Tech Tip: Renaming Files with File Preview

I love learning about family history research, attending as many conferences, genealogy society meetings, and workshops as possible every year, and speaking at a few as well. I love the incredible work and dedication that goes into many speakers’ handouts and class notes, basically giving us almost every word they say on the stage, allowing us to soak in their vast knowledge without the desperate nature of some note-taking efforts spend balancing a notepad or laptop on your lap.

Windows File Explorer - renaming files to organize them.

Unfortunately, many of the digital copies of these handouts come with odd names. RootsTech is notorious for this, bless their purple hearts. The digital files are named by the session number, day of the week of the session, then the speaker and, if we are lucky, a word or three of the title. If a presenter offers the same session multiple days, the class notes are the same, they are just labeled with a T, W, Th, F, or S for the day of week of the session. Same notes, different obscure file names. I delete the duplicates to save space. Some conferences offer digital handouts with the author last name and a squished abbreviation of the topic such as OYRA (Organizing Your Research Area). I have no idea what these things are, and after 10 speakers, or 50 at RootsTech, I’ve forgotten who said what when.

I shouldn’t blame conferences as many of these files are named by the presenters (please do a better job of it). I’m often perplexed by my own digital scans with photoscan873456.jpg or dcn42849567.jpg, or my own strange naming system from the past, Johnson Alex C-WI-GB-1964.jpg (Alex Johnson, cousin in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1964 – yeah, dumb idea).

What we need is an easier way to rename these files quickly and efficiently without spending time opening and closing programs.

Yes, I could do it in a graphics software program, but I’m sorting through all my files to better organize them like a good genealogist should.

What could be simpler than just using the File Preview feature right in your file management program.

Using File Preview in File Manager

Whatever your operating system, you have a native program that helps you dig through your computer’s hard drive, thumb and portable drives, to find and organize your files. Every file manager comes with the ability to preview files.

If the files are photographs, the file manager previews them as part of the View settings for large or extra-large images right in the file list window. If the files are documents, audio files, etc., all you see is the logo thumbnail for the file’s associated program. Not much help.

The Preview in Windows is under View > Preview Pane. Use the Quick Look option for Mac (or hit the spacebar) for a popup preview image.

File organization - using File Preview in File Manager (Explorer) to rename files quickly.

With a glance, you can see the contents of pdf files, images, and documents to help you quickly rename them without opening them in their appropriate programs.

Fast and easy. My favorite flavor.

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