How to combine separate PDFs into a single PDF using the Preview app on your Mac.

Earlier this week I had to finalise some personal documentation for my solicitor.

They had asked me one particular question, but the answer was contained in an assortment of different documents that I had to locate, scan and email back to them.

Locating the information was fairly straight forward because I keep my hardcopy & electronic files organised.


However, once I did locate what I needed I realised the answer to the question was contained in several separate pages of several different documents.

Rather than scan every page of every document, I really only needed to scan the relevant pages and email those through to my solicitor.


Nonetheless, the ‘relevant pages’ totalled eleven, which I thought was significant in terms of attachments.


I know how frustrating it can be to receive an email with a scattering of attachments that you then have to open, one-at-a-time, to view.

Your screen ends up full of documents that you then have to click between to read.


I also know that I don’t fancy getting an email with eleven attachments, especially when they all support the answer the same single question.


So, I decided to combine the separate scans into one PDF which I could then send as a single attachment to my solicitor.


And I used the Preview app on my Mac to do so.

What is the preview app?

Preview is an app that is included in Mac operating systems to enable Mac users to view images and PDFs. 

There’s actually a lot of other functionality within the Preview app – which I will address another time – but the really useful tool I leveraged this week is its ability to combine several PDFs into a single PDF document.


Here’s how I did it

Step 1

I used my Scannable app to scan the eleven pages I needed, and had saved them as PDFs into Dropbox (my cloud-based storage solution of choice).


Step 2

I then chose which of those eleven pages would be the first page of my master PDF document, and gave it a name that reflected what the compilation of PDFs was to become.

E.g. ‘EWING_Answers to solicitor’s question 10.11.20


Step 3

I opened that first-page-scan using the Preview app, and then clicked on the Sidebar display menu to choose how I wanted the scans to be displayed while I was working on them.

Step 4

I scrolled to – and selected – ‘Thumbnails’, which displayed the scan as a thumbnail on the left-hand-side of the screen. 

Step 5

I then rearranged the active windows on my computer screen: the Finder window on the left-hand-side and the Preview window to the right-hand-side.

Step 6

From here I was able to click-hold-and-drag each scan from the Finder window over into the Preview window.

Step 7

I then went back to the Sidebar display menu, scrolled to – and selected – ‘Contact Sheet’.

This enabled me to see the thumbnails clearly without having to scroll down the entire Preview screen.

From within this view I was able to click-and-drag the thumbnail scans into the order I wanted them within the master PDF document.

Step 8

I now had all of my separate scans compiled as a single PDF document.

All that was left to do was:

  • save the newly created master PDF (so it could be attached to an email back to my solicitor),
  • delete all of the separate scans that I’d used to create the master (because I like to tidy and delete what I no longer require in my Dropbox), and
  • file the master PDF in an appropriate folder in my Dropbox (so I can locate it again in the future).

So there you go – creating a single PDF document from an assortment of individual PDFs can be a useful trick to have up your sleeve don’t you think?

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