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.

Comments

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

  1. jill4prez

    When I put the pdf file over the other file nothing happens. Any suggestions about how to troubleshoot this process?

  2. Larry B

    May have missed something in this long list of comments. However, I’m not needing to drag the pdf on top of existing pages – I’m simply dragging the added pdf from Finder to the sidebar (Preview 4.2) – it shows a red line, drops the pdf in including multiple pages. I do a Save As and it’s fine. Opens in Adobe Reader just fine. Can also delete pages and move them around. I don’t have page number issues so that makes it easier.

  3. JC

    I had the same problem with dragging sidebar thumbnails to another sidebar and nothing happening. What I discovered to overcome this was to:

    1. Have all your PDF’s you want to combine in one folder
    2. Highlighting all those PDFs and open them at the same time with Preview.
    2. Now you have all the documents in a single sidebar but each one as a separate PDF file.
    4. To combine them, drag them all onto a single document and into the desired order.
    5. ‘Save As’ to save the document you dragged them all into a single PDF file.

    1. Nicole

      That didn’t work. I have a yearbook to post as a PDF and it’s saving the last PDF clicked as the file under SAVE AS.

    2. Nicole

      I have to apologize; I was pretty frustrated. The yearbook is due in 2 hours!

      But I realized I hadn’t dragged and it was treating all my individual PDFs as one file; so when I would “save as” it would save the one that was clicked.

      But when I redragged or placed on top of it, you have to look at the top to see that PREVIEW will start to say 2 out of 2 or 5 out 5 and see that the application is “adding the pages”. Thanks again1

    3. Elsa

      This is the answer i was looking for…. Thank you so much!

    4. mrebbel

      UHG…its not working. The documents won’t combine. When I try to drag them on top of one another in the side bar they don’t combine.

  4. Hushero

    Thank you very much, you saved my day :-)

  5. jebowers87

    Just a note to everyone, I tried this trick and was running into problems merging…While I was able to merge the PDF’s, I noticed that a few field vaules in one page were overwriting their values to the next page. I fixed this by printing the original pdf file (with editable fields) to just a static document (no editing possible without special software). After that, I was able to merge with no problem. If someone has already explained this, sorry for stepping on toes…

    Just my 2 cents…

    thanks

  6. Mary

    if it’s not working, it’s because what you are trying to merge is not saved as a pdf, but instead as something like jpg. resave each of the files first as a pdf & it should work with the above steps.

    1. Emmanuel

      Thanks! I saved mine in jpg and wasn’t able to figure out what i was doing wrong. Thanks! I finally got it together after reading you post. Remain blessed.

  7. On top of? Really? All the time I wasted dragging the second file UNDER the first file. Ahhhhh!
    Thanks for tanking the time to write this page.

    Evan

  8. Chris

    What a life saver! I am trying to get rid of paper and my Kodak All in one only scans one page at a time. This

  9. Jeanine

    awesome help!! Thank you

  10. Brian

    Thank you very much for this effort!

  11. imge

    Hi, I did merge my pdf files correctly and I’m not a leopard or lion user, just mac osx… Just select all the files you want to merge, right click and open with preview. While in preview, able sidebar and go and click on the little arrow that appears on every pdf file (do the same for all files, just click on em, you will see all the pages).
    Finally select all (cmmd+a), click file, click “save all” And voila! it worked for me, hope it’ll work for you too.

  12. Rebecca

    Thank you very much! This was extremely helpful!! So nice to have a Mac and friendly people like you who can show me how easy it is to use! :)

  13. Colin

    Yup, this article was a life saver for me too. Thank you. It’s appreciated.

  14. Tracy

    It worked but I had to do a little twist. I’m using Snow Leopard with my MacBook but for some reason I could only drag and drop one page onto another page, any more than that and it didn’t want to combine them. So to combine 6 pages into one I highlighted all six pages and then dragged these onto the first page. For some reason it worked and all six pages were combined into one document. I then saved it under a different name and closed everything and opened that new document and yup all six pages are there. This is a lifesaver as I have to apply for a job online that requires my unofficial transcripts as a single file but like others my scanner will only scan one page at a time and only creates .jpg files. So I used Preview to change the .jpg to .pdf and then used the directions above to combine them together. Thanks.

  15. james

    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH, you just made my life one bit easier :)

  16. kathy

    Does anyone know how to either delete one or more pages in a pdf document or at least black/white out a page? I’m using a mac. Thanks!!

    1. Gordon

      To delete a page in a PDF in Preview, display the document sidebar with the thumbnails, click the page to be deleted to select it, hit the DELETE key. Voila!

