Feb 10

Combining pdf documents on an Apple computer is easy. Leopard,  Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion (the latest versions of Macintosh OSX) all have the ability to merge two different pdf documents together and even move pdf pages within a pdf file. There are lots of websites offering to sell software to do it, but you don’t need a third party program to do it – it’s built right in to OS X for free. Things have changed to make it a little easier with Mountain Lion so I’ve made a new post on merging two pdfs in Mountain Lion here, but for OSX prior to Mountain Lion, just follow the instructions below!

To join two or more pdf files together using Preview (the standard pdf viewer in OS X) simply open the pdf file in preview, open the thumbnail view (Shift-⌘-D), and then drag a second pdf ON TOP OF an existing page  thumbnail. (It must be on top of the thumbnail, see the pictures below). The two documents will merge into one.  Then save the new combined file. Read on for step-by-step instructions.

SUMMARY: To combine two separate PDF files into one document you need to drag the new pdf ON TOP OF an existing  thumbnail until the double grey border appears – then it will merge the two pdfs together.  (You can then save the new merged pdf.) If you drag it into the sidebar but not on top of an existing page the new file will be added as an external link – not merged into the original pdf document. See these two pictures below to visualise the difference.

WRONG WAY: Drag the new pdf file under the existing one and they are not merged - it will only insert a thumbnail that links to the second pdf. (Single grey border)

RIGHT WAY: Drag the new pdf file on top of the existing one and they will merge into one – creating one pdf document out of the two. (Notice the double grey border.)





Here’s how to do it step by step.

1. Firstly, open one of the pdf files in Preview. Preview is the default application that a pdf will open into so if you just double click on the pdf file it will open in Preview.


2. Now go to the menu at the top of the screen called ‘View’ and click on ‘Sidebar’ (or  ‘Show Sidebar’ if you have Snow Leopard). Alternatively, press Shift-Command-D to show the thumbnails. This will make a sidebar appear on the right side of the window with thumbnails of all the pdf pages in it. (See these pictures below).


In Leopard select ‘Sidebar’

In Snow Leopard and newer versions of Preview select ‘Sidebar’ then ‘Show Sidebar’

3. You can now drag the second pdf file (from a folder or from your desktop) or even a page from within the second pdf file (from thumbnail view)  into this sidebar window, and it will be added to your pdf document as an additional page.


Drag the new pdf from the desktop onto an existing thumbnail.

To merge the two files you need to drag the new pdf ON TOP OF an existing  thumbnail. (You will get a double grey border. See these two pictures below.

Drag the new pdf file under the existing one and it will open but not merge – no grey double border.

Drag the new pdf file on top of the existing one and it will merge. Notice the grey double border to show you the files will merge.

In older versions of Preview like Leopard,you get a red line to show you it will not be merged.

With Snow Leopard you get a blue bar.

In Lion no lines appear.

In all cases you do get the  little grey box when you are merging and the same principle applies – drag it on top of the existing thumbnail to merge the two documents.

You can now save it – use ‘save as’ to save a new document with the merged fles, or you can use use ‘save’ to save over the existing document, adding the new pages to it.




An alternate way if you have lots of pdfs to merge.

Here’s an alternate way suggested in the comments below. It’s much faster if you have multiple files to merge.

Mac OS X Lion 

From “Finder”, select and click all the pdf’s you want to assemble.
This will open them all at once in “Preview”.

Pick the “File” dropdown menu .
Pick the “Print” dropdown menu.

In the lower left hand corner, click the arrow next to “PDF”.

Click “Save to PDF”.

This will save all the separate pdf files into one pdf document.



Here are some more Macintosh How To articles to do with pdf documents:

Click here for how to reduce the file size of a pdf file.

Click here for how to edit a pdf document.

Click here to for how to make a pdf booklet.

520 Responses to “How to merge pdf files in OSX”

  1. jill4prez says:

    When I put the pdf file over the other file nothing happens. Any suggestions about how to troubleshoot this process?

  2. Larry B says:

    May have missed something in this long list of comments. However, I’m not needing to drag the pdf on top of existing pages – I’m simply dragging the added pdf from Finder to the sidebar (Preview 4.2) – it shows a red line, drops the pdf in including multiple pages. I do a Save As and it’s fine. Opens in Adobe Reader just fine. Can also delete pages and move them around. I don’t have page number issues so that makes it easier.

