Mar 15

Merge 2 pdf files

With every release of OS X Apple seems to slightly change the way to merge two pdf documents. I’ve previously written on how to merge 2 pdf files in Mountain Lion (10.8) and how to merge two pdf files in Lion or earlier. Here’s how to do it in OS X 10.9 Mavericks. 

John has just posted a much easier method of doing this in a comment below. Thanks John, here it is:

1. Double click your first pdf document to open it with Preview, the built in mac OSX.

2. Go to the “Edit” drop down menu, find “Insert” and then “Page from File…”

3. Click on the file (or files) that you wish to import.

After this…

You can delete pages by selecting the page in the page thumbnails and pressing delete.

You can rearrange pages by selecting the page in the page thumbnails and dragging it up or down.

Whatever changes you make will be saved when you select ‘Save’

Make sure all files are pdf files…if you’re using .doc files, save them as pdf first.


Here’s the original method I outlined…

1. Open the two pdf files in Preview.
Double click on the two pdf files to open them in Preview.

Here are two pdf files on my desktop that I'd like to merge.

Here are two pdf files on my desktop that I’d like to merge.


2. Turn on ‘Thumbnails’ for both documents.
There should be an icon in the top left of the preview window where you can turn on ‘Thumbnails’. (See picture below.)  This will open a sidebar on the left where you can see a thumbnail picture of each  page in the pdf file.

Turn on 'Thumbnail' view

Turn on ‘Thumbnails’ view


3. Drag a thumbnail to merge it – but read the fine print below!
To combine a page from one pdf into the other pdf file you drag the thumbnail from one of the preview windows onto the thumbnail pane of the other preview window.  In my example  I need to click and then drag one page from 2.pdf to 1.pdf to add my second document to my first.

VERY IMPORTANT: Exactly where you drag the pdf thumbnail to, will change what happens. Do it slowly and don’t release the mouse click until you see what will happen.  Here’s how it works.

(A) If you drop the copied thumbnail  inside the destination thumbnail, a little green plus will appear, and you’ll get a double grey border. This means the new pdf  will be merged into the first pdf.

Here’s what this looks like:

Dropping the new pdf right inside the existing pdf - note the green plus sign and the double grey border.

The green plus sign and a double grey border means these documents will merge.



(B) If you drop the thumbnail a little bit underneath (south) or above (north) of the destination thumbnail, no green plus will appear, and you’ll get a single grey border. This means the new pdf will not be merged into the first pdf.

Put the new pdf file under the existing one and it will not merge - note there is no plus sign and just a single grey border.

No plus sign and a single grey border – they will not merge.


If you want to merge the entire document then you need to select and drag all the pages across.

4. Confirm it worked.
Look at the title in the pdf window. It should indicate 1 document with 2 pages like this:

Window title: One pdf file with 2 pages - it merged!

‘page 1 of 2’ –  it merged!

5. Now you can just choose ‘Save’ and the merged file will be saved.

6. If it looks like this second title (below) with ‘2 documents’ in the title, this indicates that it didn’t merge. You may have done something wrong.

Two pdf documents with 1 page each - they did not merge!

‘2 documents’ – they did not merge!

You are just viewing 2 documents in the same window.  Don’t worry, all is not lost. You can now choose ‘print’ to print both these documents at once, then click on on ‘Save as PDF’  to print these two documents into one pdf file.


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53 Responses to “How to combine multiple pdf files with OS X Mavericks 10.9”

  1. BigBen says:

    Thank you, that was most helpful. The illustrations are great!

  2. Bobbi says:

    Thank you! No one was was getting it right.

  3. Ginger says:

    Thank you! This was definitely helpful!

  4. maureen says:

    Thank you! Very helpful.

  5. A Rem says:

    Thanks very very helpful and easy.

  6. Beth says:

    This was very helpful, but now how do you keep the orientation of separate pdf’s from rotating when merging the file. For example the first file is in portrait and the second file is in landscape and then the third file is portrait again, but they all merged into portrait.

  7. Beth says:

    Ok I figured it out. After you have added the pdf’s together and have clicked File>Print, you MUST uncheck Auto Rotate for the orientation to stay as you want it! Hopefully this helps others

  8. tim says:

    Good god, thank you! I’d been dragging and dropping and it just wouldn’t save properly! i appreciate both the new tip AND especially the information i needed: drag the new PDF *onto* the destination PDF!

  9. naveen says:

    Thanks a lot. It helped.

  10. Well I almost had it! But my pages are not in order. You didn’t mention what order to merge your files if you want pages in a certain order. I tried to drag them, to fix it, not good.

  11. Zorba says:

    Thank you. Why Apple insists on screwing this up is beyond me, this is (now) totally non-intuitive! I kept wondering why I only had a 1 page PDF after trying to combine 8 pages the way I’d always done it. What good is this “non merge option”? If I didn’t want to merge the file, I wouldn’t have dragged the thumbnails across!

  12. Jamie says:

    AWESOME. Thanks

  13. Virginia says:

    I can’t thank you enough for the excellent help. Very grateful, indeed.

  14. Helen says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! This was so helpful!

  15. K says:

    I love you. Apple literally gives incorrect info, and I’ve been driving myself crazy for +20 min trying to figure this out. Bless you!

  16. mirkwood says:

    thank you! did the trick!

  17. Liliana says:

    Thank you, good explanation, I tried some others instructions and this one was very helpful, thank you very much!!!

  18. Brian says:

    Hi! I’ve merged three pdfs using the ‘preview’ facility. Separately they weigh in at 7.2MB. Merged, 55.2MB!!! Is there any easy way to get the merged file back to something approaching 7MB?

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