Mar 10


Thanks so much. Your explanation is brilliant. Easy to follow. Better than apple support itself. :)

OS X comes with a free application called ‘Preview’ that will open automatically whenever you click on a pdf file. Preview can edit and merge pdf files but the official Apple instructions are not quite right. Here’s how to do it depending on which version of OS X that you have.

Preview app

You can merge PDF files using the built in ‘Preview’ application that comes for free with OSX, you don’t need 3rd party paid software.

The basic concept for merging 2 pdf files is the same for whatever version of OS X you have. You open the first file, view the page thumbnails, then drag the second file into the first file and save the new file.  Exactly how this works varies depending on which version of OS X that you have. Apple have changed the details a few times. Sometimes there’s a green plus sign to indicate the merge. Sometimes there’s a grey border. If you don’t get it right the 2 files will not merge.  You need to read the directions for the exact OS version that you have. (To find out which version of OSX you have just go to the Apple Menu and click ‘about this mac.’)

Please click on the version of OSX that you have to find out how to merge a pdf file:

How to merge PDF files in High Sierra (10.13)  (2018)

How to merge PDF files in El Capitan (10.11) (2015)

How to merge PDF files in Yosemite (10.10) (2014)

How to merge PDF files in Mavericks 10.9 (2013)

How to merge PDF files in Mountain Lion 10.8 (2012)

For all versions of OS X prior to Mountain Lion (10.7 and earlier)  just follow the instructions below.

Here’s how to  join two or more pdf files together using Preview in OS X 10.7 and earlier:

1 Open the pdf file in preview.

2. Open the thumbnail view (Shift-⌘-D)

3. Drag a second pdf ON TOP OF an existing page  thumbnail.

When you drag in step 3 it must drag to on top of the thumbnail, as in over it, not above it.

This is a bit hard to explain, the best way to grasp the concept is to look at the pictures below. Can you notice that the thumbnail on the right has an extra grey border compared to the thumbnail on the left. The grey border indicates that the files are merging.

WRONG WAY: If you drag the new pdf file underneath the existing pdf they are not merged.

RIGHT WAY: Drag the new pdf file overlapping an the existing page and they will merge into one – creating one pdf document out of the two. (Notice the extra grey border compared to the left photo.)




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 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.

Published Date:Last Updated: Dec 2017.

Read on for how to do it step by step.


584 Responses to “How to merge two pdf files in OSX”

  1. Robin Shane says:

    Wow, I’m new to MAC and I’ve been really struggling. Thanks so much for the help. It was easy and fast. YOU ROCK.

  2. ROCKBOY says:

    I have had this issue for some time. Problem Solved with NeoOffice – Freeware for Mac OSX – YAY!

  3. Joy says:

    This was so easy – thanks

  4. Easy says:

    That was very helpful. Thank you.

  5. Greg says:

    This was a great help. Thanks for the post!

  6. Jules says:

    This has been so so helpful, just fantastic. Thank you.

  7. Wonderful! I thought it was impossible and kept sending files to my other computer with Acrobat.

  8. Barbara says:

    I just upgraded to Snow Leopard OS X 10.6.3 tonight. I publish books and I need to send one big PDF document with the whole book saved for the printer. I could not connect the pages with MS Word because some pages are across and some are up and down. So tonight I started saving one whole book. I saved the first document as the book name in PDF. Then I opened the next document and drug each page over to the bottom of the thumbnail column. A blue line appeared where the new page would be placed. If you get it too close to the top of the last document, it will put the new page above the last page. But if you place it toward the bottom, it will place the new page at the bottom. I would add all pages of one document in order, and then save the book document, which would cause all the new numbers to be added as pages at the bottom. Once I goofed and there were two pages in the wrong spot and I just had them highlighted and hit delete, and they were gone! Then I found a page that needed to be at the top, so I put it barely above the first thumbnail on the book document, and it inserted it at the top. I pressed “save” and it became the first page and all the other pages were renumbered. This is a GREAT feature for anyone who publishes books, and probably many other practical uses. I’m so glad I upgraded and I’m happy to have a Mac!!!