  3. JC says:

    I had the same problem with dragging sidebar thumbnails to another sidebar and nothing happening. What I discovered to overcome this was to:

    1. Have all your PDF’s you want to combine in one folder
    2. Highlighting all those PDFs and open them at the same time with Preview.
    2. Now you have all the documents in a single sidebar but each one as a separate PDF file.
    4. To combine them, drag them all onto a single document and into the desired order.
    5. ‘Save As’ to save the document you dragged them all into a single PDF file.

    • Nicole says:

      That didn’t work. I have a yearbook to post as a PDF and it’s saving the last PDF clicked as the file under SAVE AS.

    • Nicole says:

      I have to apologize; I was pretty frustrated. The yearbook is due in 2 hours!

      But I realized I hadn’t dragged and it was treating all my individual PDFs as one file; so when I would “save as” it would save the one that was clicked.

      But when I redragged or placed on top of it, you have to look at the top to see that PREVIEW will start to say 2 out of 2 or 5 out 5 and see that the application is “adding the pages”. Thanks again1

    • Elsa says:

      This is the answer i was looking for…. Thank you so much!

    • mrebbel says:

      UHG…its not working. The documents won’t combine. When I try to drag them on top of one another in the side bar they don’t combine.

  4. Hushero says:

    Thank you very much, you saved my day :-)

  5. jebowers87 says:

    Just a note to everyone, I tried this trick and was running into problems merging…While I was able to merge the PDF’s, I noticed that a few field vaules in one page were overwriting their values to the next page. I fixed this by printing the original pdf file (with editable fields) to just a static document (no editing possible without special software). After that, I was able to merge with no problem. If someone has already explained this, sorry for stepping on toes…

    Just my 2 cents…


  6. Mary says:

    if it’s not working, it’s because what you are trying to merge is not saved as a pdf, but instead as something like jpg. resave each of the files first as a pdf & it should work with the above steps.

    • Emmanuel says:

      Thanks! I saved mine in jpg and wasn’t able to figure out what i was doing wrong. Thanks! I finally got it together after reading you post. Remain blessed.

  7. Evan says:

    On top of? Really? All the time I wasted dragging the second file UNDER the first file. Ahhhhh!
    Thanks for tanking the time to write this page.


  8. Chris says:

    What a life saver! I am trying to get rid of paper and my Kodak All in one only scans one page at a time. This

  9. Jeanine says:

    awesome help!! Thank you

  10. Brian says:

    Thank you very much for this effort!

  11. imge says:

    Hi, I did merge my pdf files correctly and I’m not a leopard or lion user, just mac osx… Just select all the files you want to merge, right click and open with preview. While in preview, able sidebar and go and click on the little arrow that appears on every pdf file (do the same for all files, just click on em, you will see all the pages).
    Finally select all (cmmd+a), click file, click “save all” And voila! it worked for me, hope it’ll work for you too.

  12. Rebecca says:

    Thank you very much! This was extremely helpful!! So nice to have a Mac and friendly people like you who can show me how easy it is to use! :)

  13. Colin says:

    Yup, this article was a life saver for me too. Thank you. It’s appreciated.

  14. Tracy says:

    It worked but I had to do a little twist. I’m using Snow Leopard with my MacBook but for some reason I could only drag and drop one page onto another page, any more than that and it didn’t want to combine them. So to combine 6 pages into one I highlighted all six pages and then dragged these onto the first page. For some reason it worked and all six pages were combined into one document. I then saved it under a different name and closed everything and opened that new document and yup all six pages are there. This is a lifesaver as I have to apply for a job online that requires my unofficial transcripts as a single file but like others my scanner will only scan one page at a time and only creates .jpg files. So I used Preview to change the .jpg to .pdf and then used the directions above to combine them together. Thanks.

  15. james says:

    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH, you just made my life one bit easier :)

  16. kathy says:

    Does anyone know how to either delete one or more pages in a pdf document or at least black/white out a page? I’m using a mac. Thanks!!

    • Gordon says:

      To delete a page in a PDF in Preview, display the document sidebar with the thumbnails, click the page to be deleted to select it, hit the DELETE key. Voila!

