Feb 10


Combining pdf documents on an Apple computer is easy. The OSX built in preview application has the ability to merge two different pdf documents together and even move pdf pages within a pdf file.  For all versions of OS X prior to Mountain Lion (that is Leopard,  Snow Leopard, Lion)  just follow the instructions below. Things have changed a little with Mountain Lion so I’ve made a new post on merging two pdfs in Mountain Lion, and there’s another slight change with OSX 10.9 Mavericks.

There are lots of websites offering to sell software to merge PDF files, but you don’t need a third party program to do it – it’s built right in to OS X for free.

OS X has a bilt in free application called ‘Preview’ that opens automatically whenever you click on a pdf file. It turns out that Preview can also edit and merge pdf files.

To join two or more pdf files together using Preview 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, as in over it, not above it, 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: If you drag the new pdf file under the existing one they are not merged – it will only insert a thumbnail link 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 extra 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).

NOTE: In Mavericks (OSX 10.9) you need to go to View:Thumbnails not View:Sidebar. For full Mavericks instructions see here.


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 the picture below.

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 to show they will not be merged.

In Lion no lines appear at all if they are not going to be merged.

But in all cases you get the second grey border  to show they will merge.


You can now save the new merged file – 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.

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 Macintoshhowto 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.

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567 Responses to “How to merge two pdf files in OSX 10.6 – 10.8”

  1. Ima_User says:

    found this on the Mac website.

  2. Richard says:

    NOTE: the dragged file will be inserted after the page that it’s dragged onto; so, if you start with a multipage file, drag the second file to the _last_ page of the first file if you want them appended.

  3. Anna says:

    I have been combining pdfs on my mac for over a year but now it suddenly won’t work. I can open the docs in preview and then drag and drop them into one document, so that it LOOKS like it is working. But when I try to save them it turns out that they are not really combined. Any idea what is going on? Thanks!

    • Barbara says:

      I don’t know if you have resolved your problem by now or not. I noticed when I would first start combining two pdf documents I would sometimes put the second one just a little too low. Then it showed me on the title at the top that it was two documents, not one. So I closed it and chose not to save it. I reopened the first one, and then I made sure I could see the blue line at the bottom of the one page where I wanted to insert the new page. It was numbered page one. I did another page for the same document and it was numbered page two. So I might have page one and two from the first document and page one and two from the second document. When I did “save,” it renumbered it from one to four. If you don’t have Snow Leopard, I would recommend upgrading. It is not really very expensive, and it works great for this process.

  4. VALERIO says:


  5. For those using Tiger on Mac OS X 10.4, this Preview trick won’t work. You can try Batch PDF Merger which will combine PDF files on the mac into one large PDF file. You can arrange the files in any order you desire. Neat little app!

    • gelberaupe says:

      thanks for the tip. you should have mentioned though that if you want to merge MORE THAN TWO files you need to “upgrade”, which costs.

      • GrayMac says:

        I just merged 3 files on Leopard, but I had to merge 2, save it, then re-open and merge the third. Does that work for you?

  6. ah says:

    Thank you. I thought I had to pay $ to adobe for the full Acrobat or take time googling for software. Stupid Apple doesn’t make it more obvious. I was under the impression that Preview was powerless as Acrobat Reader.

  7. Thomas says:

    I have the same problem that Anna has. It always appears to work but too often it doesn’t actually merge the different PDFs. VERY frustrating.

  8. Thomas says:

    Okay … my bad.

    The files I was working with were JPEG files, not PDF files. Both types open in Preview so you need to be sure they are really PDF files before you try to merge them.

  9. Andy says:

    Are you dragging it ON TOP of the previous pdf? That is, when you drag and drop, do you just add the new pdf directly below the old pdf or do you literally “cover up” the old pdf file with your new one? I kept running to this too; just be sure to see the green (+) sign to be sure you’re actually combining the pdfs; if you’re just adding below the original pdf image it’s just adding it to the queue or something.

  10. Carl says:

    With the latest update to 10.6.5 it seems preview has added something like stacks to the thumbnail view in the sidebar. You now have to unstack the PDF so you see the pages individually and drag the PDF you want to merge into the expanded stack. If the stacks aren’t expanded or you don’t drop the new PDF inside the existing stack, they remain separate PDFs in the sidebar.

