Use Dropbox automation to automatically rename files you upload

Poorly named files are difficult to find and if your files in Dropbox have names that are meaningless, use a Dropbox automation to rename them automatically. Auto-rename files as you upload them.

A good example of poorly named files are photos. They often have seemingly random filenames and an example is 20220501_124742.jpg . There may be some sort of logic to them, like the date and time they were taken, or the name may be a simple number that is incremented each time. However, the name could be so much better.

Dropbox is a great place to store photos and they can be manually uploaded from the computer or, better still, automatically uploaded by the Dropbox app on your phone. Keeping a copy of photos online is a good way to keep them safe. But those filenames are not the best. It’s not Dropbox’s fault, it is the camera or phone.

When working on a project and collecting files for it, it is a good idea to create a folder on Dropbox to contain them. That can be given a descriptive name, but it is possible to go a step further and name files in the project folder with a keyword to identify them, like Project-X Outline.doc, Project-X photo.jpg, and so on.

Naming files stored in Dropbox has benefits and one is that it makes it easier to find files using search because you can search for a keyword. The problem is that you don’t want to spend time manually renaming dozens of photos uploaded to Dropbox or spend time adding keywords to files in a project.

Instead of manually renaming files, automatically rename them using a Dropbox automation. As files are uploaded to Dropbox and stored online, they are automatically renamed according to your specifications. You can add a keyword, a date, and camera details in the case of photographs.

If you already have files stored in a folder on Dropbox, they can be automatically renamed according to rules you create. The rules can be automatically applied to new files you upload too. Let’s see how to add a Dropbox automation. I will use a free Dropbox account for this example.

1: Add a Dropbox automation

Create a Dropbox folder automation in a web browser
Add an automation in Dropbox

Open a folder in Dropbox. I will use the Camera Uploads folder in the example automation, but it can be any folder you like. It does not have to contain photos and it could contain PDFs and other documents.

Either click the three dots in the menu bar and select Add automation, or click the Organize button and select Add automation from there. The two menu options do the same thing.

2: Choose the automation type

Create a Dropbox folder automation in a web browser
Select the type of Dropbox automation required

Several different types of automation are possible on Dropbox and they perform different actions. All are useful, but I will choose to set a rule that renames files.

3: Automation to rename files

Define the rules for a Dropbox automation
The automation to rename files

A window like this appears and it describes the automation in words: When files are added to Camera Uploads… Then rename them to… Click Add naming rule to continue.

I am using the Camera Uploads folder, but any folder can be used. The rule is applied when files are added to the folder, but there is an option to also apply it to files already in the folder. Tick Apply to current files if you want to rename files already uploaded.

4: Add a rule to the Dropbox automation

Define the rules for a Dropbox automation
Define a rule for the Dropbox automation

Click Select rule to display the menu and select what you would like to add to the filename of uploaded or renamed files. For example, you could choose to automatically add a keyword to the filename.

5: Add more rules

Add multiple rules to rename files with a Dropbox automation
Use multiple rules in the Dropbox automation

A second or even third piece of information could be added to the filename, for example, the date uploaded, the date a photo was captured or the camera make and more. (Photos contain a lot of information hidden within the file and Dropbox can automatically read it and use it.)

6: Customize the Dropbox automation rule

A Dropbox automation example
Choose a separator for words in filenames

There are a couple of things to point out here and the first is the Filename box under the rules. It does not seem possible to replace the original filename and you can only add to it. Use the four-headed arrow at the right to drag Filename up or down the list. Put it first and the keyword and date uploaded is added to the end of the filename. Put it last and the keyword and date is inserted before the filename.

Two pieces of information are added to the filename, a keyword and a date. Choose whether to separate them with spaces, underscores or dashes.

7: The finished Dropbox automation

A finished Dropbox automation
An example Dropbox automation

This is the finished Dropbox automation and all you need to do now is click Save. From now on, this rule is applied to all files uploaded to this folder and stored online. Everything online is synced to your computer or phone of course.

This is just one example of a Dropbox automation and there are several more. It takes the hard work out of renaming files you upload to your cloud storage and it is a useful organizational feature.

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