How To Split PDF Documents Into Single Pages Using Mac OSX

Today a consulting client had an issue that we’ve all done: He scanned a stack of paper intending to make it one PDF per sheet, but instead it went into one big PDF.

Since he didn’t want to re-scan, I broke down a few options for how to split a PDF using the built-in tools of Mac OSX. You can think of this as a companion piece to How To Combine PDFs Using Mac OSX Automator.

Option 1: Use Preview To Split Pages

Preview.app (the application you use to view PDFs and images) has some document management tools under the hood.

To split a file into pages using Preview:

  • Open the file in Preview
  • If you don’t see a list of pages on the right-hand side, click the Sidebar button near the search bar to open it
  • Click and drag each page to your desktop or to a Finder window. It will then copy that page to its own PDF

Option 2: Use Automator To Split Pages

Much like combining PDF files to make one big one, you can split a PDF into separate pages using Automator.

There are a number of ways to do this of course, but in this example I will be making a Droplet. If you want to skip all this setup, I have attached my Droplet to the end of this post. It will hopefully work for you.

Ready? Here we go.

Start Automator

  • In Finder, go to Applications and then start Automator, the cool little robot icon

Choose Application

  • In the window that pops up, highlight Application and then hit Choose

Choose Application

Set Up The PDF Action

  • In the Library section on the left, you’ll see a line for PDF. Choose that
  • In the next column over, there is an option for PDF To Images. Click that and drag it into the the section on the right

PDF To Images

  • Choose where you want the PDF to be saved to by default
  • Choose if you want the new PDFs to have the same name as the original, or if you want to change it.
  • Choose if you want it to replace the original file
  • I want the ability to change it on the fly if needed, so I hit Options and then check Show this action when the workflow runs.

Here is what this step looks like:

Split To PDF Options

Nice work! Now you have your Automator action created. Go to File > Save As and save it either to your Desktop, your Applications folder, or anywhere else you desire.

Using The Droplet

You have just created a Droplet. This means that if you drag a PDF onto the icon, it will automatically run those actions you just created.

When you do this, if everything works well, a popup will come up asking where you want to save the PDFs and if you want to change the name. Choose and hit Continue.

Downloading The Droplet

As mentioned, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of setting this all up, you are welcome to use mine.

To use it, download the file to your computer, double-click it to Unzip it, and move the resulting “DSSplitPDF” file somewhere.

Once you’ve done that, follow the “Using The Droplet” instructions above.

Click Here To Download DSSplitPDF-1.1.zip

I am sure you all have more tips to split PDFs, either on Mac or Windows. School us in the comments!

(Photo by recursion_see_recursion)

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98 Responses to “How To Split PDF Documents Into Single Pages Using Mac OSX”

  1. maurice January 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    this is a great tool thanks for sharing. I have an excel file with dozens of sheets all needing to be emailed individually to separate people, this made the process so much easier. The only thing I need now is a way to rename each sheet individually during seperation.

  2. whatdoido February 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Option 1 does NOT work. It becomes saved as a "picture clipping" and there is no image. I don't want to do Option 2 because it is too complicated. What else can I do? I'm probably going to have to rescan those pages. Thanks for nothing.

    • BrooksD February 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

      Not sure what to tell you. Just tried it and it worked for me as you can see in this screenshot: https://img.skitch.com/20110217-gt3ukwy58dccstphx….

      But, you're welcome for nothing I guess!

      • AjMWD May 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

        I too just get a picture clipping. I like the functionality you mentioned and wished it worked that way, which would make sense. I'm using Preview 4.2 in OSX 10.5.8, maybe Preview works this way under Snow Leopard? I may try the Automator route, but that does seem a bit complicated for just extracting a single page from a multi-page PDF? Thanks for posting the info though.

    • LonL January 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      Dude, are you kidding? It couldn't be easier. The steps are clear as a bell and the whole thing takes less than one minute to do.

      Thanks, BrooksD for the excellent solution to a nagging problem.

  3. F.Rodriguez April 12, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Thanks for sharing the droplet. It works great to split the PDF in individual pages, with sequential numbering.

    Dragging and dropping also creates a "picture clipping" for me (Mac OS X 10.5.8, Preview 4.2). However I believe it used to work in a prior version, and maybe it works again in a newer version. It wouldn't be the first time that Apple changes an undocumented feature.

    • BrooksD April 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      Thanks for letting me know about the picture clippings thing. Wish I could replicate to figure out what is going on!

  4. Helen May 11, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    This is absolutely brilliant, thank you very much!

    • BrooksD May 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      No worries Helen, glad it helped!

