Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Merging PDFs with OS X Automator

I'm an Adobe Acrobat guru -- too bad it's such a poor quality product. Bad as Acrobat is in XP, it's worse in OS X. Among other things, Adobe can't figure out the concept of a non-admin user.

So I stick with OS X Preview and built in OS X PDF tools. The main thing I miss is the ability to merge and split PDFs.

There are a few OS X utilities to do merges (and more), but it turns out Automator will do the trick (

See the macosxhints writeup for the full story. I saved my script as a Finder Plug-In (stored in \Library\Workflows\Applications\Finder), so now I can select any set of PDFs, choose Merge PDF, and they're assembled into a single (oddly named) file on my desktop. The script appends in alphabetic order, so I use a numeric prefix if I want a particular order.

This is the first Automator script I've tried that's really useful!

This is what my script looks like:
!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">

Owning Application
Ok, so that's not very useful. Here's the outline:
  1. Get Specified Finder Items (don't have any values there when you save the script)
  2. Sort Finder Items
  3. Combine PDF pages
  4. Move Finder Items
  5. Open Finder Items
Note that if you omit the Move step the files are saved in an occult (invisible) tmp folder.

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