PDF files are ideal for securely formatting documents that look and feel across devices and operating systems. But merging multiple PDFs into one large document can be tricky and inconvenient without a dedicated app.
Why Merge PDF Files Together
If you have a catalog full of PDFs, they are probably related: client invoices, project instructions, or travel itineraries. Clicking, opening one document after another, it takes a lot of time to figure out exactly how much you’ve billed this year.
Ideally, you could easily combine several documents into one large file and browse through it to find the information you need.
Although there are many online services for merging PDFs, you may encounter privacy issues when sending documents to a third party service. You can never be sure that your documents will remain confidential, and you cannot guarantee that copies will not remain on the server.
Combine PDFs in Terminal with pdfunite
pdfunite is a command line utility designed to merge multiple PDF files into one document. It is part of the poppler-utils package, which comes pre-installed with most popular Linux distributions.
If you don’t have poppler-utils installed, install them on Debian-based distributions with:
sudo apt install poppler-utils
Or on Arch and derivatives with:
sudo pacman -S poppler
To install poppler-utils on Fedora and related distributions, type:
sudo dnf install poppler-utils
pdfunite will be installed along with many other PDF tools.
Using pdfunite to merge PDFs in the terminal is very easy. First, use the cd command to navigate to the directory containing your PDFs.
The basic syntax of pdfunite is easy to remember: add the names of the PDFs you want to merge, followed by the name of the new file you want to create. For example:
pdfunite Afghanistan.pdf Bahamas.pdf Cambodia.pdf Destinations.pdf
…will combine the three documents and output them as Destinations.pdf. You can view the resulting PDF file in any PDF viewer.
Stitch PDF files together with PDF Arranger
If terminal tools aren’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know about PDF Arranger: a simple GUI tool written in Python that lets you merge PDF files while making basic changes like rotate, crop, and rearrange pages.
PDF Arranger has several dependencies, so install them first. Open a terminal, then to install PDF Arranger on Debian or Ubuntu based systems, type:
sudo apt-get install python3-pip python3-distutils-extra python3-wheel python3-gi python3-gi-cairo gir1.2-gtk-3.0 gir1.2-poppler-0.18 gir1.2-handy-1 python3-setuptools
For the Fedora family, enter:
sudo dnf install poppler-glib python3-distutils-extra python3-pip python3-gobject gtk3 python3-cairo python3-wheel python3-pikepdf python3-img2pdf python3-dateutil libhandy
On Arch Linux and derivatives:
sudo pacman -S poppler-glib python-distutils-extra python-pip python-gobject gtk3 python-cairo libhandy
Now you can use PIP to install PDF Arranger:
pip3 install --user --upgrade
The installation will take less than a minute, and when it is finished, you will be able to launch PDF Arranger from the system menu.
The app is somewhat bare when you first open it. To get started, click the “Open” icon in the top left corner, then select your PDF files and click “Open”.
The interface will be populated with individual pages of the PDFs you selected. If all you want to do is combine them into one document, click the Save or Save As button. Choose a location and filename for the output file, then click Save.
Reordering pages is also easy: just press and hold and then drag the page to a new location. If you want to move multiple pages, hold Ctrl then left click the files to select them, then release Ctrl and drag them again.
By right-clicking on a page or a selected group of pages, you will get a context menu. There are entries here for rotate, duplicate, split and crop pages. Clicking on one of them will do exactly what you think.
Other right-click options include selecting odd or even pages, selecting only pages from the same source document, or inverting the selection.
Don’t just merge PDFs! Create them
While it’s helpful to combine multiple PDFs to better organize your documents, sometimes you’ll need to create one from scratch or edit it. Luckily, Linux has your back and dozens of great PDF creation and editing tools are available to you!
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