  5. Aima August 6, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    hey but it increases the size !!!

  6. jnjrosenfeld September 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    I tried doing it myself to no avail but yours worked just fine for me. Thanks.

    • BrooksD September 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

      Awesome, glad it helped!

      • Bhaskar Maddi June 19, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

        I created, but when i run it doesn’t split into 1 pages…Can help you please?

        • Brooks Duncan June 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

          That doesn’t give me a lot to go on. What happens?

  7. gworks October 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Brilliant!!! Thanks for the great tool!

    • BrooksD October 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

      No worries gworks, glad it helped!

  8. DMA November 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi Brooks, thanks for this, didn't realie that automator could do this so easily and I was really pleased when I ran across your article after trying several other either inferior or expensive alternatives.

  9. James927 January 7, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    snow leopard version 10.6.8 preview version 5.0.3. The simple 'Using Preview" option (select one page and drag to desktop) copies all pages of the pdf. But, selecting, then copying and pasting one page indeed works. Thanks so much for this post. One year old and still helping people!

    • BrooksD January 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      Nice, thanks James927!

  10. John Smith January 29, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    This is a great comment thread, and maybe you all can help me with my problem. I need to be able to search a huge, multiple-page pdf document for specific text, and then extract the pages from the resulting search to create a smaller, multiple-page pdf document.

    Do you think I can create a workflow for this? Ideally, I'd love to be able to input different text for each search. I used to be able to use Preview 5.0 to do this natively, but version 5.5.1 has removed this option.

    Thanks!

    • BrooksD January 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

      So let's say you search a 100 page PDF for the word “bunny”, and the word “bunny” appears on 5 pages. You'd want the action to kick out a 5-page PDF, with just the entire content of just those 5 pages?

      • AVWJ January 30, 2014 at 2:04 am #

        I would love to know the answer to this. I have a 1500 page PDF containing reports for students in each of there subjects. I would like to split it by subject (always appears in top left of each page). Like your “bunny” example I want all “chemistry” in one file.

        Is there a mac solution – there is a windows solutions using “a-pdf content splitter”.

  11. John Smith January 29, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    This is a great comment thread, and maybe you all can help me with my problem. I need to be able to search a huge, multiple-page pdf document for specific text, and then extract the pages from the resulting search to create a smaller, multiple-page pdf document.

    Do you think I can create a workflow for this? Ideally, I'd love to be able to input different text for each search. I used to be able to use Preview 5.0 to do this natively, but version 5.5.1 has removed this option.

    Thanks!

  12. kef February 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    Thanks so much for this. I have been searching how to split large PDFs in our office. Smaller batches can do a drop and drag of the ones to save but the larger files need this functionality of splitting. Your instructions were clear and easy and it works brilliantly…..except for one thing. I created a folder on the desktop to put the split files into. But despite setting the default to put all automator split files into the new folder, it defaults to desktop. There is a dropdown to chose a destination, but I have to go to "other" then pick the folder. It's three steps more. Any idea how to get my setup to keep the new folder as the destination folder?

  13. Selly March 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Thanks!!!!!!

    • BrooksD March 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      No problem Selly, glad it helped!

  14. ularit March 22, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    thanks!

  15. stefano March 30, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    Thanks so much. It's been REEEALLY helpful.

    • BrooksD March 30, 2012 at 7:16 am #

      Great stefano, thanks for letting me know!

  16. DeannaM April 11, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Thank you, this is awesome!

  17. BrooksD April 11, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Awesome Deanna, glad it helped!

  18. Amber April 12, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    THANKS! You saved my morning and possibly my new job I was lucky to get.

    • BrooksD April 12, 2012 at 7:40 am #

      Cool Amber, don't think I've ever saved a job before!

  19. Sophie April 24, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you SO much. I had no idea what Automator did before this, but your instructions were completely clear – making the droplet was really easy once you knew what to press. I met a vital deadline because of your advice, couldn't be more grateful!

  20. Dickon May 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Nice one! great way to get my printer to print onto separate pages instead of insisting on duplex mode, I can now split my pdf then print, simples!

  21. Anne May 29, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    just what i needed. thanks! :)

    • BrooksD May 29, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      Great, thanks for the report Anne!<p style=”color: #A0A0A8;”>

  22. KO7 June 14, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    Thank you, I used the Automator method you outlined and it worked and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can! Your instructions must be good ;-)
    Just wanted to ask you one thing, apart from keeping the Droplet icon on the desktop, how I can drag PDF files onto it, to make it run?
    e.g. if the Droplet was in the applications folder and not sitting on the desktop?
    Probably an obvious answer but I just don't know.
    Thanks again!

