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Combining PDF files on Mac? Is it possible? It surely is. Here is a guide that will allow you to do just that.

Using OS X Preview to combine PDF files

Using Apple’s very own free Preview app, it is possible for you to extract pages from one PDF and insert it into another PDF, exactly where you want it. To do so, follow the steps below.

Open Preview -> Open the PDF documents which need combining -> By selecting EACH preview window, go to View and then open THUMBNAILS -> Select thumbnail of whichever page you want to move -> If you need to move more than one page, use Shift or Command key to select many pages -> Simply drag thumbnails to the PDF document where you want to insert the page -> Observe a divider line that will pop up, and insert carefully there*** – > Release your left mouse button and your PDF files are combined on a Mac!

*** The divider line will only show when you drag a file’s thumbnail directly over the thumbnail of the PDF file where you want to combine the pages. Dragging it over or below the thumbnail will not merge the files.

If you don’t want to drag and drop and want to instead use page numbers to insert PDF pages onto another document, you can do that as well, again using Preview. Go to Preview -> Edit -> Insert -> Option -> Page from File -> Insert page number to insert. Preview even allows you to insert a page directly from a scanner, after you scan a page.

In the above instructions, the new combined PDF document that you are creating will show additional page numbers. For example, if you open a 3 page PDF file named A and then insert 2 pages from PDF file B, your new combined document should show 5 total pages in Preview. If this doesn’t happen, you might have to take an extra step, mentioned below.

To force merge two PDF files in Preview, use the mouse pointer or insert page number method to insert the PDF pages and then go to Print. Then, choose the “Save to PDF” option within Print. This will give you an option to trick your Mac into thinking it is printing, when it actually saves you a combined PDF document.

If even the Print option doesn’t work, like it happens when your OS X is a bit buggy, there is another way to combine PDF files or pages from two or more PDF files.

Create a combined PDF document using the thumbnails or insert page methods like mentioned before and then go to File -> Export as PDF – Enter New File Name. Then, double check the new file by opening it to see if all the pages you want have been actually combined, the way you wanted it.

Managing PDF file size after combining PDF files

While Preview gives you an easy way to combine PDF files, it isn’t very efficient in optimizing the file size of the combined PDF document. As a result, the file size of the combined PDF document can get a bit out of hand. A large file size can be pesky, making it difficult to send as an attachment in emails.

If you have such a large combined PDF file, there is a way to bring down the size, albeit with some quality loss. The pages might not look as sharp as it did in the original document but it certainly wont be so poor that you can use it at all.

For this, we will use Preview again!

Open Preview -> Open target PDF file -> File -> Export -> Quartz Filter (From Sub-Menu) -> Reduce File Size -> Save

Please note that the above method will work best with PDF files that do not have photographs, very large images or high end graphics. It will work well with combined PDF files that have a lot of text, basic vectors, spreadsheets, tables, even some charts and simple elements like that. In some cases, this method can reduce file size of the combined PDF document by almost 90%.