How To: Combine PDFs with Preview, Automator
Say you have a pile of individual PDFs and it would be convenient if they were all one file. Here are two methods to combine PDFs using just the software Apple included in your Mac’s default installation. Choice, free tools — what’s not to like? Let’s get started.
First up, if you just need to combine a few files, Preview can get the job done.
One at a time, open the PDF documents that you want to combine in Preview and then…
1. Show the sidebar in each Preview window (View > Sidebar > Show Sidebar).
— Make sure you are using Thumbail view (View > Sidebar > Thumbnails)
2. To combine two files, drag the thumbnail of one PDF document (source) over of the thumbnail of the other PDF document (destination) and release the mouse or trackpad button when the pointer shows a green circle with a plus symbol in it. This will copy all pages from the source PDF and add them to the end of the destination PDF.
3. Once you have assembled the document, you can reorder the pages/thumbnails simply by clicking and dragging them into the correct order.
4. Got it all together in the correct order? To complete the process and create the finished document, from the File menu, select Export (OS X 10.6.8 and earlier use Save As) to output a new PDF document containing all of the combined pages.
— Best practice: When exporting/saving, give your combined file a new name so that you don’t overwrite any of the originals (i.e. should anything go wrong).
Using Preview to combine multiple PDFs into a single document works fine when working with just a few files. More than that and it’s very, very easy to make a mess of things.
Batch Combine PDFs with Automator
When you need to combine six, eight, 10 or more PDFs into a single document, there is a better way. First off, move the PDF files you want to combine into a single folder and then rename the files so that they line up in the order (i.e. file 1, file 2, etc.) you want them to appear in the combined PDF.
Then you will need to open Apple’s powerful and under appreciated Automator app (~/Applications)…
1. Select Workflow and click Choose
2. In the resulting window, click the Actions tab (image above), select Library and, from the middle pane, drag the following actions into blank Workflow pane:
— Get Selected Finder Items
— Combine PDF Pages
— View Results
3. Go to the Finder and select/highlight all of the PDF files you want to combine
4. Go back to Automator and click Run
In a few moments, or minutes if you’re combining many files, Automator will complete the task and dump your freshly minted combined PDF file into a private folder deep within OS X.
Fear not — here’s how to locate it. In your Workflow, scroll down to View Results and click to highlight the generated thumbnail. Next, right-click (two-finger tap) the thumbnail and, from the contextual menu that pops up, select “Show in Finder.”
And, there it is — copy and paste it into a more accessible Finder window and, just for giggles, give it a more meaningful name.
Do you have a tip or trick to make the above combine PDFs methods better? How about a third-party app suggestion? Share in the comments below…