How To Combine PDF Files

PDF is a popular format for sharing documents. However, sending multiple PDFs is not always practical. Fortunately, you can combine multiple PDF files to create a single document. Most programs also let you add specific PDF pages to another PDF. 

This guide takes you through the process of combining PDF files step-by-step.

5 Steps to Combine PDF Files

There are different options for combining PDFs depending on your operating system. Additionally, you can try an alternative method if your chosen option doesn’t work. Here’s a quick overview of how you can combine multiple PDF files into one document

  1. Convert Your Files to PDF Format
  2. Signup For Adobe Acrobat DC 
  3. Combine Files With The Preview App (For Mac)
  4. Merge Your PDFs With Finder (macOS Alternative)
  5. Merge Your Documents With Third-Party Software   

The Easy Parts of Combining PDF Files

Combining PDF files is more accessible than most people assume. You don’t need to download any third-party software if you’re a macOS user. Mac computers come with the Preview app, which you’ll use to combine your PDFs.

Similarly, some Adobe users might not need third-party applications or software to combine PDF files. For example, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC offers this capability. Plus, it’s easy to use, and you don’t need to be a computer wizard to complete the process.

Furthermore, Adobe Reader offers thumbnail views to keep track of your files and pages easily. You also get additional features like rearranging pages.

You can combine and manage your PDF files starting from $12.99 per month. Plus, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC offers a seven-day free trial.

Adobe Acrobat DC pricing plans

There are also more applications for combining PDF files. However, be careful about using any old software you find on Google search results. You should be especially cautious of free software. Unscrupulous vendors are known to steal the personal data of people who use free software.

The Difficult Parts of Combining PDF Files

Combining your PDF files is straightforward for the most part. However, you may run into some problems. It’s worth exploring the potential challenges so you know what to do in these scenarios.

The first problem is your files might be too big to combine. Specifically, Adobe Acrobat DC imposes a 2 GB limit. Therefore, the total file size for your merged documents shouldn’t exceed 2 GB. Otherwise, the feature won’t work.

You can work around this problem by compressing your files. Hopefully, the total file size will be smaller than 2 GB after compressing. Alternatively, you can use a different tool like Soda PDF, which doesn’t have a file-size limit.

Soda PDF home page

Another potential problem is attempting to merge protected files. Most software, including Adobe Acrobat DC, won’t let you merge protected files. Before merging, you’ll need to find the file password to unlock the PDF files.

Alternatively, you can use special decryption software to remove the passwords.

Finally, there’s a good chance that the combined PDF formatting will be off. For example, the software might mix up pages, or the documents don’t appear in the desired order. Adobe Acrobat DC lets you reorder your PDF documents before and after combining.

With potential challenges out of the way, here’s what you need to do to combine your PDF files:

Step 1: Convert Your Files to PDF Format

You don’t want to start combining your PDF files only to realize that some files are in a different format. So, ensure you have everything in PDF format and ready to go.

Create a New Folder

It is a good idea to have all your files in one place before combining them. You’ll be able to spot documents that aren’t in the proper format easily. It’s also easier to drag and drop documents into Adobe Reader from a single source.

So create a new folder. You may give it an obvious name like Report PDF Files Combination. This way, you won’t forget where you stored your files.

Next, move the files you want to combine into the new folder. Then, check the list of files to confirm their format. You can identify the format from the file icon.

Convert to PDF

You may notice that you have a mix of files, including Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint files, and Word documents. Adobe Acrobat Reader DC lets you combine different types of files. But it’s easier to have everything in PDF, to begin with.

There’s less chance of formatting issues if all your files are in PDF. In addition, converting your files is easy. Simply open the document and save it as a PDF.

For example, open the Excel spreadsheet you want to convert. Then:

  • Click the File tab
  • Scroll down to Save a Copy
  • Choose PDF as the file type from the drop-down menu
  • Finally, click the Save button
Screenshot of Excel spreadsheet file save menu with PDF selected in the file save dropdown

Repeat the same process for your Word and PowerPoint files. Then, remember to delete or move the old files so you only have PDF files in your folder.

