If you deal with lots of files (and who doesn’t?), chances are you’ve occasionally run into problems with their names. Say you’ve got a series of image files with less-than-descriptive titles (such as IMG00001.jpg, IMG00002.jpg, and so on)—you’d like to rename them in a more useful, more descriptive, manner. The trick is to find a way to do so without manually renaming each file, one at a time.
There are a bunch of batch-renaming utilities out there that make such chores simpler: You give the app a selection of files, and then tell it to rename all of them at once, using some kind of pattern (for example, “Add Summer vacation photos 2013 to the beginning of each file’s name”). Many of these utilities are relatively inexpensive apps, such as File Rename Pro ($7), Rename ($4), and Rename It ($3), that provide relatively basic services. But there are also a few more-advanced (and more-expensive) tools designed for those who need power beyond what such basic apps provide.
We’ve reviewed one of those advanced tools, Many Tricks’s Name Mangler. But another, comparable, program deserves some recognition, too: the awkwardly titled but nicely designed A Better Finder Rename ($20; Mac App Store link—note that the Mac App Store version is called Better Rename 9).
Like Name Mangler, A Better Finder Rename (let’s just call it ABFR from now on) arranges its renaming options in groups:
- Text (add or insert text at a specific spot in the original filename; remove, replace, or move text)
- Characters (replace or remove specified characters; keep only specific characters; remove trailing spaces; remove vowels)
- Character position and ranges (remove a number of characters from the beginning or end, or in a specific range)
- Conversions (convert to lowercase, uppercase, title case, sentence case, or camel case; remove diacriticals; convert to Mac OS 9 names; make names Windows NTFS/SMB compatible)
- Truncate (to a certain number of chars, or to the old 8.3 format)
- Sequencing (add some kind of sequential data, such as image1, image2, and so on, to file names; to create the file order, you can sort by name, modification date, creation date, size, and other factors)
- Alphabetical sequences (add said sequences at the beginning or end, before or after existing text, or at a particular position)
- Add Roman numerals
- Rename with date or time
- Image dimensions
- MP3/AAC tags
- Parent folder name
- Path components (you specify how many levels of parent folders show up in the new name)
- Tags (you choose from among a huge number of file, image, camera, and date metadata)
- Advanced (rename from a name list in a file; replace or rearrange using regular expressions; completely rename)
Also, like Name Mangler, ABFR lets you create “droplets”—little mini-apps that perform particular saved sets of renaming actions whenever you drop files on them—as well as save renaming actions as presets for later use. And like Name Mangler, ABFR lets you create sequences of renaming actions, so you could, say, add a number to the front of the name and then replace a string of text at the end in one fell swoop. More critically, both apps let you use regular expressions to find and replace text—a great tool for power users.
There are, however, some significant differences between the two programs. For example, when naming files sequentially, ABFR lets you sort twice (say, by creation date then by name); Name Mangler offers only single-pass sorting. When replacing text in a bunch of file or folder names, ABFR lets you specify which instance of a given string (the first, second, third, and so on) you want to look for. ABFR has options for removing vowels and trailing spaces, and though you could do the same in Name Mangler using regular expressions, ABFR makes it a bit easier. ABFR also makes it easier to remove characters by referencing existing text (for example, “the three zeroes that appear after IMG”), rather than just by position in the name. And ABFR provides a few more options when it comes to changing the case of a file or folder name: Expand CamelCase, Remove Diacriticals, Convert to Valid Mac OS 9 Name, and Make File Names Windows NTFS/SMB Compatible.
On the other hand, Name Mangler makes available a greater range of metadata for use in your new file names. You can, for example, incorporate a file’s Spotlight comments or tags as part of the name; ABFR’s metadata support is limited to things such as camera data and MP3 tags. Name Mangler also offers a nice history function, so you can look up and use previous operations.
More generally, Name Mangler’s interface (like its name) is more succinct than ABFR’s. ABFR just comes out and says, in comparatively plain English, what it’s going to do: Add MP3/AAC tags to end, for example, rather than Name Mangler’s somewhat more cryptic (if flexible) Compose option.
If you rename files a lot, and don’t mind learning Name Mangler’s ins and outs, it may be the better choice for you; and its Compose function, which makes a huge range of metadata available for naming purposes, does make it a more flexible, powerful tool. If you’re an occasional user, however, who still needs a powerful tool, ABFR’s forthrightness might work better for you.
Want to find out about more cool Mac apps? Check out our Mac Gems session at Macworld/iWorld in San Francisco March 27-29. Want to stay up to date with the latest Gems? You can follow Mac Gems on Twitter or on App.net. You can also subscribe to the Mac Gems RSS feed.