How to merge two pdf files in OSX


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.)





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.


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

  1. That is brilliant! I used to use a program called Combine PDFs, but it is much better built into the system.

  2. thanks! perfect explanation

  3. This is awesome and so simple. I knew Leopard had something like this up it’s sleeve, I just never imagined it’d be so easy. I was able to drag multiple PDF files in and I just closed and saved with no hassle at all.

  4. Thanks you´ve just saved my day !

  5. Rob

    Cool! Thanks very much.

  6. This is really cool – spent a while finding software to do this, was even considering paying, but there it was already on my Mac!

    One slight problem though – it seems to massively increase the size of the file. I added a file of 104KB to one of 105KB and it ended up being 4.7MB! Yes MEGA!

  7. toni

    thank you so much for the hint!
    but yeah mine got pretty big, too!
    is there a chance of resizing it?

  8. Sara

    Thanks! Amazingly simple.

  9. CW

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! I can finally do what I’ve always wanted to do! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  10. Lidwien

    Thanks much!

  11. Fabio

    Thanks a lot! This is an example of the reason for more and more people becoming Mac users.

  12. adela

    you can merge pdf files using ghostscript, it is fast and easy, read more here:

  13. JT

    I find that it won’t save the document wilth all the new pages. It just saves the first page.

  14. Bob

    Excellent! THanks for this posting. Solved a problem for us… !

  15. Josh

    This was fabulous, easy and quick! Thanks for the pointer!

  16. Loren

    Life Saver! Why is this information not more easily accessible on the net, so many google searches for how to combine pdfs, but only after a lot of digging did I find this resource. And I was going to buy acrobat, not now!

  17. James

    Awesome, cheers for the tip!

  18. Thanks! Worked liked a charm.

  19. Bronte

    After fruitless searching I find this tip. Excellent – thank you.

  20. Jim Smith

    Thanks, this was great. Now, is there an easy way to convert .pdf files to .txt files? I much prefer these for my ebook reader as they can be edited, re sized, formatted, etc. and require less space in my memory card.

  21. Oliver

    Awesome info, thanks. I always thought Mac would be that easy but I just could not get it to work, almost bought a program then saw your posting, and I was right Mac is that easy.


  22. John

    Thanks…that helped alot!!

  23. Kavi

    Thanks a million… almost downloaded a 780MB PDF merge tool!!

  24. Peter Collins

    Mac OS 10.6 seams to have killed this :(

  25. Martin

    This now doesnt work the way you suggest. Snow leopard handles preview differently and it only saves one of the pages if you do it this way. This works for Leopard only.

  26. wayne

    It does work but you need to drag the new document inside the old one (between the existing pages) not to the end, and then save it. (Strange!) Note you can then drag it back to the end and it works.

  27. Bruce Ward

    Thankyou very much. This is a real winner, and so elegant.

  28. Rob

    That’s a life saver – Thanks Wayne. I was considering going back to previous version of preview. I’ll try this when I get home.

  29. Simon

    You may need to go to “Edit” –> “Insert Blank Page” first (I did) before you can drag pages into your document.

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