Knowing how to rename a file in Linux is something you should know as a Linux user.
When do you need it?
Let’s say you create a file with the touch command:
And then you decide that you want to include the month in the name of the report.
We could copy the file to a new file called report_february.txt:
cp report.txt report_february.txt
And if we use the ls command we would get:
ls -ltr total 0 -rw-r--r-- 1 my-user my-group 0 1 Mar 00:11 report.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 my-user my-group 0 1 Mar 00:11 report_february.txt
So we still have the original report.txt file that we can delete with the following command:
And, what if I want to do all this in one step?
The Command to Rename a File in Linux
I can use that mv command to simply rename the file report.txt.
Below you can see the syntax of the mv command:
mv original_filename new_filename
For instance, in this case:
ls -ltr total 0 -rw-r--r-- 1 my-user my-group 0 1 Mar 00:11 report.txt mv report.txt report_february.txt ls -ltr total 0 -rw-r--r-- 1 my-user my-group 0 1 Mar 00:11 report_february.txt
We can only see report_february.txt because we have renamed the original file, we haven’t copied it to a new file with the new name the way we have done before.
Relative and Absolute Path
In this example we have assumed that we are in the directory where the report is when we run the mv command.
What changes if we are not in the same directory where the report is?
We use the absolute path of the file. So if the report is in /opt/reports/ the following command:
mv report.txt report_february.txt
mv /opt/reports/report.txt /opt/reports/report_february.txt
The name of the new file can also include a completely different directory from the one where the original file is.
In that case the mv command not only renames the file but also moves the file to the new target directory.
How does this apply to directories?
It’s very similar…
That’s because the mv can also be used to rename directories.
Create a directory called test_dir in the current directory using the mkdir command:
mkdir test_dir ls -ltr total 0 drwxr-xr-x 2 my-user my-group 64 1 Mar 00:28 test_dir
Then we rename it to test_dir2:
mv test_dir test_dir2 ls -ltr total 0 drwxr-xr-x 2 my-user my-group 64 1 Mar 00:28 test_dir2
So the process of renaming a directory is pretty much identical to the one of renaming a file.
You now know:
- How the Linux mv command is used to rename a file.
- What is the difference between mv and cp.
- Using Relative or Absolute path when renaming a file.
- How to rename directories with the command mv.
And to learn more basics about files and directories in Linux have a look at this article.
Claudio Sabato is an IT expert with over 15 years of professional experience in Python programming, Linux Systems Administration, Bash programming, and IT Systems Design.
With a Master’s degree in Computer Science, he has a strong foundation in Software Engineering and a passion for Robotics with projects that include Raspberry Pi and Arduino platforms.