How To Combine PDFs Using Automator

Automator - LogoAutomator is one of my favorite applications on OS X. Wait … scratch that ! It is my favorite automation tool. Period.

Now, there are automation tools available for all consumer operating systems but as far as I know there isn’t any that makes automating tasks as easy as Automator. It’s really a pity that the drag and drop convenience that it brings to Automation, only works on OS X.

Coming back to the topic of this post, I’ll be teaching you how to automate a task that is fairly easy and simple to do manually, but takes more “clicks” and effort. Exactly the kind of task that you’d like to automate – Combining PDF files.

Suppose you have two PDF files that you want to combine into one file. One way is to open the first file in Preview and then select and drag the second file into the sidebar pane. This is fine for one file but quickly becomes a pain if there are more than two files that you want to combine.

This is where Automator comes in. We’ll create a service using Automator that lets us combine PDF files with a single click.

First of all launch Automator and select the Service template.

Automator

Since, we’re only interested in working with PDF files, make the following selections from the drop down at the top of the workflow window. This will ensure that our context sensitive service is only active when we select PDF files in the Finder application.

Automator - Select PDF Files

The next step is to drag in some Automator actions to our workflow. Search for the action named “Combine PDF Pages” in the left side pane and drag it to the main workflow window.

Automator - Combine PDF Pages

That is essentially all that we want to do. At this point, we have a service that will let you select multiple PDF files in Finder and then combine them all by appending pages and create a single PDF file out of them. But, we still don’t know where that new file will be saved. Automator will, by default, save the file in some esoteric system location but that is not what we want. Let’s drag the action named “Move Finder Items” to the workflow.

Automator - Move Finder Items

The default select of moving items to the Desktop should be fine, unless you want to move the newly create file to another folder.

Save the workflow and give it a nice descriptive name. You can quit Automator now.

Now, whenever you want to combine PDF files, just select them in Finder, right click and choose the service that we just created.

Automator - right click

OS X will now combine the two (or more) PDF files and create a new file on the desktop.

Are there any other cool Automator actions that you guys want to know more about ? Have you guys any other cool actions in the past ? Let me know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “How To Combine PDFs Using Automator

  1. I have never understood how to use automator, but OMG this is actually amazing! Its my new favourite program, thank you!

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth Aileen!

      Thanks for this really helpful tip Sharninder :)

  2. Thank you, this was just what I needed, when I needed it. I had 12 PDF documents to combine (several are multiple pages) and was dreading all of the clicking. I was very happy to have the convenience of this automation. I work with lots of PDF files every day and this will save me a lot of time. Automator is a great tool.

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