I am seeking to remove all special characters from several files' worth of downloaded .pdfs, and came across exactly the solution I was looking for, albeit in an OS X environment:

function to automatically remove special characters from file names during saving in MacOS X.

Could a similar method--either using sed or some other function--be implemented in a Linux environment?


You can do this with the rename command. If you are in the folder with the .pdf files with special characters:

rename 's/[^a-zA-Z0-9]//g' *.pdf

This will remove any characters from files ending in .pdf that are not A-Z in either case, or numbers. You can add to this list:

rename 's/[^a-zA-Z0-9_]//g' *.pdf

This version allows underscores.

  • 1
    follow-up question: Would you know how to do this when the filename contains letters that aren't from English alphabet? When I try your commands I get "Can't rename filename: Invalid or incomplete multibyte or wide character" for each file. – user2044638 Jul 12 '13 at 9:56
  • @user2044638 Are you able to rename these files with a mv? – Paul Jul 12 '13 at 13:28
  • Yes. Worked for every file I tried it on without problems. – user2044638 Jul 12 '13 at 14:15
  • Hm, doesn't seem to be working for me. I installed the requisite util-linux package, and while it appears to run, there is no change in file names. Is there documentation for "rename" somewhere? – nitrl Jul 12 '13 at 14:30
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    @nitrl There are two separate "rename" utilities, one supports regex, the other doesn't. Check your man page to see which one you have. – Paul Jul 13 '13 at 0:24

To handle the whole file name and also multiple files:

  • Add /g to handle the whole file name.
  • Add _to replace with underscore (if required to)
  • Add any additional 'types' of files or individual file names at the end, space separated.

rename 's/[^a-zA-Z0-9_.]/_/g' *mp4 *avi


for file in *; do mv "$file" $(echo "$file" | sed -e 's/[^A-Za-z0-9.-]//g'); done &

  • 2
    While this may answer the question, it would be a better answer if you could provide some explanation why it does so. – DavidPostill Jul 4 '17 at 23:09
  • Actually the same as the accepted rename method but harder to enter without mistakes – xenoid Jul 4 '17 at 23:22

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