file1.txt file100.txt file2.txt … is hardly ordered and regular. So pattern‑match‑pad‑replace.


for name in *.txt; do
    mv "${name}" \

Numbered filenames without padding

Filenames with numbers in them are not uncommon. But sorting them always has an unexpected conclusion.


This is because sorting is an operation based on individual character codes rather than words or numbers which are both strings of characters (or digits).

Pad it

The well‑known solution is to rename the files such that the numbers are all of the same length. So if the numbers go from 1 to 100, all the numbers have to be three digits long


But that’s a slow process, so obviously one has to do it faster

Pad it programmatically

NB These are instructions for zsh and most likely will not work in other shells

Hence the expanded parameter


that is broken down.



Overall, it is a substituition. ${name} is the parameter (assuming name holds a filename). zsh will look for the first occurence of pattern in name and replace it with the value of replacement.

$ name='John Doe'
$ echo "${name/o/u}"
Juhn Doe
$ echo "${name/oe/onne}"
John Donne

number pattern

The search pattern (#b)(<->) has two parts. Let’s first look at the <->.

<n-m> is a glob pattern in zsh to indicate a range of numbers— not digit characters. This is useful because the more common [0-9] pattern only matches one digit. But numbers in filenames are longer.

The pattern <-> is shorthand to mean any number.

$ name='May 1968'
$ echo "${name/<->/XXXX}"

Once the shell option extendedglob is enabled in zsh, the other part (#b) enables back-referencing for all subsequent patterns enclosed in parantheses. Back-referencing stores the matched pattern in a variable called match.

Hence (#b)(<->) finds a number and then stores it in a variable called match.

padded replacement

The ${(l:3::0:)match} which is used as the replacement in the main expansion is essentially ${match}—the matched number from earlier—with a qualifier enclosed in parentheses.

The (l:3::0:) qualifier to a parameter pads the paramater to 3 characters on the left with the character 0.

(l:3:) would truncate or pad a parameter as needed to make it three characters long. By default, padding is done using blank spaces, but in ::0 we specify to use zeros.


Bringing it all together, we have ${name/(#b)(<->)/${(l:3::0:)name}} in a for-loop