Combine part of a PDF with another PDF
The problem: Combining multiple PDF files into a single file, so you don't inflict a half-dozen PDF files on the accounting department when you know they'll lose track of more than one file.
Or maybe you have four or five sections of a report that you've printed to separate PDF files from Word, Excel, and a photo editor. How do you get them all into a single PDF? If you use a Mac, you have the only tool you'll need already built into the macOS operating system, though you can find more flexible and full-features solutions if you buy commercial third-party apps.
If you use Windows, you'll need third-party apps, but you can find free open-source apps that do the job. There are also online apps that offer to combine and edit PDFs that you upload, but I don't recommend any of them.
Your PDF files contain invisible metadata, potentially identifying you and your system, and you may not want to give that metadata to a website that offers free editing features.
That site may want to profit from your data in ways you won't like. When you need to combine PDF files in Windows, you may decide that you wish you had a Mac, where the Preview app gets the job done quickly and easily.
How To Combine Multiple PDF's into a Single PDF using Apple Preview
Windows 10 lets you view PDF files in the Edge browser, but doesn't let you do anything with them. To merge or manage PDF files, you'll need either a free but limited third-party productivity app or one of a variety of well-designed commercial apps.
A spacious interface lets you choose among functions like merging and splitting PDFs files, plus a nifty feature that combines two PDF documents, alternating the pages from one file with the pages from the other, so you can create a single PDF from separate PDFs that contain the front and back pages of an original two-sided document. Don't expect an easy-to-use interface like the thumbnail views in Adobe Reader and other commercial software.
How to do it with Preview on Mac
You can specify a page range from each PDF, but you'll have to figure out which pages you want by viewing the document in a separate app like Microsoft Edge or Adobe Reader. If you want better visual cues when merging PDFs, you'll need a commercial app that lets you see the combined PDF before you save it to disk and also displays thumbnail images that you can drag up and down in a sidebar in order to rearrange the pages.
All these apps let you combine PDFs in basically the same way. A file-list box will open. Drag into it the files that you want to combine into a single PDF.
To combine two or more PDF files in Preview, start by making a copy of one of the files and working with the duplicate this is an essential precaution because Preview saves the file as you work, and if the results aren't what you want, you'll need to do some fancy footwork to get back the original file.
Open the duplicate file.
How to Combine PDFs on a Mac
If thumbnails aren't visible in Preview's sidebar, go to the View menu to switch them on. Next, simply drag additional PDF files into the sidebar and drop them at the position in the file where you want them to be—at the start or end, or between any two existing pages. If you get the location wrong, you can drag one or more thumbnails to the correct location, and you can delete any pages that you don't want.
What if you only want to merge a few pages from a second PDF file?
Combining entire PDF documents
As always in macOS, you can Shift-click to select a continuous range of pages, or Cmd-click on multiple pages to select pages from anywhere in the file. If some pages get imported in the wrong orientation, use Preview's toolbar to rotate them. Preview has another PDF-merging trick that isn't immediately obvious. You can merge any file that Preview can display into an existing PDF.
You can't drag those documents into Preview, but you can use the Print menu in Word or Excel to create PDF files that you can use for a merge. Alternatively, if you have a third-party app like Adobe Acrobat, you can merge PDFs in the same way that you merge them in Preview—but you can also directly drag files in any file format that Acrobat knows how to convert into PDF, including HTML web pages, plain text files, Word documents, and Excel worksheets.
Acrobat also lets you create a completely new PDF from one or more of these same external formats. How-To Productivity. August 6, Copy Link. About Edward Mendelson Edward Mendelson has been a contributing editor at PC Magazine since , and writes extensively on Windows and Mac software, especially about office, internet, and utility applications.