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. Peter Hartnall

    This advice was EXACTLY what I wanted. Wonderful. Worked like a dream
    Peter

  2. Proma

    THANK YOU! This was so helpful — unsuccessfully tried to figure this out on Word, then read this and did it in 2 minutes.

  3. These directions were JUST what I was looking for. Super directions and screen hots! Took me less than a minute to accomplish my task. Thank you for taking the time to post these directions. -Pat

  4. Cathy

    SOOOO GREAT!! Thanks for posting this gem! I do love how much is built in to every OS X version.

  5. Lucy

    Thanks so much, works perfectly – trying to combine permission slips for school to save on ink/paper!

  6. AB

    THANK YOU! This tutorial saved me today! I am finally submitting my final thesis draft online, and I was so frustrated.
    Great find!

  7. Melissa

    Hi there, I love all this, but here is my issue. I”m cutting sections from 2 different PDF’s and making a new PDF. I’m trying to put these two new sections on one piece of paper. do we know how to do this? When I combine the new edited down sections together it’s 1 PDF but 2 pages and I want it on 1 page. Help!!!

    1. Melissa

      I just realized I can take a screen shot and that will fix my issue.

  8. kathie

    after I’ve merged the two pdf’s, is there a quick way to delete pages in the new merged doc? some of them will be redundant.

  9. GRATEFUL

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! The best tutorial i have ever found on how to do something. Do you have others?

  10. Rita

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Worked like a charm =)

    Did the same with my jpeg files after converting them to PDFs. Also, it helps to drop them over the pdf and then place them in the grey area but under the initial page, so the 1st is on top and 2nd and 3rd follow right under-this way they are already in the correct order.

  11. Narayanj

    Best How to save a lot of effort and best of all got to use OSX functions for which Windows Dudes pay money to Microsoft and Adobe!!

  12. BenDee

    Thank You so much. It was very helpful.

  13. Teri

    This was very helpful in a pinch. Thank you!

  14. Ravindra

    I liked it. It was very helpful. Saved me from downloading another software to merge my PDF files
    Thank you so much

  15. Samaneh

    Thank you! for the information! very helpful.

    brilliant ideas of steve job’s team! well done apple!

  16. Mauro

    Thank you very much! Very useful tip. Worked perfectly.

  17. mrebbel

    I have tried all of these and nothing works. I can’t file print / PDF: the Save to PDF is greyed out. I can’t drag them on top of each other in the side bar. When I try they just keep bumping below or above the file. I’ve tried organizing them all in the side bar, selecting all of them and dragging them to the desktop…nothing happens. GRRRR…any other suggestions?

    I am using Preview 6.0.1 and OSX 10.8.2 Mountain lion leopard (Actually I could do this before I was forced to upgrade to mountain lion.) I’ve checked for new updates and there are none available.

  18. Heather

    Thank you so very much! We are super grateful for your extremely clear and concise instructions!!

  19. Kyle King

    For Mountain Lion, I combined my documents by clicking on the “VIEW ICON” in the top left corner and selecting “THUMBNAIL”.

    From this view, the instructions are the same if you click and drag the thumbnail onto the list to merge multiple PDF’s.

    1. Nando Rossi

      Actually, it does not. Mountain Lion has apparently removed this entire functionality. When you drag images on top of one another, it basically stacks them up on the sidebar, and when you export, you get separate files as well.

      1. Andrew

        Nando, I’m not sure what you’re doing, but when I do what Kyle described, I get a PDF of the merged pages.

        For safety’s sake, I then print, and select the PDF drop down box, and save as a PDF and give it a new name.

      2. Douglas Freer

        I have the same problem with Mountain Lion and Preview 6. Thumbnails wont let you drag and drop and there is no sidebar button. Under View > Sidebar the options are drained out.

  20. Drag ON TOP, ohhhhh… Thanks!!!

  21. Jeffrey

    This works, however it keeps changing the size of my documents to 8.5X14″. How do you preserve a custom size with this process?

  22. lily

    Hi, thank you, this was very helpful

  23. Natalie

    I’m having trouble getting this to work. One of the PDFs has editable fields and checkboxes (employment application). Whenever I combine it with another PDF, all of the fields and checkboxes are empty when I re-open the document. Thoughts anyone?

  24. Aracely U.

    Thanks!! I had been emailing my docs to work merging and resending back to save. Have had my MAC for over a year and still learning the tricks it can do!!

    Thanks!!!

  25. Fricken fabulous! Combining PDFs worked for meI Thank you Thank you.
    Can’t wait to see what else this web site can offer me.

  26. Lesley

    Is there any way to preserve the names of the individual PDF files that are being merged? It defaults to labeling each sheet 1, 2, 3, etc. but for what I’m doing it’s critical that the sheet name remain what is was before the merge. Anyone have any ideas?

    1. I didn’t know you could change page numbers to be named? Are you sure you can do that?

      1. I just checked in Adobe Acrobat Pro and even there it won’t preserve file names, but you can manually apply a prefix to a page number of a document in Adobe Acrobat Pro which may help.

  27. Bill

    I have tried both methods (dragging over the thumbnail an opening both and print-save pdf and cannot get it to work. TRying to merge two pdf’s in Snow Leopard 10.6.8
    Thanks

  28. Jsy

    One addition to this: If you want to merge multiple pdfs into a single document in Snow Leopard, if you drop the 2nd into the 1st, then you won’t be able to drop the 3rd, etc. into the first. The trick is to open them all in Preview, then select all the other documents (2nd,3rd,4th, etc), and then drag and drop the whole group into the 1st in one shot. Preview knows to keep them in the same order they were in.

    1. Tom Winn

      No matter how I try it, I can’t get this to merge. I’m on a Core i7 MacBook Pro with 16MB memory running Snow Leopard 10.6.8. My Preview app is v 5.0.3.
      Any idea why this doesn’t work?
      I opened one file, opened the sidebar, then opened the rest, each in its own window, and tried dragging each thumbnail onto the first thumbnail. There was no indication that anything happened, and when I saved, then reopened the file, there was still only one page.
      Am I doing something wrong?
      Thanks for any help with this.

      1. Tom Winn

        Never mind, I got it to work. I was using .jpg files instead of .pdf. Duh!

  29. Bolortulga

    Hi everyone help me. I have to merge 2 sheet files in 1 sheet. That would be locate by horizontal 2 pages in 1 sheet. Help me plz.

  30. Annie

    Thank you. This is really helpful.

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