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.

By Donncha

Donncha Γ“ Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Twitter.

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

That was not helpful at all. I hold down… nothing happened, are you sure you are thankful? By the way, a simple click on any file made it editable.

Now THIS worked! Thank you very much. I was worried I would have to spit into the wind while standing on one foot …

agreed – holding down the mouse key does nothing. i found this article searching for a shortcut to edit file names, so props to Andreas and WTS to Holy Shmoly!

Heyy You are right, this works!
it is allways said that a computer is a machine that allways does the same thing after you do a certain thing. it is NOT!!!
-1 click sometimes opens the file directly,
– sometimes it selects the file while next single click makes the file name editable or opens the file
– sometimes it does nothing at all.
1 click, then enter and it works all the time,unless the first click opened the file πŸ™

Hehe… On a Mac, it’s called Return. πŸ˜‰ Just being picky for no reason, lol. Haha, I remember that, coming from Windows XP, I tried using F2. (That’s the Windows key stroke for “rename”) And instead of bringing the rename text highlighted, I get nothing. XD Until a littler latter, trying to open a file, I pressed Return (In Windows, “Enter” opens a file) and the file name was highlighted! And, a correction to the article, when using Return to rename, Mac OS X by default won’t select the file extension, so nothing to worry about there. Happy renaming!

Thank you. The author’s approach didn’t work for me at all, but this did. Not sure why apple had to make it so hard to figure out.

Click icon, click name. No need to hold the mouse button down.

This is how it’s worked since the first Mac. I’m a unix guy and even I figured it out years ago.

In just about every GUI I’ve used, hitting enter opened the file. It’s strange that it’s different on the Mac.

I’m a Mac newbie, this is the first Mac I’ve ever used for more than 5 minutes in an Apple Store so I didn’t know how it was done before. If I hadn’t looked it up the only other way of renaming a file is through the file info dialog.

I guess it’s similar to the experience of finding out about the copy/paste keyboard shortcuts for the first time!

It’s not different, you can hit enter as well if you want. There are multiple ays to do it to make it easier to figure out.

As for the copy paste, I don’t know why they did that. Most of the normal hot keys are the same, but they all use command instead of control.

In addition to the above two methods, you can also right click (or control+click) and select “Get Info” from the context menu or click on the file and hit Apple+I to bring up the same window. In the “Name and Extension” box simply change the text.

Hi there!
I have this file name which i cannot edit.

I go to Info, where i should be able to edit the name under the “Name and Extension” heading, but it is ‘locked’.. even thought the file isnt protected.. can you help?

I dont know if it matters, even though its classiefied as a file type, it is asocieted with a house icon

The “Enter doesn’t open file/launch program” deal is the one thing that bothered me the most about Mac OS when I switched in August. It still bothers me and I think it’s a very strange decision to have Enter rename a file. After all I often have to open files, while I rarely have to rename files.

I’m new to Mac too Donncha so be sure to post any more newbie tips! Copy and paste keyboard shortcuts are taking a while to get used to fo’ sure!! I’ve never gotten more use out of UNDO!

For what it’s worth, Macs can probably claim precedent for having the Enter key work the way it does… in other words, you could argue that everyone else has actually got it wrong!

I actually prefer the Mac way of handling this as I get fed up of accidentally launching files by hitting the enter key on Windows… especially if trying to delete something.

ItÒ€ℒs not obvious how you can rename a file or folder in Finder. I had to look it up in a book to find out.

You should use Mac help, launch it from the Help menu and search for “rename” or something. πŸ™‚

I’m also a newbie to macs (1 week) , and man, apple is sooo diffrent to pc, but at least now i know how to rename a file, but you must admit, macs look so much cooler, i still have a lot to learn but i’ll will get there, oh by the way, is it REALLY true that macs are “almost” invulnerable to virus attacks, and if so why ?(sorry for the daft questions i’m new to macs)

I’m new to Apple too… but what can I say… I feel apple macs works in a smarter way than windows… and I’ve been using windows since windows 6.11.
I barely got a mac 2 weeks ago and I love it… easy to handle it… still some shorcuts I need to get use to it but it’s just a matter of time…
I love keyboard shortcuts so I’m getting use to mac shortcuts which they’re not too different…
anyways the rename part is the one that I need a lot since when I’m working I need to rename many files at the same time and just let the computer do the numbering according in how I sort the files anyways…
I’m trying to figure that out!

I was getting fed-up having to wait that extra second after clicking on the name to get the OS to initiate the rename procedure. On Windows, the click icon/click name happens with much less delay.

The Enter method is good, while not obvious. Enter is used in most applications to launch or go or to confirm an action. In Windows f2 is used for the shortcut to rename. The key is far enough out-of-the-way as to not be pressed on accident, but is still available on the keyboard.

