in Mac OS X

Silly bugger, doesn’t he know Macs are easy to use? Well, yes they are but it’s not obvious how you can rename a file or folder in Finder. I had to look it up in a book to find out. (Thanks Barry for “The Missing Manual”!)

It is rather simple to rename a file actually, although not obvious.

  • In Finder, open the folder with your file in it.
  • See all those pretty icons? Don’t click on them. Find the icon for your file. Click once on that icon then click and hold the mouse button down on the filename below it.
  • After about a second of holding down the mouse button the text will become editable and you can type over the filename. Be careful you don’t change the extension because bad things will happen!

Simple when you know how.

Meanwhile, Mark is documenting his own experiences with a Mac Mini. Must try X-Chat Aqua.

145 thoughts on “How to rename a file in Mac OS X

  1. OK, after spending almost an hour browsing this page, I still haven’t learned what’s the mv command that allows you to change the extension of many files. Say for example that I want to rename some files I have with the extension CR2_original to CR2. How can you do it, using mv?

    I tried

    mv *.CR2_original *.CR2

    But it does not work.

    So can we now stop this “Mac are better than Windows” chit-chat and have some help on the subject? I know, there are other programs to do that, but somehow, I thought that the above command should work.

  2. YES! IT WORKS! I dragged pics to my desktop to create the jpg, then clicked on it, hit ENTER and WALA! I could rename the file. Thank you! I love this site. I’m also a newbie.

  3. I’m new to Mac. I was attaching a file in an email and I wanted to rename it right before adding it as an attachment. I had selected browse from my email and was in the finder to attach the file. In Windows, it was possible to do so.

    I tried the click the file icon, click on the name, and/or click enter/return button but it didn’t work to make the file name editable.

    (Yes, it does work if I’m not attaching the file, but simply renaming it in Finder)

    Anyone know how to do this or if you can in mac?

  4. I think the individual was asking for a short cut. “Waiting about a second” is not a shortcut – many of us are looking to do it more quickly (like when we want to rename a large number of files – waiting about a second gets old very fast).

    I think the ENTER (or RETURN) was the answer sought…

  5. For me works neither “waiting for a second” nor hitting the return key. I just need to rename the subtitle file to match with the file name of .avi file, but it is impossible…
    Any idea?

  6. OMG! Thanks that was really helpful. Clicking all the pretty icons did not help a bit!

  7. Andreas Huagstrup, you genius.
    I have been wanting that key code for years.
    Mr Jobs, give this boy a job. He is doing yours for you.

  8. I agree Andreas , was the best hit Click in a file hit ENTER will be Editable RENAME
    thanks a lot

  9. My big problem with macs is that I can never find out how to do things. The help menu invariably does not have an answer to my question, and I have to go trolling through forums to find an answer. Is there some big thing that I’m missing?

    1. I agree completely. I was a PC user for over 25 years and made the switch to Mac in December. After 8 months I still have not found any advantage to paying twice the money for the Mac. Nothing is intuitive and most of the software I use was designed for Windows and does not work as well on my Mac. Perhaps the worst technology decision I have ever made.

      1. Same for me, I sold mine after 6 months and a lot of wasted $ for software as well, I really tried to like it, hard to explain but made me feel handicapped, even simple things as renaming a file made the whole experience frustrating, not to mention that to unplug a usb device you have to drag it over the trash icon. Didn’t like it and if it floats your boat good for you.

      2. I totally agree. Huge disappointment, the renaming frustration aired here, the inconsistency of copying and pasting files to different folders and the need for double checking were they are, but the worst is trying to properly fix charts and tables into Word. I’m wordless/speechless about this.PC meant that one could CONTROL one’s work. And now we’re end 2017 and these things are still bugging people…

  10. I’ve been using macs for 8 years now, and the file rename thing was the only gripe I had about them. I have to rename large numbers of graphic files every day and the whole click, wait click again thing has literally driven me mad over the last year! I use a wacom tablet instead of a mouse and this seems to just make the problem even worse, it’ll either open the file, or just not do anything, so you sit there clicking, waiting clicking closing windows clicking some more and eventually wanting to smash up you mac.

    The click and enter key thing has literally made my work days SO much better! I knew there had to be an easier way to do, just p****d off I never bothered to search for the answer years ago!

    Thanks for the tip, you have made me a much less frustrated man 😉

  11. How do you change multiple file names. For example after I import pictures I rename groups of pictures. In windows you select them all, right click and change the name, it will automatically add a sequencing number….. How do I do it on my mac?

