Merging PDF’s to create a single file using Preview

Preview Icon


Mac OS X allows you to create PDF files easily from any Mac Application that allows you to print. However you might not be aware that you can also merge PDF documents into one file using the Preview utility.

The PDF file format is an open standard for document exchange (PDF stands for Portable Document Format). The file format was created by Adobe Systems in 1993. It’s often used for electronic distribution because it faithfully preserves the look and feel of the original document complete with fonts, colours, images, and layout.

let’s consider a scenario. Say you were submitting a capital request to your manager consisting of a written justification using Word or Pages, with a Return on Investment (ROI) calculation using Excel or Numbers. Many people would create the Word File and the Excel Spreadsheet and attach both in an email and send it off to get approved. The Manager then has to open both Excel and Word to decide if he want to approve the request or not.

Using the OS X ability to print to PDF you could print both the written justification and the ROI calculation to PDF files, then merge them into one single document for approval.

PDF advantages are;

  1. PDF’s are platform independent – Both Mac, Windows and other operating systems can read PDF files.
  2. PDF’s take a lot less space in your inbox compared to word processing and spreadsheet files.
  3. Eliminates the risk that the person receiving the file can’t open it because they either don’t have the application or they have an earlier version that can’t read the file that you send.
  4. Eliminates the risk of formatting errors. If the person receiving the file converts it so that they can read it either in a different application or a different version of the same application, formatting differences might occur, making the document look slightly different. That beautifully crafted CV that just fits on one page on your computer, might spill over onto a second page on a different machine, for example.
  5. Makes it much more convenient for the person to receive one file, rather than multiple documents.

How to Merge PDF Documents

Merging PDF’s using the Preview application has been possible since OS 10.5 Leopard, although this article shows how it’s done using OS 10.7 Lion.

First we need to create PDF versions of our documents. Any Application that has a print function can send output to a PDF file.

Pages save as pdf

In the Print Dialog box, click the PDF button and choose Save as PDF. Then repeat for all the files that you want to merge.

Numbers ROI

Then open the first file in Preview. You can do this by right clicking on the file and choosing Open With and choosing Preview (probably the default application). Then in Preview, select Thumbnails from the View menu. This will show the pages of your document in thumbnail view to the left of the main page.

Preview View Thumbnails

Now drag the second PDF on top of the first PDF. You have just merged the two documents into one single document. You can add more pages the same way if you need to.

Adding PDF Files to Preview


Completed Document


  1. David  February 15, 2012

    PDF is the best format for sharing documents, especially if you want to make a good impression. You can create professional PDF documents with this: http://www.smartpdfcreator.com

  2. Document Access Control  February 16, 2012

    Hi all,

    Nice Blog! Thanks a lot for sharing this blog with everyone.

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