Thanks for this newbie tip! I’m a recent switcher and none of these methods were obvious to me.

I’ve been loving OS X ever since the Intel Mac Mini’s were released. The only thing that drives me crazy is the different shortcut keys (and a lack of info/procedures/apps to assist with this).

F2 = file rename is one of the big ones.

Almost as frustrating as the different text editing shortcut keys (moving/selecting a single work back/forward, entire line, home/end, etc).

Has anyone discovered as easy way to recover this functionality on OS X?!?

How to rename in batches?

there is a small application called A Better Finder Renamer. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Mac.

oh, great, another flippin application to download so my Mac will operate the way I want it to. “Mac’s come with everything you need”, unless you want to actually make it personal where unlike Windows it’s WAY easier.

Wonderful world of Mac? I dunno about that. Seems to me that the much vaunted Mac OS X is just another operating system with it’s own idiosyncrasies that people learn to live with it over time.

@noiret – If you have OS X Tiger (OS 10.4), you can use Automator to rename large batches of files as well. Set it up, click run, and let it do all the work πŸ™‚

i’m a photographer and wanted to change the batch names of photographs that i have put in a specific order. when i used automater it changed the name no problem, but messed up the order of photographs i had manually renumbered in order from 01-99. it continued to do this with copies of the same folder but with no consistency. the numbers were almost randomly attributed to individual files. is there are a way of changing the name and number, but retaining the running order i have already specified?

i did try better finder renamer, but it would only do 10 files before asking for cash – and i’m sure thee must be a way within automator

thanx in advance

I am most decidedly not a Mac newbie. but I’ve never bothered yet to study OS X’s UNIX way of doing things, as most things still can be done the way the Mac OS always has done it. I chanced on this discussion in looking how to do a batch renaming in OS X, something I rarely ever have to do, and in reading the comments I was struck by some of the comments of the former Windows users. What the Windows switchers need to remember when they are trying to learn the Mac OS is that Windows 95 – the much vaunted change from a PC’s DOS look — and successive version were just a bad copy of Mac OS 1984. Mac “invented” (OK, it was a copy of a Xerox original, or something like that – I forget what I read about the actual history) the graphical interface look, and eleven years later Microsoft caught up and issued Windows 95. Therefore, it isn’t really Mac politically correct to complain that Macs don’t do things the Windows way, because the Mac was there first, although it is quite fair for Mac users to complain that Windows did a poor implementation of the way Mac did things. (Unwritten rule of life: he who invents the game makes the rules.) Most of the time the Mac implementation is actually a more elegant and sensible implementation for ease of use. Granted, PC users may resent having to learn another way of doing something, as they initially have had to work SO much harder to learn to use Windows with even minimal proficiency than we Mac users have ever had to do to learn our Macs, but hey! that’s life. We Mac users have worn ourself out over the years trying to make it easier on the PC people by urging them to switch. Granted, also, there are some things about Windows that must be a nice implementation of that particular feature, and it is too bad if it turns out the same thing is not as “nice” on a Mac, but those things are a minority. Just remember, the vast vast majority of the time, Macs just work! And yes, they don’t get viruses either. It is not that they can’t, but a combination of factors make it unlikely. In the early days there were about 30 Mac viruses, as I recall. The original MacOS was not as vulnerable to attack as was DOS, the PC operating system. Plus, most of the idiot virus-writers wrote for PCs because more people were using them and PCs’ operating system was easier to attack, so they got more “bang for their buck.” The new MacOS, MacOS X in its various feline versions, is actually the venerable UNIX operating system with the updated original MacOS’s graphical interface pasted on for ease of use (UNIX is a bear to learn to use properly, even though its a platinum standard as an operating system). UNIX has had some 50-60 years of experience in being a secure operating system, so it is not as prone to attack although it is not completely invulnerable. Most Mac users probably have an anti-virus program somewhere which they never run!

i’ve recently started a new job in an all mac office (after about ten years spent in pc land) and i have to say that people who think macs are easier to use are delusional. sure , some things are simpler but everything is far more time consuming. perhaps i’m missing something here, but having to click and click again, then deselect the extension, then rename is absurd. i’ve turned off extension display in preferences and half of my files still appear with a .something on the end.

there are plenty of comments on this site about ‘getting used to the way macs do things’ which is absurd, macs should get used to the way people do things, and not just died in the wool mac submissives who have been conditioned to operate in very, very particular way without complaint.

no cut on the desktop, no home and end keys? wtf? if i wanted to be treated like a child i’d have bought a fisher price toy.

just because you own something that comes in a white enclosure and has rounded edges doesn’t automatically mean you are stylish, ahead of the curve or in computopia – it just means you are pretentious if you swallow the myth of mac advertising hook line and sinker.