    1. It likely cannot be done, though there may be some obscure workaround. I too would be interested in knowing if this is possible so hopefully somebody has unearthed a way. File management on the Mac seems to be fairly primitive and awkward compared to Windows.

  12. Thank you! I got no guide with my MacBook as this is a a school computer. Now My desktop isn’t cluttered with ‘screen shot’s!

  13. When I click/return on a file name, often the whole name including the extension is selected. Does anybody have a solution to prevent that?

  14. I never thought i’d need to find out how to edit a file name but, wow, thanks! This really helped!

  15. Why bother appeasing someone who clearly gets upset by Macs? You don’t have to believe the advertising, it’s there to entice people to use it.

    Complaining about what you can and cannot do, shows more about your inflexibility with computers than anything else.

  16. I have been using macs for years and file renaming has never been done right…
    And with years passing Apple’s OS became more and more pretty but no real ergonomic/core improvement has been made (problems like shitty swapped fn/ctrl-keys, hardcoded shortcuts, hidden but useful functionnalities, few possibilities to custom interface, sluggish and useless visual effects, poor peripheric handling, poor FS handling, unintuitive directory structure and finder is still as bad to explorer things…).
    It feels like the appearance changes but what’s under it don’t:/
    It hurts me to say that but i feel it evolves as microsoft’s OS.. only focused on visual showoff and not the really on the core:'(

  17. Thanks for this tip! I’m glad it was something short and simple. Many minutes went by as I looked again and again at the right-click menu, the top-of-screen menu, and trying random things. Finder’s way of renaming files should win a prize for most non-obvious simple action on a Mac!

  18. Hi

    Since I have OSX Lion, and I want to rename files/folders on my desktop nothing happens. Or at least not what is suppose to happen. Pressing enter in a finder window works perfect, like always. But when I hit enter on a file or folder on my desktop it go’s blank. I can’t see what i’m doing, but the name will change if I typ a new one. Quit confusing and realy difficult to work with. Any idea’s how to fix this?

  19. If Windows is a car, Mac may be a bike. They ARE different and for different people. I am a programmer as profession. One standard in our app design is that all features must be accessible through keyboard. Why is that you ask. Because people use computer to process information and information is text in nature, GUI is just another way to present info. Keyboard is the most efficient way to deal with text, no question, especially when dealing with large amount of info. For this reason, I can’t say Max is for pro, maybe it looks nice. But if you have to click click click and absolutely no keyboard shortcut, that just dumb and unprofessional. Don’t tell user to download another app, that is even dumber. This is a system design problem, Let me put this in another perspective. As we know, people working on computer long time could hurt their wrist. Why, too much mouse movement. For your health, try to use keyboard as much as possible instead of mouse move and click,
    rest your wrist on support while light as possible. Another reason to stick to the keyboard access rule: accessible for handicaps that can’t use mouse or keyboard. A voice command is very easy to convert and match a key input, You would feel strange if people are forced to use computer by saying: move the mouse to the top left corner, lower half inch, click, and click again. Now you know why I call Mac is dumb.

  20. Been given a mac from work because the boss thinks its better than using a PC. The fact that I am here because I wanted to know how to rename a file goes to show how wrong people are. Been renaming files since MS-Dos and not had to look up how to rename a bloody file.

  21. Broken in the head, whatever happened to putting it in the edit selection or right click, usable my bum, even windows makes things like this so simple I don’t need google to figure it out

  22. I have lots of songs in my Music folder within Finder and some of the bands listed in the ‘authors’ section are incorrect but I am unable to change it? For some reason I can only change the title of the song and not the person who sang it in the authors section.

    Can someone please help me with this?

  23. Just click once on the name of the file to select it. Then click a second time to start editing.
    To open a file, use command-O, in the finder and anywhere. All so simple.

  24. .

    a mac is **MUCH** easier to use for daily tasks than a PC.

    but the default settings are AMAZINGLY **INTRUSIVE** (and ridiciolous)
    and if you want to change any setting then it is usually real hard work trying to find out how to do it.

    So…you can chose to go with the easier to use mac (and keep getting f***ckd by apple, or you can ge back to PC and have to put up with the annoyingly over-complex way of doing things)

    isnt it about time that some other company came along and kicked both of these dianosaurs in their pants?

    MAC should cut to the chase and go for a Right Click+Rename popup. An alternative in the menu also would seem usual. That’s what the universe wants. The method in use is for secret agents with special training. It cannot take more than an afternoon’s programming to make this simple change. Come on, Apple! Care. Rename, rename, rename. I want it to be easy and fast. You can do it boys and girls.

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