  17. Susan Sims

    For those who need more manipulation on PDF documents: create PDF from multiple documents, edit text and images, markup and review, fill interactive forms, there’s a great app called PDF Studio.

  18. david

    Wish someone would have told me this, so i’ll share . . .

    the sidebar has to have each PDF OPEN, then highlight one (will have the yellow lines over all pages), then drag and drop onto second PDF.

    finally
    on macbook

    1. Jason

      David,

      This is what finally worked for me! Thanks for taking the time to post

    2. Chris

      Thank you! Everyone was kind of missing the most important step.

  19. Heidi

    Thank you so much for this!! You saved me so much time!

  20. Jackie

    Ok I am a total Windows user and I have trouble using Macs. I figured this out though. The original instructions are correct, but the key is placing the thumbnail document-you-want-to-add OVER TOP of the original pdf in the sidebar. If you place it directly over top, you get the gray double box around it and it makes like a book and you can save the whole thing. I had to make a 2 page scanned transcript into one pdf and this worked.

    1. AppleJuicer

      Mac OS X Lion 10.7.4
      From “Finder”, select the pdf’s you want to assemble in one document (pdf).
      This will open “Preview”.
      Pick the “File” dropdown.
      Pick the “Printer” option. In the lower left hand corner,
      Pick the drop down arrow next to “PDF”.
      Pick “Save to PDF”.
      Voila! Eureka! Stop the Madness!

      1. Aud

        OMG, thank you so much, AppleJuicer. All this drag on top of nonsense was starting to drive me insane, because it just wouldn’t take it….this makes so much more sense, and WORKS, the first time!

      2. taz

        This is the best method! Thanks!

  21. Sally

    Applejuicer you are a superstar thank you, I have wasted most of the day on this!

  22. Barbara

    how do you combine jpg files into one document? I tried with the combined pdf.jpg ending but it wouldn’t work

    1. You can’t combine jogs, a jpg only has one picture pin it.
      You could convert the jpg into a pdf, (For File Menu choose Print, then from PDF drop down choose Save to PDF) then merge the PDF’s.

  23. Bernie

    This is what I found out with OSX Lion 10.7.4.
    Open PDF in Preview
    Open thumbnail pane
    Drag other PDFs into thumbnail pane
    Put them in what ever order you require
    Highlight all PDF thumbnails
    Drag them to desktop
    Instant combined PDF document!

  24. SharkTank

    For those of you creating PDFs out of Photoshop or Illustrator and then following these procedures, it may not work right away, since the files coming out of both of these apps aren’t really PDF’s it seems (’cause then you wouldn’t need acrobat would you!). So follow instructions below, but before merging the files together save them out of Preview individually and “save as” PDF. I know it’s seems stupid to have to resave them as what they should already be, but Adobe has never been known for cross application commonalities. (hence Bridge – I thought we had a file system already?)
    Then take those new files, open the first one in preview, open the side bar, and then drag and drop the next file you want to add on top of the thumbnail of the first one that appears in the side bar. That first thumbnail will get a looped binder graphic added to it’s left side (it’s now a book!) and a curved arrow indicating that you could open it and turn pages. The page you added will also appear as a second thumbnail below the first “cover” page. For docs where you want many pages, just keep dragging and dropping the next page you want to add onto the last thumbnail that appears in the side bar (not the cover page). A line will appear indicating whether the new page will appear before or after the current thumbnail (dropping on the top half of the thumbnail will put the new page before and dropping on bottom half will put it after). You can always rearrange them when you are done. One thing to note is that all page numbers may say “1”. Don’t worry, once it’s all saved they will be updated. Then when done, click on the first thumbnail and choose file/saveas and save as a new doc name in PDF format. Open that new doc in preview to check that the order is correct and that the page numbering “took”. Happy non-Acrobatting.

  25. Ian

    Is it possible to merge the pdf, as well as add the table of contents. I have 8 large PDF files I am trying to merge, however each file (approx 750 pages each) has a large Table of Contents. When I merge, the table of contents is not included.

  26. Whitney

    After a couple frustrating minutes I realized that my scanner scans the files in as TIFF files! Argh! A simple re-Save As a PDF document and I was home free with my new merged PDF files. SOOOO happy I didnt have to buy Acrobat!! Yay! Thanks!!

  27. MONI for San Francisco

    Man-O-Man, I love you!!! Thank you! Simply, short and sweet!

  28. doc ronie

    thanks for the big help…i managed to combine 5 separate pdf files into one pdf file:)

  29. Debi Lu

    awesome! I didn’t have to scan in again to double side with doc of various types! I didn’t know it was possible or so easy, glad I did a search and found your article.

  30. Sam McCready

    How do you merge pdfs on the new operating system mountain lion?

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