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

  1. CRSmith says:

    Glad I read this, as I didn’t know this was a feature in Preview. However, after many futile attempts, I discovered the following:

    If you are trying to merge a pdf into a second pdf, and THE SECOND PDF HAS MULTIPLE PAGES then you must expand the second (multipage) document so you can select where in the sequence of existing pages the first document will be placed. If you don’t expand it, Preview won’t allow you to merge. In the thumbnail view, click the up/left arrow to expand. Happy merging!

    Preview v5.0.3, OS 10.6.8

  2. Sonya Martin says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Really helpful!

  3. NK says:

    After many tries, I finally figure this out using guidance under “An alternate way if you have lots of pdfs to merge.” Combined 5 scanned documents into one pdf from jpeg’s and pdfs.


  4. Scott says:

    I can’t get the Alternative Method to work as described at the end of the article, but there’s an easy workaround that might work in any version of Preview:
    Instead of opening the files from the Finder, do this:
    1. set Preview – Preferences – General to Open all files in one window
    2. open all your pdf files from Preview
    3. set to Thumbnail view
    4. select all the thumbnails
    5. File, Print…, PDF, Save as PDF, (give it a new name)
    6. open the new pdf and edit page order and rotation
    7. Save

    • Joe says:

      YES! This was the only method that worked for me. Thanks.

    • Dale says:

      Re the alternative method …I had to use File … Print … PDF … select all thumbnails … then Print Selected Pages (not just Print) – else you only end up with the first page. Maybe it was obvious – but just in case anyone else missed it too… ps – thanks for the tips

    • Edward says:

      Much easier (at least for me) than any other method I’ve read about.

  5. Scott says:

    Append to my previous comment…
    8. if your Preview Preferences were not already set to Open all files in one window, remember to set this back if you normally prefer separate windows (it’s a lot easier for merging selected pages from two pdf files).

  6. Henning says:

    Awesome, thank you!

  7. John says:

    This is the closest I have been to actually getting my multiple PDF files into one large file after days of trying to figure it out, but when I go to print and then go to the pdf button at the bottom left the “save to pdf” option is not clickable. Help please!

  8. Lynn says:

    Thanks so much! This was so helpful and it worked!!

  9. Anne says:

    Thank you so much! Saved me tons of $’s.

  10. Dan says:

    Thank you very much. Really helped.

  11. Eny Osung says:

    Thanks very much, you are an absolute star! The Alternative method worked for me after several failed tries due to instructions from other people.

    Can’t thank you enough!

  12. Lea says:

    None of this works for me! Help! I’m using OSX 10.6.8

    • Lea says:

      I’ve figured it out. I’m using the Alternative Method. You need to select ‘Print Selected Items’ not just ‘Print’. Worked!

  13. Caitlin says:

    Thank you so much! I could NOT figure out what I was doing wrong until I read this article.

  14. Thomas says:

    Drag and Drop with new OS El Capitan. I
    1/ open preview with first pdf document.
    2/ open finder,
    3/ click and drag the 2nd document Over the thumbnail area, on top of the last page of the first document (or current document).
    4/ the last page will show an + sign (in Green)
    5/ Drop 2nd document. Done3

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