In the macOS Finder, I can rename a file or directory by pressing RET and the current value becomes the default for the new file name. This helps if I make a small change, such as adding a date at the beginning of the filename.

In Emacs with dired, I can rename with R but I don't have the previous value as the default, so I auto-complete it. This becomes dangerous if I make a mistake in the auto-completion and overwrite another file.

Can Emacs dired rename files incrementally as in the Finder?

1 Answer 1


Pressing R in dired queries the new file name in the minibuffer. There you can access the current file name by pressing the button.

Note that this is a general convention when querying text input from the minibuffer. Pressing the -button gives you the default value(s), pressing the -button gives you the input history elements.

That way multiple default values become possible.

  • 5
    ↓ runs the command next-history-element, so does M-n.
    – xuchunyang
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 13:58
  • 1
    @xuchunyang Yes, for me it is next-line-or-history-element. Nevertheless, what I said is true. Just try (completing-read "Test: " '("first" "second" "third") nil nil nil nil '("DEF")). The arg DEF of completing-read is the list of default values. You get the default value(s) when you press ↓ right after running the command.
    – Tobias
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 14:05
  • It's great to come here looking to learn something, and learn something else in addition to it. Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 21:40

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