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. Caroline says:

    Felt like a dummy asking anyone ;) thanks buddy.

  2. zakira says:

    fantastic, thank you!!!

  3. Brandon says:

    You can also use PDF Burger to merge PDF files online – http://pdfburger.com
    It is a free service.

  4. Kam says:

    Thank you!!! You saved me so much money!

  5. pipe says:

    Thank you very much! It’s so simple and yet so hard to do it when you don’t have the knowledge. THX!!!

  6. Victoria says:

    This is amazing and I definitely didn’t think of it! So simple! Great post!

  7. Art says:

    Yes, I used to be able to do this in earlier versions of preview by “dragging on top,” as these instructions suggest.

    But NO!!!!..these instructions NO LONGER WORK: I’m on a MacBook Pro, 10.8.4, running Preview, 6.0.1.

    Is there another way?

  8. Wayne says:

    Yes, this still works in 10.8.4 so you must be doing something wrong. Make sure the pdf file is not password protected.

  9. Robert Freeland says:

    If you don’t have any joy with Preview then there are plenty of apps on the app store for joining, splitting, extracting pages from PDFs for example: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pdf-basics/id711503268?mt=12

  10. Mathis says:

    A nice alternative to the Preview app you find on Smallpdf’s Merge PDF. It’s a nice tool that feels similar to the preview app but it gives you a few more options for the format and it doesn’t require any download.

  11. Daisy says:

    So easy!! I didn’t even need to read the step by step. :-) Thank you!!!

  12. Daisy says:

    So easy!! I didn’t even need to read the step by step. :-) I’m on iMac 10.8.5 and it worked. Thank you!!!

  13. Ronixus says:

    It works, however the output results into insanely huge files. Converted 2 3MB JPG files to PDF using Preview and merged them: result 25 MB. Deal breaker.

  14. Maja says:

    Thank you soooo much!!!!

  15. RMJ says:

    Thanks Mate

  16. Farokh says:


  17. AJD says:

    That is not true. That used to work on previous versions. I have upgraded to 10.8.5 and there is no longer any way to merge PDF files.
    Mac is getting as primitive as PC.

  18. VSW says:

    Thanks, you put in crucial details that others left out.

  19. John says:

    Another thing – the one you start with (add to) has to be a pdf.

    eg – I wanted to string a set of jpegs into a single pdf. I opened jpeg #1 in one window and the rest in a second window. I dragged #2 on to #1 but it would not add. I had to save #1 as a pdf and reload it. Then I could add the jpegs to that.

  20. Julia says:

    Thanks so much! As already mentioned: without the crucial details I would’ve spend another lost hour to get the PDFs merged. THANX !!! ;-)

  21. Rakesh says:

    Thanks so much, this was really useful

  22. Catia says:

    I followed these instructions, but ….!!!
    Now in my Preview, in the thumbnails’area, i see my ​​3 pdf pages, that I want to merge, but then, there is no way to merge them really: if I save this file, only the first page is saved, if I try to print it, only the first page is printed.
    How it works??? Please…I feel so stupid…

    • Catia says:

      I tried again!! We must put the new pdf NOT ON THE TOP (as these instructions say) but just OVER the existing page! OK, so it works

      • Wayne says:

        Yes ‘over’ as in put it right in the middle of the thumbnail, as if you were putting one piece of paper on top of another piece of paper in a pile of paper… not ‘above’ it as in ‘up’ the screen. English is a bit ambiguous at times!

  23. Joseph says:

    Awesome article. Thanks! The print-to-PDF solution was perfect and simple.

  24. Bill says:

    Coolio. Works a treat and saved me loads of time. Cheers.

  25. matt says:


  26. Janos says:

    Very good explanation, It helped! thanks

  27. Katrina Currier says:

    Thanks for these helpful tips! Can you explain how to undo these actions? I have merged too many pages and now want to delete a few of the pages I dragged in, without deleting the whole merged file. Is this possible? Thanks!

  28. Mary says:

    Great!! Thanks a lot, the process is way to fast and easy :)

  29. Rubi86 says:

    Thank you! it worked :)

  30. Ian says:

    This is great and worked perfectly. I became an Apple convert some years ago, in a computing context it was the best thing I did.

  31. Ade says:

    thank you so much. this really helpful !! :)

  32. jeanh says:


  33. EFalk says:

    Such a small detail, but figuring out the right way such that you can actually save the combined document was SO helpful!

  34. Lisa says:

    At midnight and after hours of frustration, this was a God-send! Thank you so much.

  35. SK says:

    Thank you SO much! I kept putting the thumbnails after the original (like on a PC) and it obviously didn’t work. I’m so thrilled and grateful!

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