I have had an unresolved records management issue for years.  I began using a Windows computer in the 1980s, so my file names were constrained by the 8.3 file name – a maximum of 8 characters for the base file name and 3 characters for the extension.  In an attempt to make these names more descriptive, I used the extension spaces as part of the naming process; for example, the extension .LET indicated a letter I wrote (with the name of the recipient in the base file name).  This practice applied to both my professional and personal digital records.  As time went on, Windows changed, and not only did the space for a base file name increase, but the extension became the indicator of the software program that was used to create the file.  Although I have done a good job of migrating these files from one computer to another over the years, I have never taken the time to modify the file names of all of these records, instead merely fixing individual files when I found myself in need of using them.  But now I have decided to clean up this recordkeeping fiasco, so I went in search of a utility to help me in this process.

I chose to use a free program called Bulk Rename Utility.  The manual for this is available for download, and there is also an online forum where the syntax of regular expressions is shared.  The following tutorial highlights some of its useful functions.

Bulk Rename Utility tutorial (The built-in PDF viewer in your browser may not play the audio, so you might need to right-click and save the file manually and then open it in Adobe Reader.  In order for this PDF slide show to display properly in Adobe Reader, make sure it is in Full Screen Mode, and if there is a security warning, you should choose to trust this document.  Otherwise, the audio will not play.)

[If you would feel better served by a print tutorial rather than a narrated one, you may find this PDF document useful: Bulk-Rename-Utility-tutorial.]

Utilities such as this can have numerous applications within the archival realm.  Although paper records certainly are not going to disappear, I would surmise that all manuscript collections and special collections repositories will be accessioning born-digital records, if they have not done so already.  Inaccurate file extensions and nonstandardized file naming procedures will render the discovery and access of these records more problematic, so a utility such as this could be very useful in helping to make these files more accessible in a relatively short period of time.  However, born-digital records will also make it more incumbent upon repositories to work closely with donors before accessions occur, in order to resolve any confusion about file naming customs and common software programs that have been utilized.