Ever spend ages thinking up ways to convince someone a task is far from easy, and that they should just give up on the idea – and then the solution appears just as you were about to hit the Send button?
Well, the other night I had an interesting email from someone who has my Search and Replace plug-in for Lightroom:
… I need to remove text (“Scan_”) from the filename for images I scanned 4-5 years ago (and are now in my LR catalog). It appears [Search and Replace] does not work on filenames, only on metadata. Pre-LR catalog I used a utility to do bulk file name changes on folders of files, but that will be a problem with the LR catalog.
I could use the bulk filename changing tool, then delete the LR-cataloged-but-missing-image and then reimport the newly rename files. But it seems risky and I’d lose metadata for the images w/o XMP files.
It’s not at all unreasonable that users would want to replace certain text when doing a batch rename – I often used the feature in iView/Expression Media – and it’s a shame that Lightroom’s renaming seems to have fallen foul of “you couldn’t do it in Bridge” thinking here (Bridge introduced the feature after Lightroom was released). Sadly, Lightroom is a bit underpowered in this respect, especially as changing file names outside Lightroom can easily do a lot of damage – you could lose a lot of your work.
So, I began writing my reply saying I wouldn’t be adapting Search & Replace to handle file renaming, as it is indeed for metadata manipulation and its next steps are most likely to be into spell checking. I then wrote a couple of lengthy paragraphs explaining how a dedicated file renaming plug-in could certainly be written, but doing it well would be time-consuming and still risk scrambling the user’s file system and trashing a lot of Lightroom work. The user’s idea of reimporting the renamed files was workable if you weren’t worried about losing all the Lightroom work that isn’t stored in the XMP – flags, stacks, virtual copies, assignment to collections, and history steps. In a final flourish of negative thinking I began to think about how to explain running the external renaming utility and then updating the catalogue via SQL? Again it’s conceivable – but a lot of work. You might summarise my response as “Computer says No” (Little Britain, if the reference isn’t clear!).
- Use Search & Replace’s Transfer command to copy the file name to any unused IPTC field that Lightroom’s Batch Rename dialog will be able to access. Let’s say it’s the Headline
- Use Search & Replace to remove “Scan_” from the Headline
- Use Search & Replace to remove the extension from the Headline
- Finally use LR’s Rename Photos to rename using the Headline
Easy. A lot easier than I ever thought it might be!