Saturday, May 01, 2010

OS X 10.6.3: Preview PDF merge has a very weird interface

In 10.6 you're supposed to be able merge PDFs by dragging pages from one PDF sidebar to another.

Except it doesn't work. It seems to work, but when I save and reopen the pages aren't there. Even the seemingly functional behavior is erratic.

Obvious bugs like this one make OS X seem forgotten and neglected.

Thanks to a tip from anonymous I now know that the problem is a very weird interface - and an undocumented and unwanted extra "feature". This blog page explains it best (emphases mine):
.... You can now drag the second pdf file (from a folder or from your desktop) into this sidebar window, and it will be added to your pdf document as an additional page.

NOTE: In Snow Leopard you need to drag the new pdf ON TOP OF the existing pdf’s thumbnails ( a little red box shows you that you are doing this).

If you drag it into the sidebar but not on top of an existing page it will appear as a red line instead of a box.... The new file will be added as an external link – not merged into the original pdf document.

If you drag the second file on top of an existing page in the sidebar, it will appear as a red box, not a line, and the file itself will be added into to the original file. The original filesize will grow and the file will actually be merged in.
So Leopard used to behave like Adobe Acrobat - to merge PDFs you dragged a thumbnail into the sidebar. In Snow Leopard, however, this creates an external link. It only looks like you've merged PDFs, but you're seeing a link.

If you follow the "drop on top" directions they do merge.

This is so cute. Who the #$!$!@% wants to create an "external link" in a Preview sidebar?

It's hard to say, because there's nothing about "external link" in the Preview Help file (of course there's nothing about PDF merge there either. Apple has transcended mere documentation.) There's nothing about "external link" in the Mac OS X Reference Library, and nothing in my Google searches.


Anyway, merge does work. It's just undocumented and hidden by a bizarre UI decision.

If anyone can explain why some apparently misguided Apple engineer bothered to add an undocumented "external link" feature to Preview I'm all ears.


Anonymous said...

It works but it is difficult to actually add a PDF to another one instead of just adding another PDF to the Preview sidebar. Check the Preview status bar (in the upper window frame) to see whether you have actually got one merged PDF or just two single PDFs.

Anonymous said...

It probably has to do with the nifty feature of being able to open multiple PDF files in one Preview window. You can change the behavior in the preferences. I personally find this feature very useful.

jetlagged said...

Hah, so nice to know that I'm not the only one who got tripped up by this "feature". I agree with you, this new behavior is totally unintuitive and it throws me every time, even though I have encountered it several times now. I wonder why they changed it?

John Gordon said...

Anonymous Nov 5 mentions settings. I switched to "open each file in its own window" to see if that produces more intuitive behaviors.

Anonymous said...

THIS WAS MADDENING! Thank you for posting about it. I would never have figured it out. OS 10.6 should have made things easier, not harder.