multi – bulk file rename/copy utility using Perl regexps
multi [ -n | -q ] [ -r ] cmd perlfragment file [file...] multi [ -n | -q ] [ -r ] - cmd cmd - perlfragment file [file...]
multi is a utility which allows you to invoke a command (typically, but not always,
cp) on a lot of files in a complicated way.
The command-line arguments to
multi include a command, a set of filenames, and a fragment of Perl. For each of the filenames,
multi will use the fragment of Perl to transform the filename into a new filename, and will then invoke the given command, passing the old and new filenames as arguments.
multi is most often useful as a bulk rename or copy utility, by passing
cp as the command. However, it can have more complex uses as well; see the examples below.
mv), you can simply supply that word on the command line.
A multiple-word command (such as
ln -s or
svn mv) can be used if you place it between two arguments containing only minus signs.
$_, and the altered file name should be passed out in
$_as well. (Therefore, the simplest kind of Perl fragment you could use is a single
All the Perl variable names used internally by
multi itself begin with two underscore characters. Therefore, your Perl fragment can safely define its own variables (provided they do not begin with two underscores), without worrying about upsetting the functioning of
multiexpects a list of file names to be transformed. Typically these will be generated by typing one or more wildcard expressions on the shell command line.
multi will print every command it executes on standard output, so that you can see what it has just done (in case it turns out to be wrong!).
Bourne-shell-style quoting is provided, so that copying the output of
multi and pasting it into a shell script or on to a shell command line should work correctly.
-noption and let it run for real.)
By default, the two arguments passed to each invocation of the subcommand are the original filename and the transformed filename, in that order.
The simplest use of
multi is to rename a large number of files. Suppose, for example, you have a lot of text files with
.txt extensions, and you prefer to use
$ multi mv 's/.txt$/.text/' *.txt mv bar.txt bar.text mv baz.txt baz.text mv foo.txt foo.text
If you wanted to copy the files rather than moving them, the command becomes
$ multi cp 's/.txt$/.text/' *.txt cp bar.txt bar.text cp baz.txt baz.text cp foo.txt foo.text
If you wanted to create symbolic links, you now need the command
ln -s, which is composed of two words. So you need to tell
multi where the command words stop and the Perl begins, using two single-dash arguments:
$ multi - ln -s - 's/.txt$/.text/' *.txt ln -s bar.txt bar.text ln -s baz.txt baz.text ln -s foo.txt foo.text
Note that simply quoting the two-word command would not have worked, because
multi would have assumed you genuinely meant a one-word command which had a space in the middle...
$ multi "ln -s" 's/.txt$/.text/' *.txt 'ln -s' bar.txt bar.text 'ln -s' baz.txt baz.text 'ln -s' foo.txt foo.text
... which was almost certainly not what you wanted!
The version control utility Subversion has a subcommand for moving files around within your working directory. However, it does not support wildcards, because
svn mv expects to see precisely two arguments. So if you want to move a whole load of files into a subdirectory, a command such as
svn mv win*.c windows will not work.
multi comes to the rescue:
$ multi - svn mv - 's:^:windows/:' win*.c svn mv winmain.c windows/winmain.c svn mv winprint.c windows/winprint.c svn mv winutils.c windows/winutils.c
Of course, your Perl fragment can be more complex than just a
s/// command. Here's a means of tidying up after extracting an MS-DOS zip file containing all filenames in upper case:
$ multi mv 'y/A-Z/a-z/' *[A-Z]* mv HEADER.H header.h mv MAIN.C main.c mv STUFF.C stuff.c
Here's an example using
-r. Suppose you have lots of
.wav sound files, and you want to encode them all into compressed Ogg Vorbis format. The
oggenc command expects its destination file name as an argument to the
-o parameter, so it's most convenient to put that before the input file name:
$ multi -r - oggenc -o - 's/.wav$/.ogg/' *.wav oggenc -o bar.ogg bar.wav oggenc -o baz.ogg baz.wav oggenc -o foo.ogg foo.wav
Finally, here's a general technique for going beyond the limits of
multi, in the case where you need to do something more ambitious with your two file names. Suppose you want to use one file name as the target of a shell redirection operator, for example.
$ multi - sh -c 'grep foo $0 > $1' - 's/.txt$/.grepped/' *.txt sh -c 'grep foo $0 > $1' bar.txt bar.grepped sh -c 'grep foo $0 > $1' baz.txt baz.grepped sh -c 'grep foo $0 > $1' foo.txt foo.grepped
As each of these commands will be executed, the (explicitly invoked) shell will substitute the two filename arguments in place of
$1, so that the effect will be that of running a set of commands like
grep foo bar.txt > bar.grepped grep foo baz.txt > baz.grepped grep foo foo.txt > foo.grepped
The O'Reilly book ‘Programming Perl’ includes a simple example script which contains the core idea of this program. It takes a single Perl argument followed by filenames, and invokes Perl's internal
multi is a complete rewrite of this basic idea, supplying more options and configurability.
multi is free software, distributed under the MIT licence. Type
multi --licence to see the full licence text.