Review: Use a free bulk rename app to manage file names

The Bulk Rename Utility is a free program that can automate the task of renaming files for you.

One of the pitfalls of working in IT (or being a professional data hoarder) is accumulating a large archive of files that requires predictable renaming. The task of renaming large amounts of files manually is not a particularly pleasant experience. It doesn't help that Windows Explorer in recent versions can be somewhat infuriating to use for extended periods of time.

Luckily, there is a free program that can automate the task of renaming files for you. This program has the rather straightforward name of "Bulk Rename Utility". The app supports Windows 8 all the way back to Windows 98. In addition to the standard features one would expect from a program named "Bulk Rename Utility" such as replacing strings of characters, changing or appending file extensions, and changing the filename case between upper, lower, sentences, or title, the program has a wide variety of features that greatly ease renaming large quantities of files.

Regular expressions

Bulk Rename Utility supports Regular Expressions (Perl 5 syntax) for people who happen to enjoy Perl, or otherwise have a very unique set of files to rename. A repository of Regular Expressions for renaming tasks other users have experienced is available at the Bulk Rename Utility support forum.

Rename files by list

Bulk Rename Utility can load a set of predefined titles from a text file. The format is easy to use: one file per line, with the old name separated by the pipe character, followed by the new file name.

For example:

TRACK01.FLAC|Devo - 01 - Fresh.flac

The changes you make to files can also be exported into a rename-pair list, so if need be, the changes you make can be reverted with ease.

Rename files with EXIF data

This is one of the more frequent use-cases that users tend to have when renaming files. Photographs from smartphones or cameras follow the design rule for camera file systems (JEITA CP-3461), which relies on the naming convention "IMG_2048.jpg" or something a bit more custom but still functionally meaningless depending on the device manufacturer, such as "SAM_4096.jpg" or "HPIM8192.jpg". None of these have any meaning in relation to the content of the image, and configuring this on the camera is generally impossible.


Luckily, using the EXIF metadata from your pictures (in JPEG, TIFF, and Raw Image formats such as NEF, CRW and CR2), you can rename your files with information such as the date and time. By adding your own custom name as the prefix, and numbering as suffix, you can use Bulk Rename Utility to rename "IMG_2048.jpg" to "Tokyo-20100503-001.jpg"

Rename files with ID3 data

Much like with images, you can use ID3 data to rename your MP3 files in a predictable and standard way. This can be quite helpful if your CD ripper of choice isn't that good at writing filenames but correctly retrieves disc information from Gracenote CDDB. This is also quite useful if the filename and ID3 tags conflict, such as filenames being Romanized ("강남스타일" versus "Gangnam Style"), or the reverse.

This would also be extremely useful for people using voice recorders, such as doctors giving dictation or students recording lectures, which require a predictable way of renaming files from their devices.

Other unique and useful features

In addition to the helpful features outlined above, Bulk Rename Utility has some other features for extremely specific use-cases, such as removing accents on characters, converting Roman Numerals to lower or upper case, modifying folder and file creation, modification, and access dates, and appending the folder name to the file, with multiple levels. Your settings can be stored as a favorite for later use.

Overall, Bulk Rename Utility is an extremely useful product that has clearly been polished after several years of development, and is well worth installing on your computer. It's a great freeware solution to automating a routine task.

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About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.

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