How to Rename Files in R

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Renaming files is a common task that you may need to perform when you are working with datasets in R. This comprehensive guide will provide you with an in-depth look at different ways to rename files in R using various functions and libraries, and also discuss best practices and potential use cases for renaming files.


In data analysis and data science projects, you often have to work with multiple files. Sometimes, it is necessary to rename these files for organization, clarity, or data processing purposes. R provides several functions that can be used to rename files in your working directory or any specified directory. The primary function used for this purpose is file.rename().

Using file.rename()

The file.rename() function is the most straightforward way to rename files in R. It takes two main arguments: the current name of the file and the new name you want to give the file.

Basic Usage

Here’s the basic syntax for the file.rename() function:

file.rename("current_filename.extension", "new_filename.extension")

For example, to rename a file from “oldfile.txt” to “newfile.txt”, you would use the following code:

file.rename("oldfile.txt", "newfile.txt")

Renaming Multiple Files

file.rename() can also be used to rename multiple files at once. You can pass vectors of file names to both the from and to arguments, and it will rename each file accordingly.

file.rename(c("file1.txt", "file2.txt"), c("newfile1.txt", "newfile2.txt"))

It’s important that the two vectors have the same length, as each element in the first vector is paired with the corresponding element in the second vector.

Error Handling

When using file.rename(), it returns a logical vector indicating whether the renaming operation was successful for each file. This can be used for error handling.

result <- file.rename("oldfile.txt", "newfile.txt")

if (all(result)) {
  message("Files renamed successfully")
} else {
  warning("Failed to rename one or more files")

Utilizing the file.path() Function

When renaming files in directories other than the current working directory, it’s good practice to use the file.path() function to construct file paths. This function creates file paths that are independent of the operating system.

old_path <- file.path("my_directory", "oldfile.txt")
new_path <- file.path("my_directory", "newfile.txt")

file.rename(old_path, new_path)

Renaming Files in Bulk Using Patterns

Sometimes, you might need to rename files in bulk, often following a certain naming pattern. In such cases, you can combine list.files() with file.rename() and apply a renaming scheme.

# List all .txt files
files <- list.files(pattern = "\\.txt$")

# Rename each file
for (file in files) {
  new_name <- paste0("prefix_", file)
  file.rename(file, new_name)

This renames all the .txt files in the current directory by adding a prefix to their names.

Using Additional Libraries

There are also R packages available that can simplify file renaming. One such package is fs.

Using the fs Package

The fs package is a modern file system library for R and is easier and more consistent than the base functions. You can install it from CRAN.


To rename files using the fs package, you can use the file_move() function.


file_move("oldfile.txt", "newfile.txt")


Renaming files is a fundamental task in data handling. While it may seem trivial, it is essential for maintaining a clean and efficient workspace. By leveraging R’s file.rename() function and the fs library, you can manage your files effectively, making your data analysis process smoother and more productive. Always remember to check whether your renaming operations were successful and handle any potential errors to ensure the integrity of your data.

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