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Métamorphose your file names en masse

By Bruce Byfield on March 02, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)

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Métamorphose is the graphical equivalent of the mv command combined with some of the functions of the chattr command for multiple files. While Métamorphose seems intended mainly for use with mass numbers of music files, to judge from the examples in the online help, anyone who takes file organization seriously can benefit from its attention to work flow and detailed options.

The first thing you'll notice when opening Métamorphose is how orderly its interface is. It consists of a series of tabs; when it opens, the first tab on the left is active. You pick the file and folders to rename on the first tab, the patterns for renaming in the next tab, additional refinements in the following two tabs, and view errors and warnings on the last tab. At any point in the operation you can preview the changes about to be made at the bottom of the window, or actually make them.

Méamorphose - click to enlarge

The same sense of orderliness prevails on each tab, with the simplest or most common options at the top and left of the tab, and more complex ones below or to the right. For example, on the Picker tab, the Browse button for selecting files is at the top left, and the field for manual input on the right. Directly below is a line for filtering selections, consisting mostly of a selection of check boxes. Below that is a tree and detail view of the current directory, from which you can pick files and folders individually. If you are a new user, all you need to do to learn the program is to examine the options in the order that speakers of European languages are naturally inclined to follow.

In the same way, the defaults in Métamorphose are designed to speed you on your way. For instance, on opening, the Picker tab displays your account's home directory, showing hidden files and with all files selected. Should you not want all files selected, the selection is quickly reversed with the None button.

Once you have selected the files and folders to rename, you can begin to set up how you want them renamed on the next three tabs. The options on all three tabs are extremely detailed. On the Main tab, you can select whether your operation works on the file name, the extension, or directories, and set up the pattern for the new names, including using information from ID3 tags in music files, such as performer or track names. Alternatively, you can use the tab's search and replace functions to add a new string at a designated position in the file name.

On the Numbering tab, you can view the defaults for numbering a sequence of files, or alter the numbering style, the starting number, incremental increase and reset position, and the sort order. Similarly, on the Date and Time tab, you can refine both the date to use and the format and the separator to use between different parts of the name, such as the day, month, and year.

These operations are backed by a small but well-chosen set of preferences, such as the choice of whether to show hidden directories in the tree view and whether to include compatibility with Windows characters and file names in the warnings when an operation is underway. Online help that explains the expected work flow and includes a few examples of the possibilities rounds off the program.

Annoyingly, the Help windows are unclosable. Most users, too, might be momentarily baffled by the use of "walk" to mean a recursive selection on the Picker tab. However, these are small imperfections in an otherwise efficient design. New users might be unclear about some of the options, such as regular expressions or the use of != for "not equal to," but, in general, anyone with computer experience should have few problems with Métamorphose for the simple reason that it is laid out to accommodate the most logical work flow for its operations.

File management is one of the least glamorous parts of computing, but I'm pleased to see any program whose interface pays such attention to detail. As simple as it is, Métamorphose is also one of the few graphical tools that makes me feel that I'm not giving much up by doing administrative work from the desktop -- so much so that I'd like to see its functionality in a file manager rather than a separate program. Meanwhile, though, it has already become part of my everyday tool kit.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for

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on Métamorphose your file names en masse

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Music naming convension recommendation

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 03, 2007 01:42 AM
File naming can almost be refined to an art of it's own. Even normal file naming seems arcain magic to average users. However, having now made file naming based on the natural order they'll be sorted into is force of habit. I've found the following naming convension ideal for music by my needs:<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.//<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.ext

- albums are kept together
- tracks are kept in order
- artist and name are identified and easily searchable


Re:Music naming convension recommendation

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 03, 2007 04:51 AM
My bad.. put a bug in my own damn comment by using html code brackets to indicate variables..

The audio file name format previously recommened but failed to be demonstraited (ok, not that dramatic but anyhow):<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/album/album track# artist trackname

bam.. that's the one.. gives you a layer for your albums (I've too many multiple artist albums to have artists folders). when putting on your media player, you still retain the album name and correct play order for tracks while displaying both artist and track.


Re:Music naming convension recommendation

Posted by: Administrator on March 03, 2007 03:05 AM
Similar conclusions here!

My system of gathering (refined over years but certainly not final or perfect, even for me<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;)) involves hopefully sensible categories organized under the general umbrella "artifacts" (I hate calling every file on my computer a "document").

Big picture: artifacts / [audible / visible / legible / software / other]

Within "audible" is "musical," then some genres (with the catch-all "other" included here as in most of my directories; I like directories each to contain either all directories or all non-directory files), then artist name, then album or single name.

so, for instance, I might have<nobr> <wbr></nobr>...

artifacts/audible/musical/folkish/frente/marvin-t<nobr>h<wbr></nobr> e-album/

Within a particular album's directory, I'll have the songs listed with a leading track number, so the first song will start with 01, then song 02, 03, etc.

A strange peeve: unless I want to hear *only* a single given song, then I want to hear the tracks of an album -- even if not every song in the list -- in the order that the album put them in. Some more than others, but most of my favorite albums have a certain feel or mood that comes in part from the order in which the tracks have been arranged.


Help window bug

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 03, 2007 02:03 AM
Thank you for the great review of my program, I'm glad that you like it.
One thing bothers me though: you mentioned that the help dialogs are uncloseable. Could you tell me why they are not closing, e.g. is there no close button, does the program crash, etc...
In my testing and development under Ubuntu I am not getting this problem. However this is definitely a bug, and a rather important one at that!

