There are a plethora of online applications available to assist you with merging PDFs. What’s more, it’s all for free. It appears to be an excellent value, but it’s difficult to tell for sure. Like many other files, PDFs include metadata that you can use to identify you, and if you make poor choices, your uploads could find up in the wrong hands.
Of course, not all of these applications have the capability of sending your tax records to identity thieves. Some are run by well-known organizations, while others may have robust security measures in place. You don’t want to waste time investigating the privacy policies of a virtual stapler; you want to put some files together. Even the most reliable web-based application won’t help you if you don’t have access to the internet.
Thankfully, Apple included a PDF combiner with macOS, and while Windows lacks a similar feature, there are various workarounds you can attempt.
On macOS, how do you combine PDFs?
There are two ways to merge PDFs on Apple’s operating system, one of which provides greater customization than the other. It’s also worth mentioning that these methods allow you to combine any form of image file into a PDF, so you could, for example, attach a JPEG of a receipt onto the end of a PDF invoice.
Open Finder and make sure it’s in Gallery view before slamming two or more files together end-to-end. To be sure, select Gallery from the View or view icon at the top of the Finder window (the only one with both up and down arrows). Then, in the order you want them to appear in the PDF, select your files. The best selection method is generally Command + click, although alternative methods (such as Shift + click to choose consecutive files and, if you’re feeling brave, Command + A to select all) will also work. Create a new folder especially for the files you desire and work from there if you’re having problems locating them. Finally, from the options in the bottom right of the Finder window, select Create PDF to save your work to whatever folder you’re working in.
Open one PDF in Preview for additional flexibility and organization options. Make that page thumbnails displayed in the Preview window before merging it with another one (if they aren’t, go to View > Thumbnails). After a specific page, add a full new PDF, go to Edit, Insert, and then Page from File after selecting that page’s thumbnail. Select the PDF you’d like to include and click Open. Finish by selecting File, Export as PDF, entering a name for your new PDF, and clicking Save.
Open both PDFs in separate Preview windows if you truly need to work on one page at a time. Drag one or more page thumbnails from one page to the thumbnail sidebar adjacent to the other. The selected pages will be copied and inserted, and you may then move and delete them from the thumbnail bar as needed. You can also use this method to edit and reorganize a single PDF.
On Windows, how do you combine PDFs?
On Windows machines, you’ll have to work hard to merge PDFs. You’ll have to get creative because there’s no built-in functionality like there is on macOS. That implies you’ll most likely need to download a second program to complete the task.
Before we go into the tools you can download, keep in mind that if you only want to combine a collection of images into one PDF, you can paste them into Microsoft Word or any other program to display pictures and print them to the PDF option. You may also perform the same thing by converting a PDF to picture files using an image editor. That is, admittedly, a low-tech option that will most likely not look amazing. If you’re storing anything for personal use, however, you might not mind.
If you have access to the internet, the best option is to download a third-party program, and we recommend the open-source PDFsam utility for the job. If you want to use PDFsam Basic, be sure you go to the program’s website and pick Windows from the download options (it also works on macOS, Linux, and through a command-line interface). Merging, dividing, and rotating PDFs are all choices after it installs. A premium edition, including PDF production and page deletion, may be purchased for $69 per year. However, if all you want to do is stick one class assignment to another, you probably don’t need to spend that much money.
Click Merge, then drag and drop the files into the workspace to merge PDFs end-to-end. You may also select files by clicking Add. You may then reorganize them by dragging them up and down the list. You can’t mix and match pages in PDFsam Basic, but you can split a multi-page PDF into smaller portions with the Split function (down to individual pages if necessary). Then, using Merge, import all of the construction components and stitch them together to create a new PDF.
You can merge PDFs with image-editing software like the open-source GIMP as a last resort, but it will take some time. The only advantage to this technique is that you may already have such an application on your machine (we prefer downloading PDFsam if we have the option).
Open one PDF in GIMP and make sure that the dropdown menu next to Open pages says Layers. After that, go to File and open the PDFs you want to integrate with Open as Layers. Because it will stack all of the pages on top of each other, go to Image, Canvas Size, and increase the height of your canvas to accommodate all of them. Then, using the Move tool (a plus symbol with arrows), drag each page to its proper location. Finally, crop your work to remove any dead space before saving it as a new PDF using File > Export as. That’s a lot, so we only recommend it if you’re in a pinch, can’t install new software, and aren’t combining huge PDFs. Manual rearranging can be quite time-consuming.
If you absolutely must use a free online service, at the very least, remove your metadata first.
John Kennedy is the author.