Sometimes you need to merge or split a PDF file. Here’s how to do that for free without bothering with Word’s PDF conversion feature.
We often combine PDF’s made in Microsoft Office. Separate PDF’s saved from Word, Excel or Powerpoint can be mushed into one file. Some printing services charge per document as well as per page so combining PDF’s can save a little money.
Ever since Word got PDF import features, it’s been possible to use Word to split or combine PDFs. Just open the PDF in Word and tinker with the pages. But Word doesn’t really let you edit a PDF, instead it’s converted into a Word document. That conversion doesn’t 100% retain the formatting of the original PDF. It’s also a time-consuming process.
The faster and more reliable option is to work with the PDF files and pages directly. You could buy Adobe’s PDF editing software or service but that not only costs money, but has a lot more features that probably aren’t needed.
Free PDF Merger
There are various ‘free’ tools out there but we settled on PDFMate Free PDF Merger available for both Windows and Mac.
It has various useful options beyond just merging several PDF’s into a single file.
You can select pages from a larger PDF. Use that to split a PDF into smaller ones, see below for other ways to do that without a special tool.
The output PDF can be set to a single page format, US or Metric.
Pages can be merged normally or combined into ‘2 pages per sheet’ or ‘4 pages per sheet’ to save paper.
There’s also security / password options.
Alternative PDF merge tools didn’t appeal for various reasons. Some require the Java runtime that we prefer to avoid or aren’t really free. For privacy reasons, we don’t use online services either.
Split a PDF
Because Free PDF merger lets you specify the PDF pages to merge, the same tool can be used to split a single PDF into separate PDFs.
- Load the large PDF into Free PDF Merger. It will be the only PDF listed for ‘merging’.
- Click on the ‘Page Range’ option and specify the range of pages you want saved
- Change any other Layout settings, if necessary.
- Click Build.
That will save a copy of the PDF with only the pages you nominated.
Repeat but specify a different page range. For example start with pages 1-10, then 11-20 etc.
You’ll end up with various PDF subsets of the original PDF.
Using ‘Print to PDF’ to save some PDF pages
Another way to split up a PDF is to open the file in any PDF viewing program then ‘Print’ to another PDF file.
Both Windows and Mac have in-built ‘Print to PDF’ options that take the print commands from any program and save them to a PDF instead.
Splitting up a PDF is easy, just ‘print’ the pages you want. For example a 10 page PDF can be compressed to just 3 pages by printing pages 2-4 only. The result is another PDF file with just the pages you’ve chosen.
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