Combine PDFs in a click

When applying for a job do you include your references in the same PDF as your CV? Or do you want to clean up folders that contain a trillion PDFs? Do you know how to do this, and if you do can you do it quickly?

Introducing…AUTOMATOR. A powerful mac application that lets you do this (and more if you want it to).


What is Automator?

It’s a program on your mac that allows you to create your own processes by specifying an automatic list of tasks (a ‘workflow’). God that sounds confusing. If you take a closer look at the picture above it should become clearer. On the left hand side you can see that there are different tasks or ‘actions’ available to you and on the right hand side you put these actions together to create a process which you can then access later.

So lets get started and make this combine PDFs automator workflow. Open automator up (it should be in the utilities folder in applications or you can just search for it). When it asks you for the type of document select ‘application’ because we want this workflow to function as a kind of application.

You will then see a similar window to the one pictured above but the right side will be empty. We want to build the following simple workflow:

  1. Get Specified Finder Items – this tells the application to use whatever files we give to it
  2. Combine PDF Pages
  3. Move Finder Items – now we are telling the application what to do with the files once its done. Select a folder of your choice and I chose ‘Replace Existing Files’ so I don’t have to deal with a lot of duplicates.

To build this workflow the easiest thing to do is just search for the actions. Make sure you have ‘Library’ selected on the left most panel so that you are searching through all of the actions not just the ones in a specific category. Then just drag and drop the actions to the right hand side.

When you’re done save the application somewhere easy like your desktop and when you want to use it all you have to do is drag the documents you want to combine onto the application and let go. DONE – on your desktop and ready to go.

If you want to be extra cool and you’ve updated to OSX Mavericks then you can actually make it live inside your finder window. You can see it below next to Google Chrome and Text wrangler at the top of the window next to all the finder options.  To do this just hold down command and then drag the file to this bar.

automator finder

If you like this or are awakened by this new automator thing here are a couple of other automator workflows to keep you inspired:

iPhoto snapshot

You can create application specific services with automator (remember that automator offered you the option of creating a service when you created a new document). You can find services in the menu bar of any application.

You could create a service in iPhoto that takes a picture with your Facetime camera and automatically adds it to your iPhoto library. Apple has a full tutorial on how to do this:

automator iPhoto

Rename a batch of image files

IMG_32189 and DCIM_432 are not the most meaningful names for your photos, especially if you gather photos from different peoples’ cameras. You could create an automator application that would allow you to rename multiple images at the same time and leave you with something like summer2008-01, summer2008-02, summer2008-03 etc… Here’s a slightly old but good tutorial on how to do that:

If you want more search for them or comment on this post and I’ll try and find/figure out a solution.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

7th January 2014 at 7:51 pm

Any idea of a similar program for Linux? I have found a program that lets you do similar features as AUTOMATOR does but not sure if also the PDF combination.


Natasha Natarajanreply
8th January 2014 at 8:08 am
– In reply to: Andres

Hey Andres,

I can’t find a similar function as such for linux. I have an idea but I don’t have a linux machine to test it on. I found this script to be able to combine 2 pdfs that you could run in the command line and then I found this automator like program (maybe you know it already) called actionaz for ubuntu. I feel like you should be able to combine them to achieve what I described in my post.
Let me know if you have more questions, I am happy to help!

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