Do you need to combine several PDFs into one? The process of merging multiple PDFs into a single document is surprisingly straightforward on both Windows and Mac computers. Learn the specifics of each system below! The ability to easily merge many PDFs into a single document can greatly increase efficiency. It’s not fair to the accounting team to send over six separate PDFs when they could have received just one consolidated document.
Or perhaps you’ve converted Word, Excel, and a photo editing document into four or five individual PDFs for various parts of a report. What’s the best way to line them up neatly? These concerns are amplified for remote workers and those attempting to eliminate paper because PDFs can be used in place of paper documents. Understanding how to handle and arrange them is essential.
The only tool you’ll ever need is already part of your Mac’s operating system. However, alternatives with more customization options and more features can be found in paid third-party apps. You’ll need to download some third-party software to make Windows work, but luckily there are some free, open-source alternatives that are just as effective.
You can use online software that merges and modifies uploaded PDFs on any platform, but I’m wary about utilizing most of them. Some of these websites appear to be operating without a clear goal in mind, and by using their PDF editing services, you risk giving them access to sensitive information about you and your computer system that could be hidden in the files you upload.
You should be wary about providing metadata to an unfamiliar website, as it may use that information for its own gain. There is one case in which I will veer from the norm: The Adobe PDF Merge service is available for free (Opens in a new window).
How to Combine PDFs in Windows
If you’re using Windows and need to merge several PDF files, you might be wishing you had a Mac instead so you could use the convenient Preview tool, which is only available on Macs. Windows 10’s Edge browser supports reading PDF files, but no other PDF-related actions are supported.
In Windows, managing and merging PDF files requires either a free, albeit restricted, third-party productivity app or one of the many well-designed commercial apps available.
Put in place the open-source PDFsam if your PDF management requirements are modest (Opens in a new window). To get the free Basic version, instead of downloading the Enhanced version (which is free to try out but costs $59 a year to keep), just deselect the corresponding box in the installer. There’s plenty of room on the main screen to select from several options, such as merging and splitting PDFs.
A further proper function alternates between pages from two PDF files to produce a single PDF from the front and back of a document that was originally two-sided. Do not anticipate a simple UI such to the thumbnail views found in Adobe Reader and other commercial programs. PDFsam allows you to combine many PDFs into one by simply dragging and dropping the files into a window.
To reorder the items in the list, simply drag their positions. Each PDF allows you to select a page range, but you’ll need to use a third-party program like Microsoft Edge or Adobe Reader to figure out which pages you need. Thankfully, PDFsam allows you to launch files in PDF format straight from the file list.
An extra blank page can be appended to the end of a PDF with an odd number of pages so that the following document in the merged PDF starts on the right-hand page if desired. Every page of the merged document can also have a footer added to it. In addition, you can now combine original files while keeping their bookmarks and form fields intact. Simply hit the “Run” button when you’re ready to combine the PDFs. Mac OS X and Linux distributions based on the Debian system are both compatible with PDFSam.
PDF Merger & Splitter
PDF Merger & Splitter(Opens in a new window), by a business named AnywaySoft whose website doesn’t tell you anything about the firm itself, is another freemium tool accessible from the Microsoft Store. Free Universal Windows Platform (UWP) program PDF Merger & Splitter uses the public-domain PDFsharp library to produce PDF documents.
You get fewer features and a less user-friendly interface than with PDFsam, but the program performs a better job of ensuring that all of the combined PDFs are the same size. While PDFsam simply allows you to make every page the same size as the first, PDF Merger & Splitter gives you the option to make every page the same size as the largest or most often used page. Though PDFsam is my go-to, PDF Merger & Splitter is useful due of this one particular capability.
PDF-Xchange Editor, ABBYY FineReader, Adobe Acrobat DC
A paid app is required if you want to see the merged PDF before saving it to disk and if you want to be able to rearrange the pages by dragging their thumbnails around in a sidebar. PDFs can be edited with a wide variety of programs; for example, Tracker Software’s PDF-Xchange Editor is a cheap option, or you could use one of our top picks, ABBYY FineReader 15 or Adobe Acrobat DC.
The process of merging PDFs in any of these programs is equivalent. To accomplish this in PDF-XChange Editor, you would:
- To create a new document, select File > New.
- Select the option to Merge Multiple PDFs into One.
- Simply drag the files you’d like to include into the PDF into the file-list box. PDFs, text files, pictures, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and many more can all be uploaded. The program first merges the files into a PDF.
In PDF-XChange Editor, you can open multiple files in different tabs and then drag the thumbnail images of the pages you desire from the source tab to the destination tab to fine-tune the combination. To bring up thumbnails, either use the shortcut Ctrl-T or go to the View menu and select Panes.
How to Combine PDFs on a Mac
Unlike Windows, macOS has robust PDF capabilities, such as the rather unassuming Preview software.
Starting with Catalina in 2019, the Finder’s Gallery view includes a menu that allows you to create or merge PDFs (the view that displays a large preview of the current file).