Rename a file without going nuts

F2 keyI’ve always appreciated the ability to open a list of files in Explorer (that is, just a regular window, or even on the desktop itself), single click on a file name, wait a sec, and then single click again to be able to quickly and easily rename a file. I think I discovered this by accident, early in my GUI experiences with PCs, which made me feel quite clever!

However, I’ve found that my mouse skills are not always up to the job, or more precisely, that I’m not always patient enough to wait that extra beat between selecting the file the first time, and the clicking the second time to edit the file name. If I click the second time too fast, what happens? Why, my oh-so-helpful computer assumes I was double clicking (albeit a bit slower that usual), and happily opens the file for me. Noooo! I didn’t want to open it, I wanted to rename it!  (Could I just use “Save as” in the application it opened in, and give it the new file name? Sure, but then I’ll have two copies of the file, and now I have to go back and delete the one with the old name. Boo.)

In the course of teaching some of our Excel workshops, I learned that the function key F2 can be used after selecting a cell to enable editing. Since you can also use the click-once-pause-click-once-more to edit the contents of the cell, I wondered if that would work for renaming a file. Turns out, it does!

Screen snap of file selected showing that the file name can now be edited.Now, bear in mind that what happens when you press the magical F2 after selecting a file name is that the name is highlighted – so if you start typing, whatever was there will simply be replaced (minus the file extension, which remains unhighlighted, so you’re less likely to change it accidentally). This can be handy if you really do need a completely different name for your file, but annoying if you just wanted to tweak the name a bit (say, add _OLD to the end of it, or something, for archiving purposes). If you are looking to just adjust the current name, you can use your right arrow key (or the down one) to jump to the end of the file name. You can also just click somewhere in the middle of the file name, wherever you need to edit – and your computer will know not to interpret that click as a double-click-to-open procedure. In fact, if you do double-click at that point, it will be like double-clicking text – the nearest word-like entity will be highlighted instead. Helpful!

By the way, curious how you do the same thing but on a Mac? No F2 even needed – just click the file once, and then press Return (Mac’s equivalent to Enter), and edit away!

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