How to combine multiple pdf files with OS X Mavericks 10.9

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.




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

  1. Beth

    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.

  2. Beth

    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

  3. tim

    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!

  4. naveen

    Thanks a lot. It helped.

  5. 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.

  6. Zorba

    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!

  7. Jamie

    AWESOME. Thanks

  8. Virginia

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

  9. Helen

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! This was so helpful!

  10. K

    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!

  11. mirkwood

    thank you! did the trick!

  12. Liliana

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

  13. Brian

    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?

    1. Is that with both ways of merging? Try both ways and I’m keen to hear if there is a difference.


  14. Hi, I was looking for easy instructions to urgently merge some documents, it was so easy that left me some time to write this feedback, thank you!

  15. Cim

    If there are several documents to be merged, there is an easier way. Select all the documents you wish to merge. Open them simultaneously be pressing Command-O. Go to ‘Print…’ Under the PDF pull-down menu, select ‘Open PDF in Preview’.
    These instructions may seem longer, but the instructions in your tutorial must be redone for every page, but this need be done only once. Pages can be reordered prior to the Print… stage.

    1. Thanks Lucidita, that would work too.
      Your way merges them at the point when you ‘Print’ them to Preview.
      The way in this article merges them as they are opened the first time in Preview.
      Both will work.
      There are other ways to do it too. Probably the fastest for a lot of files is to select the files in finder and double click them to open them all in Preview. Then ‘Print’ and ‘Save to PDF’

  16. Kalyani

    Very helpful! Just upgraded to El Capitan and was trying the old way which does not work any more…

    1. Tim

      Using the Print command was the only way that worked for me. When trying to File–>Save, only one pdf of the several I had attempted to merge was saved.

      File–>Print–>PDF–>Save as PDF, then entering a new name and location is what worked for me. Many thanks to Cim and Wayne!

  17. ELfstar

    You Rock!! the apple website explanation never worked, and yours worked flawlessly!

  18. Chels

    Yes! Worked like a charm! Thank you!!!

  19. Mark

    tried to follow the basic instructions but when I select Edit – Insert the options are not available (can’t be selected). Why? thanks

    1. It could be that the pdf file is password protected.
      Can you delete pages?

  20. Jeff Stein

    Wayne, thank you! That saved me aggravation and time. Great technique.
    Jeff from Boston

  21. Nemo

    In Mac OS Sierra, it refused to save the combined pdfs so I cheated and clicked print then save as pdf. What a joke that the advertised feature at doesn’t work.

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