The process is similar for macOS users. Simply open the Pages document. Then:

  • Go to Choose File and click Export To
  • Choose PDF for the file type
  • Click Next
  • Then, enter the file name and choose a location to save the file
  • Lastly, click Export

Step 2: Sign Up for Adobe Acrobat DC (Recommended for Most)

Feel free to skip this step if you are a macOS user. Your device comes with a tool for combining PDFs. Otherwise, Adobe Acrobat is the best software for combining your PDFs.

Create an Adobe Acrobat Account

If you haven’t already, sign up for your Adobe Acrobat account. Visit the Adobe website to create your account. However, you can skip this step if you already have an account.

Adobe Acrobat DC offers two paid tiers, including:

Acrobat Standard DC – This is the cheapest plan. It will let you combine your PDF files. It costs $12.99 per month. It’s good enough if you don’t require advanced features like turning your scanned documents into editable PDF files.

Acrobat Pro DC – This plan costs $14.99 per month. You can use it to combine PDF files. However, you get advanced features like redacting sensitive information from your PDF documents and comparing two versions of a PDF document.

Simply click Buy now to create an account and purchase an annual subscription.

Adobe Acrobat DC

Alternatively, the Acrobat Standard DC plan offers a free trial. It’s a terrific option if you only need to combine PDF files once. You’ll have access to all the features for free for one week. So, take advantage of the free trial if you only need single-use software.

You can always pay for a subscription the next time you need to combine your PDFs.

Open the Combine Files Tool

You can find the Combine Files tool in the right pane of your account. Alternatively, click Tools from the top menu and select Combine Files.

You’ll see a screen where you can drag and drop or add your saved files directly from the Combine Files screen.

Adobe Acrobat DC combine files tool with yellow box around Tools on the top menu and another yellow box around Combine Files button on the side

Add Your Files

Again, Adobe Acrobat DC lets you combine different types of files. It’s a quick option if you don’t want to convert your files to PDF. You can combine various file formats, including PDF, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Word documents, emails, and images.

Either way, drag and drop the files you want to combine. Or, click Add Files on your screen. Then, navigate to the appropriate folder, choose your file, and add it to the Combine Files tool.

Lastly, click the Add Files button and repeat the process for as many files as you’d like to combine.

Adobe Acrobat DC combine files tool with yellow box around selected files and another yellow box around Add Files button

Preview and Arrange Your Documents

Adobe Reader DC lets you preview your documents. Simply hover the cursor over the document you want to preview. Then, click the magnifying glass to enlarge the document.

Adobe Acrobat DC document preview screen

You can also rearrange documents or pages in the order you want. Simply drag and drop the file to the correct position. You can also delete unwanted files or pages.

Merge Your Files

Finally, click Combine to merge your documents. You’ll be able to view, edit, rename, and save the document once it’s merged. Otherwise, you have successfully combined your PDF files.

Step 3: Combine Files with the Preview App (For Mac)

Mac users don’t have to download dedicated PDF editing or merging software. You can join your documents using the Preview tool on your device. This feature supports most macOS versions, including Big Sur, Catalina, and older versions.

Create a Duplicate PDF File

The Preview App is a handy tool for signing documents and editing images. But, you can also use it to perform basic PDF operations. This includes merging multiple PDF documents into one file.

But first, create a duplicate of the PDF file you want to merge with other files. This precaution ensures that you still have the original document if something goes wrong. You won’t need to backtrack your actions to retrieve the original document.

Open the Duplicate PDF Document

Open the duplicate PDF document. The document should automatically open in Preview. The Preview app is a macOS default PDF reader.

Next, click View on the top toolbar. Then click Insert > Page from File. Next, you can view the thumbnails for the PDFs you want to combine with your document. Then choose the files you want to merge.

Screenshot of macOS preview app

The Preview app also lets you rearrange your document before combining. This way, you don’t have to rearrange the documents later. You can do this by dragging the document to the correct position.

