How to Rename Files and Folders on Mac

Nicholas Russell
By Nicholas Russell 13 Min Read
13 Min Read

Hi, you might know how our phones and computers get cluttered with so many files. And, let’s be real, sometimes those files have names that make zero sense. Sounds familiar, right?

Well, I’m here to help you out with that. Renaming files and folders on your Mac can seem like a maze, but don’t worry, it’s actually pretty simple. And guess what? I do this almost every day! So, stick with me, and I’ll show you how to turn that file chaos into order.

Imagine you’re looking for that one photo from your beach trip last summer, but all your files are named things like ‘IMG_1234’. Frustrating, right? Renaming files is like labeling your stuff – it helps you find what you need without the headache.

  • Using Finder: The Friendly Way – Finder in your Mac is like a magic wand for your files. You can just click, type the new name, and voila! Your file has a new identity.
  • Terminal: For the Adventurous Souls – Feeling a bit techy? Dive into the Mac Terminal. It’s like speaking directly to your Mac in its own language. A few commands here, and your files will have new names in no time.

There you have it! Renaming files and folders isn’t just for tech wizards. It’s for everyone, including you. So, next time you find yourself scrolling through a sea of confusing file names, remember these tips. Happy organizing, and let’s make those files easy to find! 🌟

Different Ways to Rename Files or Folders on Your Mac

Whether it’s a file or a folder, the steps to rename them on your Mac are pretty much the same. And guess what? You’ll be using something called the Finder application. It’s like your Mac’s treasure map, leading you to your files and folders.

To begin, you can either use Finder to search for the file or just wander through your folders until you find what you’re looking for. Once you’re there, follow these simple steps to give your file or folder a brand new name.

Method 1: Click on the Name

Step 1: Spot and Select

  • Find the file or folder you want to rename. Give it a gentle click. Just one!

Step 2: Click on the Name, But Gently

  • Now, click on the name of the file or folder. But be careful, don’t double-click, or it might open up! You just want to highlight the name.

Step 3: Time to Rename

  • With the name highlighted, you’re the boss now. Start typing the new name you have in mind. If you want to keep part of the old name, use your mouse to select only the part you want to change. Then type away! Made a mistake? No problem, just hit the delete key to erase it.

📝 Note: Whoops! Made a typo or changed your mind? Just hit the ESC key, and it’ll go back to the original name, like magic.

Step 4: Seal the Deal

  • Once you’re happy with the new name, click anywhere else on your screen. And there you have it, your file or folder has a shiny new name!

Method 2: Press the Return Key

Step 1: Point and Pick

  • Just like before, find what you want to rename and click on it once.

Step 2: Hit ‘Return’

  • Now, press the RETURN key. This will make the name of the item ready for editing.

Step 3: New Name, New Game

  • Go ahead and type in the new name you’ve chosen for the item.

📝 Note: Oops, made a mistake? No worries! Hit the ESC key to go back to the old name before the change is final.

Step 4: Click to Confirm

  • Click anywhere else on your screen, and your item will proudly wear its new name!

Method 3: Use the Context Menu

Step 1: Select with a Click

  • Start by clicking once on the item you want to rename.

Step 2: The Right-Click Move

  • Now, give it a right-click (or CONTROL+click, or a two-finger click on a trackpad). This brings up a menu full of options.

Step 3: Choose ‘Rename’

  • From the menu that pops up, select “Rename”. It’s like telling your Mac, “Hey, let’s give this thing a new identity!”

Step 4: Type Away

  • Here’s where you type the new name you’ve picked out.

Step 5: Finalize with a Click

  • Just like the other methods, click anywhere else on the screen to make the name change official.

Method 4: Command Line

Step 1: Begin Your Command Line Adventure

  • First things first, open up a Mac Terminal session. Think of it as stepping into the control room of your Mac.

Step 2: Find Your Way to the File/Folder

  • Now, you need to navigate to where your file or folder lives. This is like using a digital map inside your Mac.

Step 3: The Magic ‘mv’ Command

  • Here’s where the magic happens. Use the mv command to change the name. It’s short for ‘move’, but it’s also great for renaming.

