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CLI Magic: Convert file names to a different encoding with convmv

Recent versions of most Linux distributions support non-English languages out of the box by using the Unicode standard. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I was able to read and write in Greek -- my native language -- on a fresh Ubuntu Edgy Eft installation without any manual intervention. Unfortunately, my happiness lasted only until I tried to open files with Greek file names. Instead of Greek characters I saw garbage. I've been using the 8-bit ISO 8859-7 encoding for Greek file names, and since it worked well I was too lazy to convert my systems to Unicode. Manually renaming hundreds of files in order to convert them to Unicode was not an option; I needed some kind of automation. Convmv is the right tool for that job.

Convmv is a Perl program that converts file names and directories between different character encodings. It converts only the file names, not the content of the files, and can also convert a whole filesystem, including symlinks. Most Linux distributions offer packages for convmv, and you can also find it in the FreeBSD ports and NetBSD pkgsrc. Manual installation is fairly easy since the program depends only on Perl, which is installed by default on virtually all Linux distributions and BSD variants; running make install will install the program in /usr/local/bin and its man page in /usr/local/share/man/man1.

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