Trust me, I use both Mac and Windows frequently and the whole war between them is lead by people who don’t know how to use the other operating system. I prefer OSX, but that’s just because I have a lot of freeware that I use for developing software that I don’t want to find an equivalent for and relearn on windows.

As for Mac ease of use, you’re just looking for windows features. It’s not windows. You assume that because windows does something X way, Mac will as well. That’s like complaining that the lock is positioned differently on your new car than it was on your old one. Sure, it might be a bit different, and be a hassle at first, but once you ‘get’ Finder, you will learn to customize everything so that you can do *anything* you want, and in only a few keystrokes.

Any simple finder/explorer commands you want to execute will be just as easy, if not easier on Mac. The big dis-advantage is you have to buy directly from apple, which sucks.

Apple does *not* dumb down their operating system, people get this first impression because it looks pretty. It is most definitely not dumbed down, you can change almost anything you see to work how you want through terminal, and everything is organized a lot better than in windows’ Explorer (Explorer is windows file managing system). Most people won’t find all the settings right away, but they are all in one place which is nice. Explorer spreads all the settings out through different tabs and menus.

That being said, Windows is still a good operating system, I just don’t like Explorer. Most people make the mistake of believing the file system is the whole operating system, it’s not.

The enter key works fine in Finder, but in other software, say FTP (I happen to use Captian FTP, its the closest thing to CUTEftp on the pc (the mac version of cute sux btw.)) if you hit enter in the FTP software. it either opens the file or transfers it.

a Global Rename key would be nice, enter, f2 whatever, just a global key that works across the board would be nice.

the Home and End keys are killing me too. I found a site that explains how to change it, it works for the most part.. but 2-3 apps (firefox and safari to name 2) dont work. but at least while coding it works. I of course didnt bookmark it, but search for it in google and its there.


To Michael Greb,

I used the same method of renaming my “Go Home” Icon..but Mac OS X does not allow me to coz “it’s required by MAC” ? I don’t understand. Please help

windows in single click mode allows file rename with a single click, including putting the cursor right where you want it in the filename. Mac requires at least 3 clicks to do the same thing. no big deal right? ..try renaming 100 files with custom (when you cant do batch) names, its 300 clicks vs 100 ..pain in the ass! not everything about Macs is great, they need to seriously catch up in this area!

Thanks Kevin, your method was the simpliest and real easy. Thanks man, I appreciate this greatly.
The Internet is indeed our friend

The lack of single click mode this is the most glaring, problem that the mac has. Macs are great mostly because they are “dumbed down” but lets face it there are some qualities that are missing because the OS development has not been any comparison to windows. Macs have only had a two button mouse for a couple of years! If you are a light user of email, photos, etc (most of us) you will say whats all the complaining about? ..but if you use your mac for real work & know the advantages of single click mode, it is a nightmare. A person has to know ALL the adavantages to single click mode to appreciate what I am saying.


I am a photographer with a need to do partial file renaming, I will say this again, this applies to PARTIAL file renaming. In Windows single click mode it takes 1 click per file, on my Mac it takes 3 clicks per file. If I have 100 files to rename, it becomes 300 clicks instead of 100. Can you say carpal tunnel?

1st click to activate the file name
2nd click to activate the rename mode
3rd click to place the cursor (this is a partial file rename)

Any other action involving the keyboard counts as a click in my book.
Batch rename won’t work because the names don’t fit a pattern.
I appreciate any suggestions, but unless you have direct experience with single click mode you probably won’t be able to help me or appreciate where I am coming from.

Is there any workaround with a program-able mouse or third party OS patch??

and batch renaming?? …. download a application… install it…. add all the files…. then set the way you want to rename then go…easy..really easy…

You fanboys have all drunk the kool-aid. When it takes a blog post to explain how to rename a file, then there is a problem.

Best comment yet!

That is why I am on here.
To learn how to do something i’ve known for 20 years how to do on a PC.

And the DELETE button that doesn’t delete files?

As per usual with mac file management things only work half-assed. I renamed my audio files, uploaded them, and provided a link to them. Despite the files clearly being displayed as halving the new ‘rename’, when liked to over the internet they still have the old name.

Do not be deceived. Changing the name of a file on a mac does not actually change the name. It seems to change the displayed title, but not the name of the file itself.

I have no clue how to change it for real.

After more than five google searches related to mac noobiness sent me to your page, we must be having the same problems.

(I have to type slowly so no one can see me, I’m the PC guy inside a Mac shrine)

Enter to rename? No editable path bar in Finder?
No CUT & Paste?

I’m subscribed now, thanks Donncha.