  17. Susan Sims says:

    For those who need more manipulation on PDF documents: create PDF from multiple documents, edit text and images, markup and review, fill interactive forms, there’s a great app called PDF Studio.

  18. david says:

    Wish someone would have told me this, so i’ll share . . .

    the sidebar has to have each PDF OPEN, then highlight one (will have the yellow lines over all pages), then drag and drop onto second PDF.

    on macbook

  19. Heidi says:

    Thank you so much for this!! You saved me so much time!

  20. Jackie says:

    Ok I am a total Windows user and I have trouble using Macs. I figured this out though. The original instructions are correct, but the key is placing the thumbnail document-you-want-to-add OVER TOP of the original pdf in the sidebar. If you place it directly over top, you get the gray double box around it and it makes like a book and you can save the whole thing. I had to make a 2 page scanned transcript into one pdf and this worked.

    • AppleJuicer says:

      Mac OS X Lion 10.7.4
      From “Finder”, select the pdf’s you want to assemble in one document (pdf).
      This will open “Preview”.
      Pick the “File” dropdown.
      Pick the “Printer” option. In the lower left hand corner,
      Pick the drop down arrow next to “PDF”.
      Pick “Save to PDF”.
      Voila! Eureka! Stop the Madness!

      • Aud says:

        OMG, thank you so much, AppleJuicer. All this drag on top of nonsense was starting to drive me insane, because it just wouldn’t take it….this makes so much more sense, and WORKS, the first time!

      • taz says:

        This is the best method! Thanks!

  21. Sally says:

    Applejuicer you are a superstar thank you, I have wasted most of the day on this!

  22. Barbara says:

    how do you combine jpg files into one document? I tried with the combined pdf.jpg ending but it wouldn’t work

    • Wayne says:

      You can’t combine jogs, a jpg only has one picture pin it.
      You could convert the jpg into a pdf, (For File Menu choose Print, then from PDF drop down choose Save to PDF) then merge the PDF’s.

  23. Bernie says:

    This is what I found out with OSX Lion 10.7.4.
    Open PDF in Preview
    Open thumbnail pane
    Drag other PDFs into thumbnail pane
    Put them in what ever order you require
    Highlight all PDF thumbnails
    Drag them to desktop
    Instant combined PDF document!

  24. SharkTank says:

    For those of you creating PDFs out of Photoshop or Illustrator and then following these procedures, it may not work right away, since the files coming out of both of these apps aren’t really PDF’s it seems (’cause then you wouldn’t need acrobat would you!). So follow instructions below, but before merging the files together save them out of Preview individually and “save as” PDF. I know it’s seems stupid to have to resave them as what they should already be, but Adobe has never been known for cross application commonalities. (hence Bridge – I thought we had a file system already?)
    Then take those new files, open the first one in preview, open the side bar, and then drag and drop the next file you want to add on top of the thumbnail of the first one that appears in the side bar. That first thumbnail will get a looped binder graphic added to it’s left side (it’s now a book!) and a curved arrow indicating that you could open it and turn pages. The page you added will also appear as a second thumbnail below the first “cover” page. For docs where you want many pages, just keep dragging and dropping the next page you want to add onto the last thumbnail that appears in the side bar (not the cover page). A line will appear indicating whether the new page will appear before or after the current thumbnail (dropping on the top half of the thumbnail will put the new page before and dropping on bottom half will put it after). You can always rearrange them when you are done. One thing to note is that all page numbers may say “1″. Don’t worry, once it’s all saved they will be updated. Then when done, click on the first thumbnail and choose file/saveas and save as a new doc name in PDF format. Open that new doc in preview to check that the order is correct and that the page numbering “took”. Happy non-Acrobatting.

  25. Ian says:

    Is it possible to merge the pdf, as well as add the table of contents. I have 8 large PDF files I am trying to merge, however each file (approx 750 pages each) has a large Table of Contents. When I merge, the table of contents is not included.

  26. Whitney says:

    After a couple frustrating minutes I realized that my scanner scans the files in as TIFF files! Argh! A simple re-Save As a PDF document and I was home free with my new merged PDF files. SOOOO happy I didnt have to buy Acrobat!! Yay! Thanks!!

  27. MONI for San Francisco says:

    Man-O-Man, I love you!!! Thank you! Simply, short and sweet!

