It’s fairly common to share documents as a PDF because it’s such a well supported format, and in my opinion, much more professional than sending letters, invoices and forms in the program they were designed in.

Especially when used for business, sending files as a PDF makes them less vulnerable to being altered, either deliberately or accidentally. It also avoids any potential compatibility issues for the person viewing the file at the other end, which can be the case if they are viewing the document on a mobile or different type of computer, or if they don’t have the right software to open the file.

There are a number of ways to save your documents in PDF format, and many programs will now come with a PDF printer as part of the package (e.g. Microsoft  Office, where you can save your documents as a PDF right from the save menu), however, it’s a bit trickier to convert PDFs back into an editable format, or to manipulate, split or combine them.

As an example, I was recently sent some documents by a client, who wanted me to format a proposal for them before it was being sent out, and then add in some of their forms at the end of the document. However, the forms were saved in PDF format and we didn’t have an original version to copy and paste (that would have been the easy answer!). So we had to look for a different solution. Here are the best options:

Adobe Acrobat – The Daddy

Now, if you are lucky enough to have a full version of Abode Acrobat XI, then this has a handy feature that allows you to combine multiple PDF files into one, as you would well expect from the daddy of all things PDF. However, if you only ever need to do something like this occasionally, you may not see it to be a cost effective solution. It’s very easy to do though.

  • From the main toolbar click ‘Create PDF‘ dropdown button then select the option ‘Merge Files into a Single PDF
  • In the resulting dialog box, click ‘add files‘ and browse to the files that you want to combine. (Tip: it’s easier if you have all the files saved in one location. This way you can select multiple files by holding down CTRL whilst you click and import them all at once.
  • You will see a list of your files appear on the screen, and you can order them using the green up and down arrows, remove or delete them from the list
  • When you are happy, click ‘Combine‘ and there you have it!

Preview (only for the Mac users I’m afraid)

If you are lucky enough to have a Mac in your life, this has a handy built in feature that allows you to combine PDFs, although not quite as straightforward.

  • Firstly, you need to open all the files in Preview. Do this in one of two ways;
      1. Group all of the file icons in one location, select them all by holding CTRL as you click, then drag them all together on the Preview icon to open them
      2. Or, open one file in Preview, then one at a time, click and drag the other files into the sidebar of Preview
  • In the sidebar you can then order your files by moving them up and down as needed until you have them in the right order.
  • You can then hit save, to save the combined version in place of the first file that you opened, or you can export the whole file as a new PDF.

Find an online converter

A quick online search will bring up a number of options, so you can go wild here, there are various options, some you can download and others are online options. I particularly like PDF Joiner (www.pdfjoiner.com) – it’s so simple to use and does exactly what it says on the tin

  • From the home screen click ‘select files’ or simply drag and drop you files into the centre of the page

PDF Joiner (1)PDF Joiner (2)

  • Click ‘upload queue’ to start uploading the files to the server
  • Click and drag the thumbnails to reorder your files as required, or click on the thumbnail to see a preview
  • When you’re ready, click ‘join files’

PDF Joiner (3)

  • Click the pop up box to download the resultPDF Joiner (4)

That’s all there is to it!

Do it DIY style

Of course, if you don’t have fancy software, or a Mac, or the internet (?! – it is kind of essential for a VA!!) you can do it the DIY way using screenshots. This does have the disadvantage of being less professional and may distort the image in the final document, but here’s how you could do it:

  • Open the PDF and zoom until you have one page of the PDF on your screen
  • Take a screenshot by pressing PrtScr button or using your screenshot software

Combine PDF DIY (2)

  • Open this image in Paint or another simple image editor, and crop the image to the edges of the PDF page (so that you cut out all the extra information on the screen.
  • Click file > save and save the file as an image

Combine PDF DIY (3)

  • Open up Microsoft Word or a similar Word Processing software and insert the image into the new file

Combine PDF DIY (4)

  • Adjust the size and positioning of the image on the page until you are happy with how it looks
  • Repeat this process for every file that you want to combine together

Combine PDF DIY (1)

  • Finally, save the whole new file with the file type as PDF

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