Yeah, I was a PC user for years and I’m trying to cope with a little powerbook and the file organization is pretty irritating. I have a few folders each with several photos in them and I wish to consolidate it all into one folder, and get rid of any duplicates. But, I’d like to know what the duplicates really are.for example: some have duplicate names, but are actually different photos, due to my camera’s naming function. And some are really duplicate in every way. When I try to copy all of them into one folder, the options have potential for me to overwrite some files, or just not move them. On a PC I can move only the non duplicates and the duplicates are what is left in the one folder. Then I can manually study them to see what I need to delete or rename. But with a Mac, I feel like I’m just stuck with having duplicates, or potentially overwriting and losing stuff, or doing every single file one by one. Same with not being allowed to cut and paste things. When you actually have hundreds of files to manage, Macs are definitely more difficult, even with a two button mouse, I feel crippled (not to mention no backspace!). its super irritating, I can’t wait till I can afford to just buy a PC laptop. Mac has slowed my life down.

Copy Paste/Replace works the same way but you get more options than windows if I am not mistaken. Don’t overwrite and check “apply to all”. I think that’s what you’re looking for.
This will move all the files that aren’t duplicate names, but leave the others in the original folder. Then you can go through and check as you would on windows. You can turn on the preview on the icons so you don’t have to open each one to see if it is a duplicate.
There are also various programs for Mac (and probably Windows as well) that will detect duplicate photos automatically, I found one recently, sorry though I can’t remember the name. If you google for it you can probably find one.

Also–OSX comes with a great Photo organizing app called iPhoto. If you just drag all of the icons directly into iphoto, nothing will be overwritten and you can delete duplicates easily. (all photos will show up at once)

Hope this helps if you ever have a problem like this again.

I have a problem, for one week I haven’t been able to change the name of my files just from clicking on them or by going to the info window ctrl+click get info name and extension and then i can’t change the name either there, the only way that i can change a file name is by opening it and then saving it with a different name : / any body knows what I can do?

You admit that you don’t get them, then you claim that they suck. You probably know->0 about computers and really shouldn’t be talking at all.
People like you annoy me, wether you like Windows or Mac. I know way too many people that will say “Macs suck AHH I don’t understand them because they’re not windows!”
“Windows sucks I’m awesome because I use mac.”

Both sides are wrong, give it up.

I agree with you Bob, both sides of that argument are wrong. And that is where a new and improved OS comes into play. Chrome OS. Google wins all.

I have a problem… How do I rename several files at once? I’ve tried doing it in Automator but nothing happens.

I never had trouble figuring out how to rename, but after doing a few hundred files I needed a way to batch rename and attempted to set it up in automator but well lets say I was unseccessful. Many Tricks’ Name Mangler that HornCologne mentioned is wonderful. it is easy to use does the job perfectly and keeps the files in the right order. It is exactly what should have come preloaded!

just have my first mac (imac) and im enthausiastic about it. A new beginning is always great πŸ™‚
I ended up here for renaming files.
It seems that this application A better Finder Rename, what im looking for, is something of a breaktrough..
With all the discusions about Windows vs Apple; such applications have long ago been invented for that platform, so im rather surprised actually; are Mac programmers so much behind?
Will the lack of specific applications which are a joy for Windows users dissapoint me using my Mac?

I know how to rename a single file. What if I want to rename many files at a time like windows…..? Please someone help me.

hope it’s ok to ask about a renaming query i have here.

i have to export lots of Indesign file files as JPEGS and PDFs. Occasionally i’ll mess up and my PDFs and JPEGs will keep the .indd extension. When i try and rename them by just changing the extension the keyboard locks up while i’m on the desktop. if i go into any software, quark or indesign for example the keyboard works fine but i am unable to go back to the desktop and rename anything until i restart or log off and on again.

It’s really annoying, is there a fix for it.

Sorry it this has been mentioned in here already

“Rename Now'”a very easy to use MAC computers in bulk to change the file name of the software.

“Rename Now “can help you organize all the files very neat! And very easy to use!

“Rename Now ” software from MarkMark

“I know how to rename a single file. What if I want to rename many files at a time like windowsÒ€¦..? Please someone help me.”

i mac if you want to rename multiple file name at one, you will just have to find 3rd party software, install it and learn how to use it, then use it!
because mac doesn’t have the multiple file renaming yet.

or the way i do wish it using windows OS.

I need something to do batch rename like rob broadbent did earlier. My problem is with Mac OS automatically sorting my selections as I copy the files from one folder to another. I can’t batch select 50 images without it ordering them from lowest to highest. It would be ideal to be able to keep the order in which the files were selected so they can be dropped into a batch rename app, or even copied into another folder in that order and renamed by time created. Is there a way to disable this automatic sorting feature of Mac OS X?

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