    • BrooksD June 15, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      Hi KO7, that shouldn't be a problem. Just move the droplet into your Applications folder, and then when you want to use it you just start up Finder, navigate to Applications, and drag the document on to the icon that you'll see under Applications. You can also put it on the sidebar of the Finder if it is something you think you'll use a lot.<p style=”color: #A0A0A8;”>

  23. Kelly M July 11, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I did this with a short sale package of 69 pages but I needed to save a group of example 10 pages for a bank statement for separate attachment, then save as bank statement attachment then save several other attachments the same way..how do I do this? Right now I have 69 individual pages across my desk top and then need to be organized. Thanks for the detailed instructions..very helpful

  24. M_A July 16, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    thank you so much!! so much better than all those junky fake pdf splitter programs, quick and easy, thanks again!

    • BrooksD July 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

      Awesome, thanks M_A! <p style=”color: #A0A0A8;”>

  25. maddy August 1, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Brilliant, Thanks for sharing the knowledge

    • BrooksD August 1, 2012 at 11:42 am #

      No problem maddy, thanks for the note!

  26. Heather September 18, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    You are a lifesaver! Thank you!!!

  27. @KrogerLawOffice September 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. I split 4 different PDF file that each had 10 pages using the automator. Saved the automator into the same folder as my PDF and dragged each one onto the Automator file. Simply amazing. Just another example of why I will never go back to a Windows machine. Bought my first MacBook Pro in June and it constantly amazes me with what it can do.

  28. Anonymous October 3, 2012 at 5:47 am #

    you can also delete pages in pdfs that you don't want by going into the edit menu after highlighting a page on the sidebar. Then, you can save the pdf.

  29. Scott October 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    Many thanks. The PDF I was using was locked in some way – I couldn't drag and drop from Preview (10.8) – but your 'droplet' worked perfectly. Thanks again.

    • BrooksD October 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Thanks Scott.

  30. Doreen October 11, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    Option 1 with preview worked perfect for me too! 600 pages of one PDF split in no time. And client is happy! Thank you.

  31. Frederic February 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    Option 1 worked perfectly for me (OS X Lion)

    • BrooksD February 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks Frederic!

  32. Louisa February 14, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Thank you very much, you just saved my portfolio! =D

  33. Joe April 4, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    Easier than i thought, thank you so much.

  34. @DHfromKorea April 28, 2013 at 3:05 am #

    THANK YOU. YOU SAVED ME.

  35. susan June 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Soooo cool!! Thank you so much!!!

  36. Nate June 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    So damn awesome!!!!!!! Thanks dude

  37. happybastien July 13, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    Well sorry but both methods do NOT work when it comes to hyperlinks…. For some reason, they are all mixed up and gone wrong…

    For those who want to rename all the PDF in batch (usually the next step), check this out : http://macscripter.net/viewtopic.php?id=5881

    It works like a charm and its actually very easy to do…

  38. Steve Root July 20, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    I was having trouble with the automator action, then I remembered pdftk.

    It's a GPL'd (free) command line library that can do lots of things to PDF's. You'll need to find and install it – http://www.pdflabs.com/tools/pdftk-the-pdf-toolki

    To split a PDF into individual pages, the command is
    pdftk yourfile.pdf burst

    • BrooksD July 20, 2013 at 8:18 am #

      Great thanks Steve!

  39. violetta August 29, 2013 at 5:43 am #

    Thanks so much!!! It just works like a dream:)

  40. Courtney September 10, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Thank you! Just made my life so much easier!

  41. Sam September 28, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    Well done. Good post.

  42. hanny October 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    thanks! it works so good for me..

    btw do you have any tips to rejoin them.. like to combine pdf and pdf into one bid pdf. thanks

  43. Carly October 10, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    Brilliant thanks. Only problem is has produced a white line border around 2 sides of the pdf. Any one know how to avoid this? Thanks

  44. Richard December 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Nice clear instructions. Worked like a treat. Thanks

  45. @harpurliam December 4, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

    Great stuff !

  46. Tammy December 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    THANK YOU!!!!
    I thought I was in trouble for sure when I got the full 59 pages emailed to me in a single file. I needed them saved as individual pages – and your instrcutions saved me from having to print out and rescan (on a flat bed scanner nonetheless). You saved me HOURS of work! Thanks a million!

  47. Mark January 15, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    Is it possible to automate the naming process for the new PDFs? I would like each separate PDF to be named based on the first line of text on the page (each page is about a different company and the company’s name is the first item listed).

    Thanks for the helpful tutorial!

