Simplifying File Management in R: Introducing file.rename()


Steven P. Sanderson II, MPH


June 30, 2023


Managing files is an essential task for any programmer, and when working with R, the file.rename() function can become your best friend. In this blog post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of file.rename(), discuss its syntax, provide real-life examples, and share some best practices to empower you in your file management endeavors. So grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive into the world of file.rename()!

What does file.rename() do?

The file.rename() function in R allows you to rename files and directories with ease. Whether you want to update the names of multiple files in a folder or simply change the name of a single file, this function has got you covered. By harnessing the power of file.rename(), you can streamline your file organization and make your code more efficient.


The syntax of file.rename() is quite straightforward. It takes two arguments: the current file/directory name and the new name you want to assign. Let’s take a look at the general structure:

file.rename(from = "current_name", to = "new_name")

The “from” argument represents the current name of the file or directory you wish to rename, while the “to” argument specifies the desired new name. It’s important to note that both the “from” and “to” arguments should be character strings.

Real-Life Examples

To truly understand the potential of file.rename(), let’s explore a couple of real-life scenarios:

Example 1: Renaming a Single File

Suppose you have a file named “old_file.txt,” and you want to rename it to “new_file.txt”. Here’s how you can accomplish this with file.rename():

file.rename(from = "old_file.txt", to = "new_file.txt")

Example 2: Renaming Multiple Files

Imagine you have a folder with several files that need to be renamed simultaneously. Let’s say you want to change the file extensions from “.doc” to “.docx”. Here’s how you can achieve this using file.rename():

files <- list.files(path = "path/to/folder", pattern = "*.doc", full.names = TRUE)
new_names <- sub(pattern = ".doc$", replacement = ".docx", x = files)
file.rename(from = files, to = new_names)

Best Practices

When working with file.rename(), it’s essential to keep some best practices in mind:

  1. Backup Your Files: Before using file.rename(), make sure to back up your files or work with copies. Mistakes happen, and having a backup ensures you can easily revert any unintended changes.

  2. Error Handling: Incorporate error handling mechanisms into your code. Verify that the file or directory you’re trying to rename exists, and handle any potential errors gracefully.

  3. Consistent Naming Conventions: Establish consistent naming conventions for your files and directories. This practice enhances readability and organization, making it easier for you and others to navigate through your codebase.


The file.rename() function in R empowers you to streamline your file management tasks efficiently. By renaming files and directories with ease, you can keep your codebase organized and save valuable time. I encourage you to give file.rename() a try in your projects and see the benefits firsthand. Share your experiences in the comments below—let’s learn from each other’s success stories and explore new possibilities together!