I have a folder containing thousands of files:



I have a text file containing a list of new filenames I want to substitute:

old_filename     new_filename
file3.jpeg       my_dog.jpeg
file1.jpeg       my_cat.jpeg
file2.jpeg       my_goat.jpeg


I am looking for a script to rename all the files in the folder using the new filenames (or append the new name as a prefix to the original filename).

I think I need something that will search the folder, compare the name to the text file and then rename the file accordingly.

The lists and files are not sorted in any way.

  • So you're basically need something that prefixes mv to every line in your file that you can pipe to your shell? Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 2:51
  • For example sed -n '2,$ p' <your_file> | sed 's/^/mv /' | bash Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 2:57

1 Answer 1


First ensure you have a backup before trying this.

Your examples fortunately have no spaces in oldname and newnames, and no mention of sub-directories (all in same directory) so if all of the lines in your list look that way

  1. have rename_rules.txt in the same directory as your images
  2. cd into this directory
  3. run:

     eval "$(sed 's/^/mv /g' rename_rules.txt )"
    • where rename_rules.txt contain only pairs of oldname newname on each line
    • sed is used to convert your rename_rules into mv oldname newname
    • eval is then used to execute it, thus the file gets renamed

disclaimer: no validation or file checking is built into this simple short script at all, which is why I said the first thing to do is to be sure you have a backup in case one of your rename oldname newname pairs happens to contain a mistake, then you can at least start over from the backup

  • Thanks, giving it a try but get: mv: missing file operand Try mv --help' for more information. mv: missing file operand Try mv --help' for more information. Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 4:05
  • I am newly familiar to sed - I use sed to convert html pages (that I download) into text files containing download links for the DownThemAll plugin in Firefox. I'm trying to figure out how to rename the files I download to something resembling that of the website the file came from - not just the useless gibberish download link from blogspot or somewhere else. Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 4:13
  • Basically mv was not getting any input for one or more lines -- do you have empty lines in your rename_rules.txt ?
    – clarity123
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 4:16
  • Just thought - there are two options I can live with: 1. rename or append to the filename of the file or 2. move the file into a new folder with a folder name that is specified in a text file as stated above - basically, search for a filename - if it exists in the search folder move the file into a new folder with a folder named specified in a text file. Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 4:17
  • IT WORKED - MY MISTAKE - I WAS LOOKING IN MY BACKUP FOLDER - D'OH. - filenames in working directory were changed . Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 4:42

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