You can also delete unwanted files from the merge list. Finally, the Preview app lets you combine other file types like JPEG, TIFF, or PNG. However, you cannot merge PDF files with Excel or Word documents.

Combine Your PDF Files

First, confirm that you are happy with the order of your documents and pages. Then, select File > Export to PDF to save your copy. You have successfully merged your PDF documents.

Step 4: Merge Your PDFs with Finder (macOS Alternative)

macOS has an alternative PDF combining tool known as Finder. Some people may be more familiar with this program. It’s also an excellent alternative to the native Preview app.

Move Your PDFs to One Folder

Create a new folder. Ensure that you give it a name you can remember easily. Then, move the PDF files you want to combine to the new folder.

Merge Your PDFs

Next, open the new PDF folder. Hold down the command key and select the PDFs you want to combine. Then, you can click the documents in the order you wish to combine them. A Create PDF button will appear in the right panel.

Click the Create PDF, and the program will automatically create a combined document. You can find the combined PDF on your desktop. Again, you can also combine image files with your PDF. However, the Finder doesn’t let you connect to other file formats like MS Word or Excel Spreadsheets.

Alternatively, you can select the files you want to combine while holding down the command key. Then, right-click and select Quick Actions > Create PDF. Check the thumbnails page to ensure that your documents are in the correct order before creating the PDF document. You can also rearrange the documents and pages in a gallery view before clicking Create PDF.  

Step 5: Merge Your Documents with Third-Party Software

You might not be able to use Adobe Reader DC or the Preview app to merge your documents. For example, you won’t be able to link your documents with Adobe Reader DC if the total file size exceeds 2 GB.

Similarly, the Preview app has its limitations. For instance, you can’t combine multiple file formats, such as PDF, Microsoft Word documents, or Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. You’ll need third-party software in this case.

Visit the Soda PDF Website

Many third-party tools let you merge multiple PDF documents. However, some of this software is designed to steal sensitive information. So, ensure you use a trusted third-party tool.

Soda PDF is a great option. It’s easy to use, and it’s available for free download. Plus, Soda PDF is also a trusted vendor. So your safety and privacy are guaranteed. 

Soda PDF also has a web application if you don’t want to download the software. You can merge your documents directly from the Soda PDF webpage.

Visit the Soda PDF website to begin the merging process.

Download Soda PDF

Download and install the free program. Then, run the program and follow the prompts. You’ll be asked to create an account. The software offers two paid tiers.

Standard – This plan costs $4.15 per month. You get basic PDF management features like exporting PDF files in a different format like HTML or Microsoft Word. You can also use this plan to merge your PDF documents.

Pro – This plan costs $7.50 per month. You get advanced features like adding passwords to PDF documents and adding or removing electronic signatures on PDFs.  

Soda PDF pricing plans

Finally, you’ll receive an activation link in the email you used to create your account. Simply click the email link to validate your account.

Merge Your PDF Files

Open the Soda PDF software. Then, click the Convert tab in the top menu. Then, click Merge.

Screenshot of Soda PDF menu with yellow box around Convert and a red arrow pointing to Merge option

You’ll see the Merge Files window. Click the Plus icon, then click Add Files. Then, add the PDF files you want to merge.

Soda PDF menu with red box around plus button and another red box around Add Files option

The software lets you add an entire folder or specific files. Then, repeat the process for all the PDF documents you want to merge.

Soda PDF menu with red box around Add Folder option and another red box around Add Opened Files

You also get multiple options for merging your files. For example, you can extract specific pages from a PDF to combine with your document. You can also delete unwanted documents from the merge list before proceeding.

Drag and drop the PDF documents in the order you want.

Screenshot of Soda PDF option to drag and drop files in any order you want

Finally, click MERGE when you’re ready to combine your documents. The merged PDF will open automatically when the documents link successfully.  

Screenshot of Soda PDF menu with red box around Merge button and red arrow pointing to it

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