How to combine PDF files

From housing contracts to business deals, PDFs seep into just about every area of the internet as the official document you need to get things done. However, sometimes we need to convert, combine, or edit them. But these portable document formats can often pose quite a challenge when working with different operating systems. 

We’ve walked out the steps for both Windows and Mac OS users to combine your PDF files, while web tools are another also popular method. Either way, here is how to do it with whatever computer you have.

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The Windows method

The following method uses Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, the best PDF editor you can download. Acrobat Pro DC is premium software, meaning you need to pay for the privilege of using it. Fortunately, there’s a free trial you can use. Which is helpful whether you only need to merge a couple of PDF files this one time or plan to do all your merging in the near future.

Step 1: Download and install the Adobe Acrobat Pro DC free trial.

Step 2: Once installed, open the software and click the Tools tab in the top left-hand corner.

Step 3: Click the Combine Files button.

Step 4: Click the blue Add Files button and select the PDF documents you want to combine. It should be noted that this method works for all sorts of files, not just PDFs.

Step 5: With your PDFs selected, click Combine Files.

Step 6: Your PDFs have now been merged into one. All you need to do is save it to a new location, which you can do by clicking File followed by Save As and then selecting a name and location for your new file.

If you don’t like the idea of using Adobe’s software (or your free trial has already run its course), then there are plenty of third-party options to consider that are designed especially for Windows. A cheap and effective option is Perfect PDF Combine, which may be very useful if you end up combining a lot of PDFs and want an app dedicated to helping out.

Alternatively, have a look at some of the online options further down this guide. All of them are free and equally effective at combining PDF files together.

The MacOS method

The latest versions of MacOS Mojave and Catalina make combining PDFs extremely easy thanks to MacOS Finder. The new Finder shows previews of your files and adds a contextual menu on the side, allowing Mac users to perform a number of quick actions. One of those actions is the ability to create PDFs from the selection.

You can find the quick action menu on the right-hand side underneath the individual properties of the files you have selected. If the Create PDF function isn’t obviously available, clicking the More icon should bring it up.

Step 1: Open Finder and select all the PDF files that you wish to combine.

Step 2: Once you’ve selected the files you wish to combine, the Finder window will show a preview of the files with a Create PDF button underneath. Hit that and a new PDF is created for you.

Step 3: You can then open the newly created file with Preview. Page order can be changed by simply dragging and dropping the page thumbnails on the left-hand side. You can also annotate or rotate pages as necessary.

Step 4: Once finished, make sure to rename the newly merged file so that you know what it is. Select File > Rename to do this.

The web method

There are scores of free, web-based tools that will allow you to merge PDF files — and that’s good news for you. If you need to merge files quickly, this may be the best option since these programs don’t really care where your PDF files come from or where they’re going. Furthermore, they don’t require installing any additional programs. They do tend to have strict size limits, though.

Below are several of the most popular tools for merging PDF files, but keep in mind that they all basically do the same thing. If you run into formatting issues with one tool, then try another.

  • PDF Merge: Open up PDF Merge, and you’ll see a simple window with bars for dragging and dropping several PDF files. The software provides a simple Merge Files option to combine them. However, note that the service is only free if you’re dealing with 5MB or under, which is comparably low. After that, it’ll ask you to pay — so large booklets are probably out of the question.
  • PDF Joiner: PDF Joiner is ideal for all sorts of file format shifts and changes. Yes, you can combine PDFs, but you can also change your combined document to a text or JPG file (or vice versa). If you’re trying to condense many different formats into one, this tool functions as a great alternative to pulling your hair out. However, the software only allows you to work with 20 files at once.
  • Smallpdf: Smallpdf’s claim to fame is that it’s easy to download files straight from Dropbox or Google Drive, meaning you don’t have to waste any time uploading the files if you’ve done so previously. That’s great for collaborative projects, and overall, the Smallpdf merge tool works hard to be a more professional choice. The software clearly describes its security, for instance, and allows you to preview your new PDF document as you create it. This is definitely a great option for work-related combining. Convert and split options are also available, as is a Chrome extension and desktop app!
  • FoxyUtils Merge PDF: FoxyUtils offers a cute incentive. If you merge PDF files, you’ll help in sponsoring a tree planting project. That’s great for eco-friendly companies — too bad the maximum file size is limited to 50MB.

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