Shapefile comes with a bunch of friends (often referred to as sidecar files) that all need to have the same basename. While software like QGIS deals with that very well I sometimes have the need to script this in a shell script / like to do this from the terminal without starting a GUI tool.

As @Vince mentioned in the comment, simply renaming is not a good idea "The safest way to rename a shapefile is to use a shapefile-aware utility."

Given a set of shapefile:

  • oldname.shp
  • oldname.shx
  • oldname.cpg
  • oldname.dbf
  • oldname.prj

How can a shapefile be renamed via terminal (bash) only?

  • 1
    I am worried about all those "Close" votes, probably motivated by this being mostly bash. Before clicking this "Close" button. I think it's a common problem and will help some people googling for "rename shapefile terminal". In my experience, this is a very shapefile (gis) specific problem. Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 11:54
  • 2
    The safest way to rename a shapefile is to use a shapefile-aware utility. Incomplete script execution could corrupt the dataset.
    – Vince
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 18:17
  • @Vince if you know such a utility that works in a terminal, then your answer is more than welcome. My own answer with the "brute force" attack certainly has its caveats. Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 20:27
  • 3
    I have voted to reopen this as manipulating shapefiles is a very common GIS practice.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 17:10

3 Answers 3


Expanding from this answer https://stackoverflow.com/questions/9558986/what-does-the-curly-brace-syntax-var-mean/9559024#9559024 it is possible to do

for f in oldname.*; do 
  mv  -- "$f" "newname${f#oldname}"
  • 1
    I hope it's ok to use gis.se as a personal notepad for howto's of broader interest Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 9:27

If you have rename installed on you system, you can also use:

rename oldname newname oldname.*

or if you prefer a regex:

rename 's/oldname/newname/g' oldname.*

If you don't have rename, you can install it with your package manager, e.g. apt:

sudo apt install rename

Here is my little tool to "move shapes" coded in Perl. If more "sidecar files" show up, append them to the line.

# Shape file extention candidates + so called side car files

my @ext = qw(shp shx dbf prj sbn sbx fbn fbx atx ixs mxs cpg);

May be it is a little bit noisy in terms of output.

#!/usr/bin/env perl
# ------------------------------------------------------------
# shpmv -- Tool to rename ESRI Shape files
# ------------------------------------------------------------
# Copyright (C) 2016 Alexander Weidauer
# Contact: [email protected]
# This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
# it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
# the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
# any later version.
# This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
# but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
# GNU General Public License for more details.
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
# along with this program.  If not, see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.
# ------------------------------------------------------------
use strict;
use File::Copy qw(move);
use File::Basename;
use File::Spec;

# Read command line parameter $1 $2 and $3
my $src  = shift; # Source location
my $dst  = shift; # Destination
my $case = shift; # Extention handling upper or lower case

# Parameter handling and help function
if ( ($src eq '-h') or ($src eq '--help') ) {
    print "Move ESRI Shape files\n\n";
    print "Usage:     $0 source-file destination [-l|-u]\n";
    print "Parameter:\n";
    print "  source-file -- Shapefile for the ensemble to move from.\n";
    print "  destination -- Shapefile destination without extension to move to.\n\n";
    print "Optional:\n";
    print "  -l extention lower case\n";
    print "  -u extention upper case\n\n";
    print "Example:   $0 ~/geodata/long_name.shp ~/data/short_name\n";
    exit 0;

# Shape file extention candidates + so called side car files
my @ext = qw(shp shx dbf prj sbn sbx fbn fbx atx ixs mxs cpg);

# Check parameter correctness and availability
die "Missing source Shapefile\n" if ! $src;
die "Missing destination name\n"   if ! $dst;

 # Lower case is the default switch
$case //= '-l';

# Make path an file management absolute
$src = File::Spec->rel2abs($src);
$dst = File::Spec->rel2abs($dst);

# Strip the extention from the input and
# check source and destination path
my ($sname, $spath, $suffix) = fileparse($src, '\.[^\.]*');
$src = File::Spec->catfile($spath,$sname);
die "Source '$spath' path does not exist!\n" if ! (-d $spath);

if ( ($dst =~ /\.shp$/) or ($dst =~ /\.SHP$/) ) {
   print "WARNING remove extention from destiantion '$dst'\n";
   $dst =~ s/\.shp$//;
   $dst =~ s/\.SHP$//;

my ($dname, $dpath, $duffix) = fileparse($dst, '\.[^\.]*');
die "Destination path '$dpath' does not exist\n"
    if not -d $dpath;

print "Move ESRI shape files\n";
print "    from: $src\n";
print "      to: $dst\n";

# Check files to move
my @suffix=();
for my $ix (0..$#ext) {
    my $lext  = $ext[$ix];
    my $uext  = uc($lext);
    my $lname = $src.'.'.$lext;
    my $uname = $src.'.'.$uext;
    my $done  = 0;
    print "  ..test $sname(".$lext."|".$uext.")";
    if (-r $lname) {
        push (@suffix, $lext) if (-e $lname);
        $done = 1;
    if (-r $uname) {
        push (@suffix, $uext) if (-e $uname);
        $done = 1;
    if  (! $done) {
        print " N/A\n";
        die "Cannot read one of the essential shape ".
            "files with extension $lext|$uext\n" if $ix < 3;
    } else {
        print " OK\n" if $done;

# Proceed move operation
for my $sext (@suffix) {
    my $text = $sext;
    $text = lc($text) if $case eq '-l';
    $text = uc($text) if $case eq '-u';
    my $sfile = $src.".".$sext;
    my $tfile = $dst.".".$text;
    print "  ..move from: $sfile\n";
    print "           to: $tfile";
    move($sfile, $tfile) or die "\nCannot move file $sfile!\n";
    print " OK\n";
print ".READY\n";

# --- EOF ----------------------------------------------------
  • Ha, all I want now is a package that I can apt-get or dnf install :-) Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 20:28
  • Hm, I could pack this with CPAN further ..DEBIAN CPAN.. conform stuff etc. ... But it is IMO some kind of day hack to put into $HOME/bin/shpmv ? And if you want to pack this feel free. it is only some lines of day work code :-)
    – huckfinn
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 22:17
  • I guess if it's me, it's gonna be faster to re-write this in python and make it available via pip install shpmv but up to now I can't think of a situation where the answer by @suricactus wouldn't have had the best bang for the buck. Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 23:16
  • Yes feel free, re-python and pip it. Its only some code with a help advise hot to use the tool.
    – huckfinn
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 6:25
  • Will do when I run into a limitation with the other approaches Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 9:03

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