Combining or merging multiple PDF files into one file is a hassle if you don’t have the required software or you’ve never done it before. No matter what type of operating system you use, there are straightforward methods for how to combine PDF files in just a few clicks. Some methods are simpler because they use software designed by Adobe Systems to handle PDF files.

What Are PDF Files?

A Portable Document Format (PDF) file is a file type that makes sharing documents of all kinds relatively easy. PDF files were created by Adobe Systems for its native suite of software and have become the industry standard. Whether you want to collate several text documents, photographs, word-processing or files, PDFs are used everywhere. Before you attempt to combine different PDF files together, ensure they are not password protected, and that editing and printing are enabled for the documents in question.

Check for Adobe Acrobat Reader

In order to open any PDF file you need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your desktop. Adobe Acrobat Reader is free and is available to download online, but many computers come with it pre-installed. Download Adobe Acrobat Reader if you do not have the software yet.

Combine two PDFs or more on your own using any of the following methods.

1. How to Combine PDF Files With Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC interface

Adobe Acrobat DC is the original, and most comprehensive, software for editing PDF files. It makes combining multiple PDF files a breeze. Since this is premium software, the price tag matches the functionality — if you cannot afford any of the plans, consider downloading the free trial or choosing another method to combine two PDFs or more.

  • First, download and install the trial of Adobe Acrobat DC if you do not yet have it on your desktop. Follow the prompts to install the software and launch the app once it has successfully installed.
  • Once the app is open, select Tools in the top-left corner, and then click Add Files in the resulting window. You can also simply drag the files you want to the window to add them.
  • Note that any file can be added and combined with PDF files, making this process a way to convert and combine PDF files.
  • Once you have uploaded each PDF you wish to merge select Combine in the top-right corner.
  • When the PDF files have been combined select File > Save As to save them to your computer. Name your file and choose a location for the merged PDFs.

2. Combine PDFs Using Preview on Mac

combine pdfs using preview function on mac

Mac users are able to combine PDFs without the need for any additional software. The Preview app has the capability to combine and order multiple PDF documents.

  • Launch Finder and navigate to the files you want to combine. Hold Command and select each PDF you want to merge.
  • Once you select all relevant PDF files, right-click a file and select Open With > Preview.
  • The PDF files should all open in one Preview window, but if they do not, you can still combine them all. On each Preview window navigate to View and select Thumbnails if thumbnails do not automatically appear.
  • Drag and drop each thumbnail to merge all PDFs together in the desired order in one Preview window. You can rearrange the order so the pages are correct in your new file.
  • In order to save a new file click File > Export as PDF and name your newly merged PDF.

3. Use an Online Tool to Combine PDFs

Users of PCs or Macs can use free online tools in order to merge PDF documents. Do your research and do not use programs that come with caveats or limitations. Certain online tools may have page limitations, and may be slower when compared to professional editing tools.

  • Choose an online PDF merging tool like Merge PDF or PDF Joiner.
  • Select Upload Files, Choose Files, or however the command is phrased in the tool you are using. A pop-up box will allow you to manually select each PDF you want to combine, typically up to 20 PDF documents.
  • Some tools merge PDFs in the order they are selected, while others allow you to rearrange files in whatever order you prefer before merging. Keep this in mind when selecting files.
  • Select Upload or Open once you have selected each PDF you want to combine. The pages will upload to the online tool.
  • Select Join Files or Combine PDFs, or any similar action that combines the PDFs that were uploaded.
  • Once the files have been combined download the file to your preferred location and name your file.

How to Make a PDF File

PDF illustration

If you have certain documents stored on your Mac or PC that you would like to convert into a PDF, like Word documents or photos, you can save the file as a PDF without too much trouble. Read our guide on how to make a PDF file to convert any documents into user-friendly PDF files without paying for additional software.

You can easily make a PDF file using Shutterstock Editor. Simply upload your file, or create a new design, then save it. When you go to download your file, you’ll have the option of selecting PDF from the dropdown of file formats. It’s that easy!

Edit PDF Online

In order to edit PDF files you will need to pay for Adobe Acrobat DC, Adobe’s PDF creation and editing software. Pricing plans vary based on the features you want, and if you plan to purchase the software individually or for a business. If Adobe Acrobat is out of your price range there are several low-cost or free software options for editing a PDF online.

For all your image editing and creation needs, look to Shutterstock Editor, a design application that’s as straightforward as it is intuitive. Read our PDF editing guide and modify the text or images within a PDF with ease once you know how to combine PDF files.

Want to learn more about image file types and file management? Check out these helpful articles:

Cover image via Jane Kelly