  9. MJ says:

    Thanks – life-saver comments, and thanks to Apple for making the Preview do something useful.

  10. Barbara says:

    It is totally amazing. I just finished putting 61 documents of 201 pages into ONE long document! From the original instructions I did not think it would be possible to put so many PDF documents into ONE big document. I’m very thankful because my printer will love this! Snow Leopard is great! (You might be able to do this on Leopard, too, I’m not sure…) Once I got a couple of pages in the wrong order, and it was simple to just move the one to where it would be inserted above the other one rather than below. Then I saved and the numbering was all correct. Happy day!!!

  11. trixie says:

    ok i give up! i just plotted all my pdfs into powerpoint and save it as a PDF lol….

  12. Richard says:

    If you want to combine lots of pdfs, just select all in the side-bar (I use shift-click) then print and save to pdf – gives a single file.

  13. Cotomelon says:

    Thank you EVER so much!!! :)

  14. Leena says:

    Thanks so much for the pointers; this couldn’t be easier :)

  15. Kenny says:

    Thank you so much~
    It really helped me.

  16. Irma says:

    super. this was really helpful. thanks

  17. Daniel says:

    Awesome. Thx 4 the 411.

  18. GKR says:

    amazing! ridiculously easy. thanks for posting.

  19. Bruno says:

    Awesome feature !!

    Very useful thanks a lot !

  20. Sam Brasfield says:

    Will this work in Lion? I can’t get it to work and I just installed Lion…

  21. JC says:

    Thank you so much~
    After quite a bit of searching on how to do this (for free), this was definitely a relief!

  22. Virginia says:

    Thank you SO much! I was looking for a tool to do this on the Mac and you saved me from purchasing an unnecessary tool. Again, thank you for the step-by-step instructions!

  23. Neri says:

    Thanks, proved to be very useful tip!

  24. Karen says:

    how about splitting into separate pdf files?

    • Mark says:

      Just open the multi-page document, Select a page in the sidebar and hit the delete key on your keyboard.
      The page will be deleted from the document.
      Save the document with A NEW NAME.
      Now go back and open the original document again and delete the alternate pages and save it with a new name again, if you want to do that.

  25. craig says:

    Thanks very much, searched for a while and your post did the trick! great!

  26. Thelma says:

    You saved me a $9.99 monthly fee. Your instructions were easy to follow. THANK YOU!

  27. somenath Jalal says:

    @Karen, just in the preview go to file> print selected pages> and you can split it in how many pages as you want.

  28. somenath Jalal says:

    @Karen, just in the preview go to file> print selected pages> and you can split it in how many pages as you want.
    By the way. Dont print in you printer. Save it as pdf file. Understood?

  29. Laura says:

    So glad to have found this. Just want to share this extra bit of info for other boneheads like me. Everytime I doubled clicked on Part 1 of my divided PDF, Adobe Reader would open. To my great frustration I found you can’t do the merge in Reader. The Shift-⌘-D did nothing but take me to my desktop.

    Finally I thought to right-click on my PDF icon and then clicked on “Open With” and found Preview! From then on it worked like a charm.


  30. Polly says:

    What do I do if there are no thumbnails in the sidebar?

    • George says:

      In that case, you give up and get a third party product.
      I found that the only thing that you see in the sidebar is the individual pages of the document you have open. You can collapse it into a single thumbnail, or you can see thumbnails of the individual pages. You CANNOT look at thumbnails of other files, so you CAN’T drag and drop to merge.
      Buy Adobe – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. :(

      • mac says:

        When this happens, I look for another pdf (any will do) where the thumbnail DOES show and open that one in preview. Then I add the pages that didn’t show thumbnails AFTER that one, then delete the first one and save.

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