  48. PeterK February 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    Thanks for your help! This was a great solution to my problem and worked in an instant!

  49. Clive February 22, 2014 at 2:19 am #

    Thanks for this. I didn’t know about Automator and it helps me a lot.

    Please would you help me with something?

    I created a droplet as you described, saving the results into FOLDERNAME. When I drop the multi-page PDF onto the droplet, it saves the results in FOLDERNAME but also saves a copy on the desktop.

    I can figure out how to switch off the saving to desktop option.

    • BrooksD February 26, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      Hmm. That’s strange. I just tried it with the Droplet that you can download above and it doesn’t place the files on the desktop for me. Could you give that a try and see how it works for you?

      • Clive February 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

        Hi Brooks

        Thanks so much for the help!

        I downloaded your droplet and it creates the individual PDFs in the folder that I chose and then placed them on the desktop as well.

        Could it possibly be a setting/preference in Automator?

  50. Cullen March 11, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    Great stuff. Thanks for sharing this sweet tool

  51. Ana March 12, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Hello!
    I have the oposite problem…
    I have a word doc with first few pages with vertical orientation, then some horizontal orientation, and then some vertical again. When I save it to pdf, it splits in 3 different pdf files!
    How can I prevent this?
    thanks!!

    • dsadmin March 12, 2014 at 11:01 am #

      How are you saving it? From Word? Mac or Windows?

    • Ana March 12, 2014 at 11:01 am #

      I mean portrait and landscape :)

      • Ana March 12, 2014 at 11:01 am #

        from word. Mac.

        • Brooks Duncan March 12, 2014 at 11:04 am #

          Hmm. Are you using File > Print and then to PDF?

    • Brooks Duncan March 12, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      OK, I have done some playing around. Very interesting!

      Apparently this is a known issue with Word on the Mac. If your document includes different Sections with different orientation, no matter what you do, if you export to PDF it will export them as different files.

      I can’t find any way to prevent this from happening.

      What you can do is merge the PDFs after exporting. You can do this with Automator http://www.documentsnap.com/how-to-combine-pdf-files-in-mac-osx-using-automator-to-make-a-service/, or you can just open them in PDF and drag the thumbnails to move the pages between documents.

      What a weird issue. I’ve never run into this before.

      • Ana March 12, 2014 at 11:55 am #

        Weird! thanks for researching… sad with the outcome!
        I have follow all the instructions you give with automator. I got lost at the end, when you say “Click to embiggen”
        I have top buttons “record” “step” “stop” “execute”
        When I press them I get questions I don´t know the answer..
        With execute: “this service will not receive information when executed in automator” (sorry maybe is not exact wording, I am using mac in spanish).
        With “record / Save” : “automator wish to control this computer through accesibility functions”
        heeelp (hehe)
        Almost there!!
        txs!!

  52. Ana March 12, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    File > Save as > format > pdf

    • Ana March 12, 2014 at 11:15 am #

      I don’t have the option “file > print > to pdf” :(

      • Clive March 12, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

        You do Ana. With Mac, when you select Cmd P for print, from the bottom left hand pop up, you will see PDF.

  53. Gabriel May 19, 2014 at 1:20 am #

    Perfect!! Thanks :)

  54. Rhonda June 5, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    This is SO helpful… and really easy to do! Thank you!

  55. Simona June 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    For the first Option, the pdf must be opened with PDFpenPro.app and it works perfectly. You can split by page or by any number of pages you need, 2-4-7 etc. For me it worked liked this.

  56. MS July 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    You are a genius!!! I downloaded your droplet. Cool and very easy to use!!!! Thanks a lot :-)

  57. Jay July 31, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Just an FYI – I ran into a problem in Preview where the Sidebar would not show up. If you go to View and then Thumbnails, you can drag the pages individually from there.

  58. dips August 24, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    Thank you very much.
    The information was really helpful.

  59. www.dcmedicalmalpracticeattorneys.com September 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    This is my first time visit at here and i am actually happy to read all at alone place.

    Also visit my web site … green superfood (http://www.dcmedicalmalpracticeattorneys.com)

  60. Satyam October 2, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    The option2 doesn’t work. You never say how to import the pdf file. How can I save it if there is no option to import an file.

    • Lynn November 6, 2014 at 7:43 am #

      After downloading the Droplet file, drag the original PDF on top of the Droplet and it should break your file down into pages automatically. That’s what worked for me.

  61. Lynn November 6, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    Like many others, I could not get Preview to separate the pages in my PDF file, but your Droplet worked like a charm. Thanks!

  62. Chad November 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Perfectly easy. Thanks!

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