Mar 15

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

  1. So if doc1.pdf has five pages and I want to insert doc2.pdf between pages 3 and 4 of doc1.pdf, where do I drag the doc2.pdf thumbnail to? On top of page 3 thumbnail or between thumbnails 3 & 4?

    • Wayne says:

      “I want to insert doc2.pdf between pages 3 and 4 of doc1.pdf, where do I drag the doc2.pdf thumbnail to?”

      Drag it ON TOP OF page 3 or 4 thumbnail (so it merges), NOT between them (or else jot won’t merge). If it is not where you want, AFTER you drop it just move it around by dragging it and letting go between pages 3 and 4 thumbnails.

  2. Ragnar says:

    Life Saver!!! Thank you very much. The help file on the Preview app is wrong and suggests that you do an “Export”. There are 2 options for Export (Not described in the help) One being Export which ONLY saves another copy of the selected File, and Export as PDF which creates one file per contained file. Even this is very simple like you post, Apple doesn’t publish this anywhere.

  3. Marcel says:

    No matter how hard I try, I won’t get the green plus, and they remain just two separate documents. Bit of a bummer when scanning because since OS X Maverick HP scan stopped working properly. The only way of scanning is using Preview, single pages at the time (or am I missing something?)

    • Wayne says:

      Most likely you are trying to merge 2 files that are not pdf files. Convert them to pdf first, (‘print’ – ‘save as pdf’) then merge them.

  4. Flatlander says:

    Thanks for the guidance on this procedure. I had my documents in PICT format and figured out I had to put them in PDF format by going through Preview>Export as PDF. I was then able to go through with your steps. Similar to Ragnar’s post. Also, the grey frame only showed up on the initial merging and the other pages just had the green + and merged without the frame and no problems. Much appreciated!

  5. Beth says:

    Thank you soooooooooooooo much! The small change with the green plus sign had completely escaped me and I was getting so frustrated with the inability to do something that I was used to! Thanks for clearing this up. Even the Apple Support forums aren’t making this clear (at least that I can find)…

  6. Luke says:

    Thanks for the post! Although I can not get the green plus on my documents. I’m trying to merge two 26 page PDF’s and I’ve followed your steps above without luck. I can merge a one page document into one of the 26 page docs but not the two multiple page PDF’s together. Any suggestions on how I can get this to work?

    • Alex says:

      You need to make sure the document is not in ‘collapsed’ mode.
      if you click the tiny grey triangle at the top left next to the document name, you can then drag the other documents into that document to add them.

  7. Thanks! Works great and saved me money because I was about to go and buy an app for a relatively simple merge-job.

  8. Fran says:

    THANK YOU! for explaining that a slight overlap was necessary to get the Green +. Had been dragging them “perfectly” (over and over again) and could not understand why the pages weren’t merging!

  9. Tom says:

    I can add one pdf to another one as indicated above, but when I try to add a third pdf to the combined one, no green plus. If I close Preview and reopen, I can add one pdf, but no more. Nor can I select multiple pdfs and add them all at once. I used to be able to do this before Mavericks.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. In archiving pdfs, I like to combine a year’s worth into a single pdf.

    • Wayne says:

      To do a huge archive, like a year’s worth, just select them all in finder, click and they will all open in one preview window, then choose ‘print’, then choose PDF:save to pdf (bottom left of print dialog). It will save them all to one pdf.

  10. Robert W says:

    I’ve tried this several times, and this does not work for me. Does this only work for merging two PDFs? Before, you could drag pages from one and they merged into the target PDF, but every time I try to do that, the green “plus” appears and then swiftly disappears, no matter what I do, where I move the page in the thumbnails of the target document. Therefore, when I let go of the mouse, it doesn’t actually merge. Perhaps it is only me with this problem, but it is seriously irritating me. Thanks in advance.

  11. Crystal says:

    When I try to merge pdf files in preview when I hold the thumbnails over each other I do not get a green plus sign… Can anyone help with this?

  12. Deby says:

    I have transferred single multiple pages on my mac into one file and it works great but why is it that when I transfer them to my iPad they overlap?

  13. Brooke says:

    I started with 5 PDF files, I was able to merge two files into one and the other three into another. I’m looking at two files on top of each other in the thumbnail view on the side, but I can’t get the two to merge into each other. Help?

  14. Paul says:

    Apple talks about good design. But this user interface is horrible.

  15. Susan says:

    Thank you for the explanation.This worked great. Make sure the documents are in pdf format. I made that mistake earlier.

  16. MC says:

    Thanks for this info! This is a tremendous help!

  17. John Darling says:

    Much easier way to do this:

    1. Open your first document with preview
    2. Go to edit drop down menu, find “insert” and then “page from file”
    3. click on the file you wish to import.

    This adds the second file to the end of the first one. You can change the page order manually after that. Make sure all files are pdf files…if you’re using .doc files, save them as pdf first.

    • Brittany says:

      Thanks!! That actually worked, whereas on my Mac (Maverics 10.9.3) what the article writer said to do was NOT working at all. The only way to get the green arrow was to use Option while dragging but that only created another file of the same file I was dragging. Your method worked like a charm, thanks, John!

    • Wayne says:

      Thanks John that’s a great tip.

  18. John Whitehead says:

    This was a life saver: very many thanks.

    Apple’s help system is always frustrating because it’s so slow and clunky but when it’s downright wrong as well it’s enormously frustrating. I think we need a campaign to make them take Help seriously again…

    I can feel an online petition coming on.


  19. Crystal says:

    John Darling, that comment was soooo helpful! I selected one pdf, drug it into the previewer. Then hit insert and selected 21 other files and it worked perfectly. Thank you!!!

  20. Ayla Hourani says:

    Thank you. Easy, straightforward and works like magic! Took me ages to figure that one out lol

  21. laj says:

    THANK YOU! This was so helpful. I had about given up on being able to do this. So glad I found your clear explanation.

  22. Marnie says:

    Thank you so much!! What a help. I’ve been fiddling around for nearly an hour with this but you solved it in 3 min. flat.

  23. guillaume says:

    Anybody know how to prevent preview from automatically renumbering the pdf after inserting pages ?

  24. Rabia says:

    It worked for me as I was trying to merge two documents. I will definitely try for multiple documents also.

  25. Paul says:

    Thanks!! That is the first time an instruction for Mac was clear and worked on the first attempt!! You saved me many minutes of frustration. Now I Mac could only figure out how to save one document as one PDF from the beginning (when there are several formats in one document, tables etc. it saves each section as a different document, a pain in the ass). Thanks again

  26. BigBen says:

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

  27. Bobbi says:

    Thank you! No one was was getting it right.

  28. Ginger says:

    Thank you! This was definitely helpful!

  29. maureen says:

    Thank you! Very helpful.

  30. A Rem says:

    Thanks very very helpful and easy.

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