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I'm IT at my small firm; and, despite my dire warnings, everyone puts files on the server with awful names, including leading & trailing spaces, bad characters (including \ ; / + . < > - etc!)

They do this by accessing the (FreeBSD/FreeNAS) server via AFP on Macs, so no part of the system complains.

Is there a script I can use to go through an entire directory tree and fix bad filenames?

Basically replace all spaces & bad ASCII with _ ... and if a file already exists, just slap a _2 or something on the end.

I don't suppose there's a way to get the system to enforce good filenaming conventions, is there?


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You can't tell netatalk or whatnot to do this? – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Aug 20 '12 at 1:52
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'd use bash and find. I'm sure there's a simpler option but here's what I came up with:

  1. This can deal with file names containing "/" (find will give a warning, ignore it), but it will only work on files in the current directory (no subdirectories). I couldn't figure out how to tell bash or find to differentiate between a "/" in a file name and a "/" that is part of the path.

    for i in $(find . -maxdepth 1 -type f  -name "*[\:\;><\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\/\%]*" | sed 's/\.\///'); do mv "$i" ${i//[\;><\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\/\%]/_}; done
  2. This one cannot deal with file names containing "/" but it will work on all files in the current directory and its subdirectories:

    for i in $(find . -type f  -name "*[\:\;\>\<\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\%]*"); do mv "$i" ${i//[\;><\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\%]/_}; done

Make sure to test these before running. They worked fine in the few tests I ran, but I was not exhaustive. Also bear in mind that I am on a linux system. The particular implementation of find, and perhaps bash, may differ on yours.

EDIT: Changing the mv $i command to `mv -i $i‘ will cause mv to prompt you before overwriting an existing file.

EDIT2: To deal with filenames with spaces, you can change the bash IFS (Input Field Separator) variable like so (adapted from here):

SAVEIFS=$IFS; IFS=$(echo -en "\n\b"); for i in $(find . -type f  -name "*[\:\;\>\<\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\%\ ]*"); do mv "$i" ${i//[\;><\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\%\ ]/_}; done; IFS=$SAVEIFS

I also modified the regular expression to match/replace spaces with underscores. The SAVEIFS bit just returns the IFS variable to its original configuration.


for i in $(command); do something $i; done

This is a generic bash loop. It will go through a command's output, sequentially setting variable $i to each of the values returned by command, and will do something to it.

find . -maxdepth 1 -type f  -name "*[\:\;><\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\/\%]*" '

Find all files in the current directory whose name contains one of the following characters: :;><@$#&()\/%. To add more, just escape them with "\" (eg "\¿") and add them to the list within the brackets ([ ]). Probably, not all these characters need to be escaped, but I can never remember which are special variables in which environment so I escape everything, just in case.

sed 's/\.\///

Remove the current directory from find's output, print "foo" instead of "./foo".

mv "$i" ${i//[\;><\@\$\#\&\(\)\?\\\/\%]/_}

Every time this little scipt loops, $i will be the name of a badly named file. This command will move (rename) that file changing all unwanted characters to "_". Look up bash substitution for more information.

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This looks good, but (a) I had to change the "..." in the find expression to '...'; and (b) when I try to run the loop, it says do: command not found. Maybe a FreeBSD limitation? Or csh? – Ze'ev Aug 20 '12 at 19:23
It was csh ... works better after I exec bash! – Ze'ev Aug 20 '12 at 19:54
@Ze'ev Yup, you definitely need bash for this. The substitution command is also bash specific. You can try and automate the file renaming process by introducing a variable that will be incremented every time you have 2 files with the same name. – terdon Aug 20 '12 at 20:06
Using bash is fine; almost working. But there is a problem with filenames with a space in them. If I have a file called ./a/b/c/xxx$ 111, then the find command returns ./a/b/c/xxx$ and 111 as two separate items in $i, and then the mv fails. – Ze'ev Aug 20 '12 at 20:09
@Ze'ev I played around with that for this answer and couldn't get it to work. The problem was making find differentiate between slashes in a filename and actual paths. I also had some other complication I can't remember. If you can make it work, more power to you :) In any case, the updated answer should work. – terdon Aug 20 '12 at 20:27

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