Here’s how it looks:

mv CurrentName NewName

For example, if you want to rename a file called “test1.txt” to “newname.txt”, you would type:

mv test1.txt newname.txt

When you use the mv command, you’re basically telling your Mac, “Hey, let’s move this file but also give it a new name in the process.” It’s a cool trick that not only moves files around but also renames them.

Finding the Best Method

So, we’ve gone through a bunch of different ways to rename files and folders on your Mac. Each method has its own charm, and the best part is, they all lead to the same happy ending – a neatly renamed file or folder.

1. Finder Methods: The Friendly Choices

  • The first three methods we talked about involve using the Finder application. These are super user-friendly and probably the go-to options for most Mac users. Whether you’re clicking and typing, using the Return key, or right-clicking, these methods are straightforward and easy to get the hang of.

2. Command Line: The Tech-Savvy Path

  • Then, there’s the command line method using Mac Terminal. This one is a bit more on the tech-savvy side. If you’re just starting to dabble in using Mac Terminal, or if you’re already a command line expert, this method can be a fun and efficient way to rename your files.

3. It’s All About What Works for You

  • At the end of the day, it’s all about what feels right for you. Some folks love the simplicity and visual aspect of Finder, while others enjoy the control and speed of the command line.

Think of these methods as different flavors of ice cream. Some might prefer the classic vanilla (Finder methods), while others might go for something a bit more exotic like matcha green tea (Command Line). The key is to try them out and see which one suits your taste – or in this case, your renaming needs.


We’ve journeyed through the world of renaming files and folders on your Mac, exploring different paths that cater to various levels of comfort and tech expertise. From the simple, intuitive methods using Finder to the more advanced command line approach, there’s a way for everyone to keep their digital space organized and tailored to their needs.

  • User-Friendly Finder Methods: For most users, the Finder methods are the go-to choices. They are easy to understand, visually guided, and perfect for everyday use.
  • Command Line for the Adventurous: The command line method using Mac Terminal is great for those who enjoy a more hands-on, technical approach. It offers speed and a deeper level of control for the experienced user.
  • Personal Preference is King: The best method is the one that you find most comfortable and efficient. It’s all about your personal workflow and how you like to interact with your Mac.

This article isn’t just about teaching you how to rename files; it’s about empowering you to navigate your Mac more confidently and efficiently. Whether you’re a long-time Mac user or just getting started, mastering these simple yet essential skills can make a significant difference in your day-to-day computer use.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re now ready to dive in and start organizing your digital files with ease. Remember, it’s not just about keeping things tidy; it’s about making your life easier and your work more productive. So go ahead, give these methods a try, and see how they transform your experience with your Mac.


What are the easiest methods for renaming files and folders on a Mac for beginners?

For beginners, the easiest methods are using Finder. You can either click on the name, use the Return key, or right-click to access the Rename option. These methods are straightforward and don’t require technical knowledge.

Can I rename multiple files at once using Finder on my Mac?

Yes, you can rename multiple files at once in Finder. Select all the files you want to rename, right-click, choose ‘Rename,’ and follow the prompts. This is great for organizing batches of files, like photos from a trip.

Is it safe to rename files using the command line in Mac Terminal?

Yes, it’s safe to rename files using the command line, but it requires a bit more caution. Make sure you type the commands correctly to avoid accidental file movements or renaming errors.

What should I do if I make a mistake while renaming a file?

If you make a mistake while renaming a file in Finder, you can simply press the ESC key before finalizing the change to revert to the original name. In Mac Terminal, you would need to use the ‘mv’ command again to rename the file back to its original name.

Are there any limitations to renaming files on a Mac?

The primary limitation is related to system files and applications. You should avoid renaming these as it can affect the functioning of your Mac. For regular documents, images, and personal files, renaming is straightforward and without significant limitations.

Can I use these renaming methods for external drives connected to my Mac?

Yes, these renaming methods work just as well for files and folders on external drives. Just ensure the drive is properly connected and recognized by your Mac, and then proceed with the renaming method of your choice.

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