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I like plyr's renaming function rename. I have recently started using dplyr, and was wondering if there is an easy way to rename variables using a function from dplyr, that is as easy to use as to plyr's rename?

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You can use the rename() function from the dplyr package as follows:

df <- rename(df, new_name = old_name)

For example:

library(dplyr)

iris <- rename(iris, sepal_length = Sepal.Length)

head(iris)

  sepal_length Sepal.Width Petal.Length Petal.Width Species

1          5.1         3.5          1.4         0.2  setosa

2          4.9         3.0          1.4         0.2  setosa

3          4.7         3.2          1.3         0.2  setosa

4          4.6         3.1          1.5         0.2  setosa

5          5.0         3.6          1.4         0.2  setosa

6          5.4         3.9          1.7         0.4  setosa

...