  28. doc ronie says:

    thanks for the big help…i managed to combine 5 separate pdf files into one pdf file:)

  29. Debi Lu says:

    awesome! I didn’t have to scan in again to double side with doc of various types! I didn’t know it was possible or so easy, glad I did a search and found your article.

  30. Sam McCready says:

    How do you merge pdfs on the new operating system mountain lion?

  31. Peter Hartnall says:

    This advice was EXACTLY what I wanted. Wonderful. Worked like a dream

  32. Proma says:

    THANK YOU! This was so helpful — unsuccessfully tried to figure this out on Word, then read this and did it in 2 minutes.

  33. Pat says:

    These directions were JUST what I was looking for. Super directions and screen hots! Took me less than a minute to accomplish my task. Thank you for taking the time to post these directions. -Pat

  34. Cathy says:

    SOOOO GREAT!! Thanks for posting this gem! I do love how much is built in to every OS X version.

  35. Lucy says:

    Thanks so much, works perfectly – trying to combine permission slips for school to save on ink/paper!

  36. AB says:

    THANK YOU! This tutorial saved me today! I am finally submitting my final thesis draft online, and I was so frustrated.
    Great find!

  37. Melissa says:

    Hi there, I love all this, but here is my issue. I”m cutting sections from 2 different PDF’s and making a new PDF. I’m trying to put these two new sections on one piece of paper. do we know how to do this? When I combine the new edited down sections together it’s 1 PDF but 2 pages and I want it on 1 page. Help!!!

  38. kathie says:

    after I’ve merged the two pdf’s, is there a quick way to delete pages in the new merged doc? some of them will be redundant.

  39. GRATEFUL says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! The best tutorial i have ever found on how to do something. Do you have others?

  40. Rita says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Worked like a charm =)

    Did the same with my jpeg files after converting them to PDFs. Also, it helps to drop them over the pdf and then place them in the grey area but under the initial page, so the 1st is on top and 2nd and 3rd follow right under-this way they are already in the correct order.

  41. Narayanj says:

    Best How to save a lot of effort and best of all got to use OSX functions for which Windows Dudes pay money to Microsoft and Adobe!!

  42. BenDee says:

    Thank You so much. It was very helpful.

  43. Teri says:

    This was very helpful in a pinch. Thank you!

  44. Ravindra says:

    I liked it. It was very helpful. Saved me from downloading another software to merge my PDF files
    Thank you so much

  45. Samaneh says:

    Thank you! for the information! very helpful.

    brilliant ideas of steve job’s team! well done apple!

  46. Mauro says:

    Thank you very much! Very useful tip. Worked perfectly.

  47. mrebbel says:

    I have tried all of these and nothing works. I can’t file print / PDF: the Save to PDF is greyed out. I can’t drag them on top of each other in the side bar. When I try they just keep bumping below or above the file. I’ve tried organizing them all in the side bar, selecting all of them and dragging them to the desktop…nothing happens. GRRRR…any other suggestions?

    I am using Preview 6.0.1 and OSX 10.8.2 Mountain lion leopard (Actually I could do this before I was forced to upgrade to mountain lion.) I’ve checked for new updates and there are none available.

  48. Heather says:

    Thank you so very much! We are super grateful for your extremely clear and concise instructions!!

  49. Kyle King says:

    For Mountain Lion, I combined my documents by clicking on the “VIEW ICON” in the top left corner and selecting “THUMBNAIL”.

    From this view, the instructions are the same if you click and drag the thumbnail onto the list to merge multiple PDF’s.

    • Nando Rossi says:

      Actually, it does not. Mountain Lion has apparently removed this entire functionality. When you drag images on top of one another, it basically stacks them up on the sidebar, and when you export, you get separate files as well.

      • Andrew says:

        Nando, I’m not sure what you’re doing, but when I do what Kyle described, I get a PDF of the merged pages.

        For safety’s sake, I then print, and select the PDF drop down box, and save as a PDF and give it a new name.

      • Douglas Freer says:

        I have the same problem with Mountain Lion and Preview 6. Thumbnails wont let you drag and drop and there is no sidebar button. Under View > Sidebar the options are drained out.

  50. Drag ON TOP, ohhhhh… Thanks!!!

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