  11. Rabone says:

    The combination using preview does work, and you can order you documents very easily. However it seems that once this merged pdf is created, the contents of this merged pdf is not searchable by Finder or Spotlight. Any suggestions on how to get the contents searchable?

    • admin says:

      Very interesting, as anyone else found this?

      • ignatius says:

        I too have run into search problems within a merged pdf file. I have a mechanical drawing set for a custom built machine with approximately 600 individual pdf files distributed in 20 folders. If I open the documentation top folder (containing the 20 sub folders) in preview things work beautifully. Preview searches are fast and I can zip right through a search list. However, if I open the merged file that contains all 600 pdfs the search does not work at all. Also, if I copy some text (e.g, drawing number) and paste this into the preview search panel it comes across as garbage. For what it’s worth I experience similar behavior with the meta file on my iPad with the GoodReader and iBooks app.

        A work around would be a Preview equivalent for the iPad that would allow me to open the top folder of the document set without having to merge all into a single file. searchable

      • ignatius says:

        A bit more info on the search problem within merged pdfs. I’ve found that the original page in the merged document (always the first in my tests) is searched without a problem. However the search is oblivious to subsequent, added pages. Re-indexing hasn’t helped.

    • Rabone says:

      I still have no luck getting a contents search to work on a merged pdf file. Created several test pdf’s and as stand alone file able to search inside on test words, but once merged using preview and saved, finder does not seem able to look inside the file and find the same test words. Anyone have a solution?

  12. Mary says:

    Thanks a ton for this! I tried to figure out how to do it on my own, but couldn’t quite figure it out.

  13. Tyler says:

    I followed these instructions to the letter, yet it won’t let me combine the two PDF files, only queue them.

  14. Setbo says:

    You also need to place them in reverse order i.e. page 4 is first followed by page 3 and so on. In Snow Leopard a little ring binder appears on your PDF to show you’ve created a booklet. The images must be added directly on top of each other and not below.

  15. Bloom says:

    You probably know this already, but you can reduce the file size of the new PDF document (for free!) by opening it in ColorSync Utility and applying the ‘Reduce File Size’ filter. Ros M.

  16. Maya says:

    Thank you soooooooooooooooooooooooooo much! I’ve been looking for something like this. You helped me a lot!

  17. Margaret says:

    Thanks for advice on merging pdf files into one – worked very well after a bit of practice. And thanks Ros M for the tip about reducing file size using ColorSync. Margaret

  18. Redhedhs says:

    AWESOME – thanks so much for this info!! Worked like a charm.

  19. Mina says:

    Thank you very much for this precious piece of information that I couldn’t find anywhere.

  20. yayasfilm says:

    Is there not any way to reorder the pages within the merged PDF once you’re done merging? As someone mentioned, having to combine them in reverse order is ridiculous. Old preview used to do this no problem… I’m rather disappointed with the Snow Leopard version that is more complicated to combine and doesn’t seem to reorder?

  21. Jack says:

    FANTASTIC! thank you so much for this helpful tip! I was laboring over this for a while, then I followed your instructions, and WHAM!! Ready to go. Awesome. thanks for the concise and detailed instruction!

  22. Patrick says:

    “No – you can’t reduce the file size of the new PDF document – you can’t get everything for free! To do this you [need] Adobe Acrobat Professional.”

    Actually, there is a way to reduce the file size. There is a “Reduce File Size” Quartz filter that can be applied in the Save prompt window within Preview. This doesn’t have very useful settings but you can create new quartz filters in the Colorsync Utility where you can specify downsampling of images, jpeg compression, etc. Once created this will be available in the Quartz filter drop down in Save prompt windows. It takes some trial and error, and does not have the optimisation of paid apps but can still help.

  23. martin weiss says:

    One aspect of the merge that is not apparent is you cannot merge two multipage (more than one page) docs with each other unless you open them both and select all or some of the pages you wish to merge and then merge them. There is no problem merging single page pdfs or a single page pad with a multipage pdf.

    None the Apple instructions make this clear.


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