Freeware tackles Explorer weakness: mass renaming of files

The mass renaming of files cannot be done easily through Windows Explorer or the Windows command shell. But a freeware program named Ant Renamer passes the test with flying colors.

If there's one thing that still can't be done easily through Windows Explorer -- or through the Windows command

shell -- it's the mass renaming of files.

Sure, it's possible to use wildcards from the command line to rename files in certain limited ways. But as long filenames and file metadata (such as MP3 ID3 tags) become the norm, administrators need more advanced tools than what the command line can give them.

Nor is scripting much of an answer to the problem, because different renaming jobs might require radically different types of scripts. Furthermore, why not use an existing application to do the job, rather than reinventing the wheel?

I've looked at several mass-renaming programs, but the best of the free ones is Ant Renamer. (The "Ant" in the title refers to the programmer, Antoine Potten.) Not only is it freeware, but also the program's source code is available under the GNU General Public License, version 2, so it can be freely adapted or reused in other projects.

Ant Renamer can change any number of files in any number of folders through several methods:

  • The file extension can be changed.
  • Character strings can be replaced or inserted.
  • Characters can be moved or deleted.
  • Files or folders can be given arbitrary enumerations.
  • Names can be created at random.
  • ID3 tags can be created; cases can be changed.
  • Names can be assigned from a list or file.

Once you launch the program, you'll be greeted with a list of empty files and folders, which you then populate as needed. Click on Actions and you can select one or more renaming actions to perform on the selected files. The program logs the actions so you can review them later, and all actions have multiple levels of undo so no changes you make are wholly destructive.

Ant Renamer has full Unicode support, so you can perform renamings in multiple languages at once. (Note, however, that batch files cannot have Unicode names in their name or path.)

Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

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This was first published in March 2006

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