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How to move pages between PDFs in Preview

The award for the most humbly-named application goes to…Preview! Not only does Preview live up to its name and let you view the contents of PDF and numerous types of graphics files, it also gives you numerous ways to modify your PDF files.

I already showed its annotation capabilities in “How to annotate a printout or PDF in Preview”. I recently learned that Preview makes it easy to copy pages from one PDF file into another PDF file. Watch this video to see how easy it is to move pages and also rotate and delete individual pages.

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What's a PDF file?

PDFs are a versatile file type that can contain both text and graphics and can be viewed on Macs, PCs, and many smartphones too. You can download ebooks in PDF format, “print” a document or web page to a PDF file, or scan from a scanner to a PDF file.

In the video above, I show two methods for dragging and dropping pages from one PDF to another. The first method is from one Preview window to another, and the second is between documents that have been opened within a single Preview window. I use Preview’s default “Open groups of files in the same window” setting (shown below) so when I open the PDFs one at a time Preview put them in separate windows, but when I open a group of files (by selecting a few before double-clicking) they’re all displayed in a single Preview window.

Preview General Preferences

Preview General Preferences

If you have Preview set to “Open each file in its own window”, then you’ll always be dragging pages between Preview window. If you have “Open all files in one window” set, then you’ll always be dragging pages within the Sidebar of a single Preview window.

Contact Sheet mode

If you find the Sidebar’s little thumbnail images of each page are too small to identify what’s on a page, you have two options. First, if you hover your cursor over the divider between the Sidebar and the rest of the Preview window, you’ll see that you can drag this divider to make the Sidebar wider. As the Sidebar widens, the page thumbnails will automatically grow larger.

But, if you want even larger page thumbnail images, you should check out Contact Sheet mode. You can switch to it by clicking on the Preview Contact Sheet button button at the bottom of the Sidebar or by choosing the View > Sidebar > Contact Sheet menu option.

Contact Sheet mode will expand the Sidebar to completely fill your Preview window. You can then adjust the size of the page images using the zoom slider Preview zoom slider in the lower left corner of the Preview window.

Preview in Contact Sheet mode

Preview in Contact Sheet mode

In Contact Sheet mode, you get even more space to see and move pages between PDFs, and the more difficult task of dropping a page at the end of a PDF no longer requires such delicate cursor control.

Whichever mode you choose, the Preview application is a great way to help you move pages from one PDF to another, or even just rearrange the pages within a single PDF. And don’t forget that Preview also lets you rotate and delete individual pages too.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • jac mills November 23, 2011, 9:47 am

    Another great one, Steve. When I opened the video I got it OK, and enjoyed the learning, but there always is an ad box at the bottom of my videos now. I will take a screen shot, send it to you and maybe you can tell me how to get rid — permanently — of that ad box that pops up in all my videos.

  • Tamara November 24, 2011, 9:01 pm

    Super! I have been stumped numerous times trying to bring different pages of a PDF into one. The eliminates me scanning documents into my printer and rearranging them manually. Thank you!

    PS: I get the same ad box in my video window as jac mills.

    • Steve November 26, 2011, 6:04 pm

      Glad to have helped you Tamara. I’ve done that rearranging and scanning before too. Not only is this method easier but the pages look better than having gone through another round of scanning.

  • Jean G November 25, 2011, 4:33 pm

    I just want to thank you for all your videos. I have learned so much over the past months, and they are always easy to understand. I’m sending a big Thanksgiving Hug.

    • Steve November 26, 2011, 6:00 pm

      Thank you Jean! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Thanks for the hug. 🙂

  • Dan September 7, 2013, 9:46 pm

    That’s awesome! Many thanks for your great teaching XD

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