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How to batch rename items using Adobe Bridge | Changing filenames in bulk in 6 Steps

Know your why

As always, there is no point in lurching into something unless you have a clear reason for doing so!

So ask yourself these two questions:

1. Which digital content do you want to rename?

2. What is the outcome you want to achieve by renaming them?

My answers: I want to rename my old photos, to make them more searchable.

I mean, the file called P7130004 is a photo of my lovely Grandad, on our holiday in Nottingham in the Summer of 2006.

And Sept05 011 is my first ever photo of my cousin as a newborn baby.

But if I wanted to find either of those specific pictures, then those file names are no help at all. Searching for them is currently a tedious business of scrolling through thumbnails.

Frankly, life's too short!

Step 0: Back up before you start!


Today is exactly the kind of day where you accidentally delete a big chunk of stuff. And then don't notice, because everything is looking different anyway.

Step 1: Break it down

Working in small chunks of photos is the best way to avoid getting overwhelmed.

And the chunks are important.

Remember the outcome you said you wanted? You should choose chunks that move you in the right direction.

For example: if your photos document your life, you might choose to order them chronologically. In folders according to the year, perhaps?

Or if you are a photographer, you may prefer to have them sorted by project.

Or you may not be working with photos at all, and want to rationalise other types of files.


Point is. Work with chunks based on the outcomes you want, rather than their current state. You'll see why in Step 6.

While you're thinking about outcomes, it might be a good time to quickly set up your new folder structure. That way you can keep your curated treasure separate from your hot mess!

Step 2: Cut the crap!

Make yourself a set of guidelines to follow. Some ideas:

- I'm only keeping photos of people if I remember their names.

- When I have a bajillion attempts at the same shot, I will choose the 2 best (+ my favourite blooper, if applicable).

- I will never keep pictures that are out of focus, except if it is the only photo of someone special.

- Unless it is a photo I love or am proud of, I will only keep photos of people. Or places, if they are important to me. (I'm not keeping the 20 pictures I took of the sea lion that time we went to the zoo on Christmas Eve 2005. Nope. Sorry Mr Whiskers. Final answer.)

Within the chunk you are working with, delete all the photos that break your rules.

Or change/add rules, if you discover pictures you want to keep. I'm not here to bully you into deleting things you love. Just make sure you are keeping stuff for a reason you.

Step 3: Download Adobe bridge for free

Download Adobe bridge, and follow their instructions to install it.

I'll wait.

Step 4: Navigate to the files you would like to rename


Open Bridge, and navigate to your first chunk. You can use either the Folders tree in the side panel, or the breadcrumb trail at the top.

Step 5: Decide on some personal rules for your filenames

Think about your outcomes again.

If one of your objectives is to make something searchable, then think about how you would actually search for it.

- What word(s) would you type in the search bar?

- What are some of the ways you can sort or re-order the files to find what you want?

Since I am working with my photos, I would usually include the name of the place or the event at which they were taken. I would probably also include the date they were taken.

(Aside - the date of creation is usually automatically captured. But this can sometimes get messed up if you have made copies of the original, or if you changed the format of the file. This is why I would normally include the date in the filename.)

Step 7: Rename the files

Select the chunk of files you would like to rename, and go to Tools, then Batch Rename.

Fill in the fields in the pop-up window according to your chosen outcomes.

String Substitution = replacing a set of characters that you define, with a different set of characters.

I would recommend checking the box to "Preserve current filename in XMP Metadata". That is good practice, because it helps you keep track of where the files have come from.

Metadata = data about data. In other words, information about the file.

If you're nervous, there is a nifty Preview section.

Then, when you're happy, hit Rename.

What else?

There are various other things you can do to help yourself search for something? In an ideal world, I would add tags to my photos so that I can search for pictures of people by name. But, y'know, life is short and done is better than perfect!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. I hope this has helped. As always, I'd love to hear how you get on! I'm @ArchiveRobin on twitter - get in touch.

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