How to merge two pdf files in OSX

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Thanks so much. Your explanation is brilliant. Easy to follow. Better than apple support itself. :)

OS X comes with a free application called ‘Preview’ that will open automatically whenever you click on a pdf file. Preview can edit and merge pdf files but the official Apple instructions are not quite right. Here’s how to do it depending on which version of OS X that you have.

Preview app
You can merge PDF files using the built in ‘Preview’ application that comes for free with OSX, you don’t need 3rd party paid software.

The basic concept for merging 2 pdf files is the same for whatever version of OS X you have. You open the first file, view the page thumbnails, then drag the second file into the first file and save the new file.  Exactly how this works varies depending on which version of OS X that you have. Apple have changed the details a few times. Sometimes there’s a green plus sign to indicate the merge. Sometimes there’s a grey border. If you don’t get it right the 2 files will not merge.  You need to read the directions for the exact OS version that you have. (To find out which version of OS X you have just go to the Apple Menu and click ‘about this mac.’)

Please click on the version of OS X that you have to find out how to merge a pdf file:

How to merge PDF files in High Sierra (10.13)  (2018)

How to merge PDF files in El Capitan (10.11) (2015)

How to merge PDF files in Yosemite (10.10) (2014)

How to merge PDF files in Mavericks 10.9 (2013)

How to merge PDF files in Mountain Lion 10.8 (2012)

For all versions of OS X prior to Mountain Lion (10.7 and earlier)  just follow the instructions below.

Here’s how to  join two or more pdf files together using Preview in OS X 10.7 and earlier:

1 Open the pdf file in preview.

2. Open the thumbnail view (Shift-⌘-D)

3. Drag a second pdf ON TOP OF an existing page  thumbnail.

When you drag in step 3 it must drag to on top of the thumbnail, as in over it, not above it.

This is a bit hard to explain, the best way to grasp the concept is to look at the pictures below. Can you notice that the thumbnail on the right has an extra grey border compared to the thumbnail on the left. The grey border indicates that the files are merging.

WRONG WAY: If you drag the new pdf file underneath the existing pdf they are not merged.
RIGHT WAY: Drag the new pdf file overlapping an the existing page and they will merge into one – creating one pdf document out of the two. (Notice the extra grey border compared to the left photo.)

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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 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.

Published Date:Last Updated: Dec 2017.

Read on for how to do it step by step.

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Comments

585 responses to “How to merge two pdf files in OSX”

  1. CRSmith

    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

    1. Dean

      Awesome! I love my MAC!

  2. Sonya Martin

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Really helpful!

  3. NK

    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.

    thanks!

  4. Scott

    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

    1. Joe

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

      1. Thet Hsu

        Thanks a lot.

    2. Dale

      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

      1. Julie

        I thought I was going crazy! Thanks for that tip. I missed that too. “Print Selected Pages.”

      2. Roy

        Thank you Dale. It was not obvious to me!

    3. Edward

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

    4. Kelli

      This method worked to some extent however any hyper link embedded in the original pdf pages do not work. Do you have any suggestions for preserving the links

  5. Scott

    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

    Awesome, thank you!

  7. John

    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!

    1. One of the files might be protected by a password.

  8. Lynn

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

  9. Anne

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

  10. Dan

    Thank you very much. Really helped.

  11. 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

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

    1. Lea

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

  13. Caitlin

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

  14. Thomas

    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

  15. Kelli

    Help i have spent 6 hrs with apple senior specialists . I created 50 individual interactive pages in Pages. I exported each page individually as a pdf. The individual pages with embedded hyperlinks to you tube videos work great. I then proceeded to merge all the PDFS into one pdf document by opening thumbnail and dragging thumbnails of other pages underneath the page one thumbnail. when i export out it saves as one page . Then i tried going to file print choose export as pdf and all the live links disappear. I am currently on yosemite version 10.10.5 I used this same process exactly one year ago with mavericks and it worked . I can export out single pages and the links stay. Ultimate goal is to have a interactive pdf in my ibooks / on iPad . All senior mac support can’t figure out and they are taking to mac engineers . Any help would be grateful. Thanks

    1. I would try and get hold of Adobe Acrobat Pro, it’s not cheap but maybe you have a friend with a copy and they could try do it for you. It has an option on the menu to ‘Combine files into a single PDF’. It would be worth checking whether that works!

      1. Kelli

        Thanks Wayne . So it is not possible to do this any more ? I can combined the files its the links that do not open in the combined file pdf. I down loaded a program called pdf pronto for free it worked . Then i paid for the full version and was never sent a code for the full version . Hope it is not a scam .

      2. Kelli you can still use Preview, but if it’s not working because your file is so complex and you need to get the job done I’d try Adobe Acrobat. Maybe get a friend who has Acrobat to do it for you!

  16. Qazi

    Thank you very much!!!!! Helped me out a lot.

  17. Marcelo Olivares

    Hi, i’ve got troubles using the “preview” App. i was trying to merge 3 pdf´s of 1 MB each. but using “preview” App, the resultant file reach a size of 12MB. so i´ve started to look into the AppStore and I found 3 options very interesting:
    1. “MergePDF”.
    2. “Gelatin”.
    3. “Merge-PDF”.
    The third one was the better: high quality images and low file size.
    Totally recommended…

  18. Will

    pure disaster to merge pdf in apple.

  19. andy kearns

    Please tell me why this does not work for me on 10.6.8. is it because it is opened by adobe reader? if so, what do i do please? thanks, andy.

    1. Yes you need to open it in ‘Preview’ not “adobe Acrobat Reader’. Just right click the file (option click) and select ‘Open With Preview’.

  20. Corey

    Thank you!! The two document thing was driving me crazy.

  21. andy kearns

    I can’t thank you enough! Brilliant, thanks again, Wayne.

  22. Jordan

    Thank You!!

  23. Silviana

    Thanks a lot!!! I tried countless times, succeed once and have no idea how I did it

  24. Dave P.

    Using Preview version 5.0.3 (504.1) and MAC OS 10.6.8
    After some frustration, I found that when using the print as .pdf method, it was critical to print using “selected pages”

    1. That is odd behaviour, you shouldn’t have to do that, but glad to hear it worked.

  25. Van

    Thanks so much. Your explanation is brilliant. Easy to follow. Better than apple support itself. :)

  26. Deborah Rehner

    Your explanation is much clearer than the official one. Thank you. I’ll come back here again.

  27. Aeroczema

    Thank you so much. I was struggling with Preview for a while trying to do this and no other guides out there had enough clarity to specify that point about dragging the documents on TOP of the current one as opposed to just in the same window. You’re the best!

  28. What a great post. From my company we thank you for this work, it is better explained than from the company itself. Thanks.

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