Thank you,

ianaré sévi



Re:Help window bug - B - E - A - utiful

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 03, 2007 05:10 AM
Let's see a propriatry goon squad reply to an article with a comment like that; "thank you for liking my program, how can I fix that bug for you".. beautiful.


install failure

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 03, 2007 03:46 AM
Took me less than 5 minutes to see "make install" blow up trying to unzip man pages on my Fedora Core 5 machine.


Re:install failure

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 03, 2007 05:29 AM
I am aware of this problem, it has been fixed for the upcoming release. I was going to wait until the French and Italian translations of the help files were completed to release it, however due to the large number of recent downloads I will make a new release within a few hours.

for the impatient:
mkdir<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/share/doc/metamorphose
mkdir<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/share/metamorphose


Re:Music naming convension recommendation

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 03, 2007 05:08 AM
oh heavens yes.. I'm sure any of us have our organisational structure.. once we pass out of the "average user" (mundanes are so cute) level of knowledge.

If we're talking beyond audio files alone.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/ftp/media/<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/ftp/media/audio/music/<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/ftp/media/audio/effects/<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/ftp/media/video/<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/ftp/pub/<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/ftp/pub/win32/<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/ftp/pub/linux/<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/home/documents

Still, it comes down to the applicable minimal attributes needed to build a filename to properly sort files automatically.

It's also lead to all my dates being yyyymmdd hhmmss often used for versioning files I'm working on or dating a files generated regularily at time intervals.



Posted by: Administrator on March 03, 2007 02:16 PM
"It's also lead to all my dates being yyyymmdd hhmmss often used for versioning files I'm working on or dating a files generated regularily at time intervals."


Can't say I am as consistent on this as I'd like (some lists etc. in particular I update frequently, and it is the current state that matters, don't want to have it attached to a particular date), but why anyone uses a date format other than this -- assuming they're not working with historical data or science-fiction universes where some other calendar matters -- is beyond me.

Not for music, but for many things I want all my filenames to start with at least yyyymmdd (rarely down to the minute), so I can look at it and instantly know the creation date.



emacs to the rescue...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 05, 2007 10:54 PM
As usual, people who live inside emacs neither have to install a kludgy GUI nor write for;mv;sed one-liners to do the same - on whatever machine they like:

1) C-x d to start dired

2) choose a directory

3) M-x wdired-change-to-wdired-mode

4) edit dired buffer just as if it was a normal one

5) C-c C-c to save your changes

The wdired mode is truly wonderful and underappreciated. Notice that you have all capabilities the editor gives you: search and replace, regexp, macros, etc..all this while editing file names! And of course the directory listing itself can be customized using dired beforehand.

Isn't that great?<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)


Another good tool for file re-naming: Thunar

Posted by: Administrator on March 03, 2007 01:24 AM
Mass-renaming (esp. music files which end up being named in a way that makes players mess up their order) can be really handy.

While this (Matamorphose) looks like a decent program and more powerful than I need, I've been very happy modifying filenames of late with the file manager called Thunar (part of the XFCE desktop environment project, but I usually use it under Gnome). The Thunar project's rather nice website: <a href="" title=""></a>

To use Thunar's Bulk Renamer, open a folder with Thunar, select all, choose "rename" by means of a right click on any file. The dialog box that opens up lets you insert, delete or modify text in patterns on every file, or include number sequences (so first file starts with 01, next file with 02, etc.). You can also use find-and-replace, so every embarrassing and display-eating instance of the full name "Britney Jean Spears" can be trimmed to the more discrete "bspears." And of course you can use the renamer on a smaller number of files as well -- just control click files you want to rename, and then choose the Rename option.

Note: though it's obvious been designed with some love, not the evident contempt of users that many computer programs seem to reflect, I don't find Thunar';s renaming interface completely intuitive -- in particular, the wording describing the effect of each option seems skewed somehow, gives me in some instances precisely the opposite result from what I expect. But it's much harder to complain, considering that the resulting changes are a) not committed until you specifically ask them to be and b) previewed in real time, so you can if necessary fool around with the parameters until you have exactly what you want, and then BAM! lock in the results. The learning curve is quite shallow!

I don't think Thunar's renaming capability can be used recursively, though -- which is too bad, but not an unreasonable limitation in a GUI file manager.

And Thunar is a nice file manager in general, actually, though I still use Nautilus most of the time. Very conveniently, since the renamer is my favorite part of the Thunar toolbox, once Thunar's installed, you can actually use Nautilus as the default file manager, but open a folder with Thunar by using a right click -- one of the options that right click brings up is the oddly phrased "Open folder with 'Open folder with Thunar.'" (Part of the exciting new film, "When Automated Phrase Joinder Fails!")




M&eacute;tamorphose your file names en masse

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on August 02, 2007 02:58 AM
Great app! Did what I needed in less than 10 minutes, including the install on Ubuntu. Yeah, I could learn to write a bash or perl script (im working on it) but i this proggy performed a mass rename in minutes after i spent a few minutes to checking out the interface.


Re: M&eacute;tamorphose your file names en masse

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on August 10, 2007 05:51 AM
10 minutes, ey? So, how'd you get the dependcies so quick, Speed Racer?


Re(1): M&eacute;tamorphose your file names en masse

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on October 08, 2007 12:21 AM
If you visit, you can download a deb file - that tends to save a bit of time.


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