How To Split PDF Documents Into Single Pages Using Mac OS X

How To Split PDF Documents Into Single Pages Using Mac OS X

You have a multi-page PDF that you’d like to split into individual pages. Maybe you scanned a stack of paper intending to make it one PDF per sheet, but instead it went into one big PDF. Maybe you have some other reason.

You can buy software to do this, but there are options to split a PDF using the built-in tools of Mac OS X. You can think of this as a companion piece to How To Combine PDFs Using Mac OS X Automator.

Option 1: Use Preview To Split Pages (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 View Menu button on the left of the toolbar and choose Thumbnails.

Open Thumbnails in Preview
Open Thumbnails in Preview

You can click and drag each page to your desktop or to a Finder window. It will then copy that page to its own PDF.

If that doesn’t work for you, try this option to split in Preview using the clipboard.

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 Service. If you want to skip all this setup, I have attached my Service 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.

Choose Service

In the window that pops up, highlight Service and then hit Choose.

Automator Choose Service
Automator Choose Service

Set The Variable For The Original PDF(s)

At the top of the window at the right, change the Service receives selected dropdown to PDF files. I set the in dropdown to I haven’t tested it in other applications.

Now in the Library section on the left, click on Utilities and then find Set Value of Variable. Drag it to the main window on the right.

Drag Automator

In the Variable dropdown, choose New variable… and call it originalPDFs.

Here’s what the first rule looks like so far.

Automator Get Variable

Set The Variable For The Path Of The PDF

We are doing this step because of a weird way Automator works. It doesn’t make it easy to save the resulting PDF to the same folder as the original.

I could prompt the user to choose a path, but I wanted to make it automatic so we have to get a bit geeky.

Note: if you’re an Automator expert and know a better way to do this, please leave a comment!

Still in the Utilities section of the Library on the left, find Run AppleScript. Drag it to the main window under our last step.

In the Run AppleScript window, paste in this code:

on run {input, parameters}
set pathList to {}
repeat with itemNum from 1 to count of input
tell application "System Events"
copy POSIX path of (container of (item itemNum of input)) to end of pathList
end tell
end repeat
return pathList
end run

(Basically that is going through the PDFs that you are splitting and copying the folders that they are stored in.)

Now in the Utilities section of the Library, find our old friend Set Value of Variable and (you guessed it) drag it into the main window under our last step.

In the Variable dropdown, choose New Variable… and give your new variable a name of containerPath.

Here’s what these steps look like:

Automator Get Path

Split The PDFs

Now it’s time to do the splitting!

First, we want to get the list of PDFs that we had saved back in the first step.

In Library -> Utilities, drag Get Value of Variable to the main window under our last step.

In the Variable dropdown, choose originalPDFs.

Right under the Variable dropdown there is an Options button. Hit that and check Ignore this action’s input.

Now in Library on the right, choose PDFs. Find Split PDF and drag it under the last step.

In the Variable window at the bottom of your screen, find your containerPath variable. Drag it up on top of the Save Output dropdown.

I prefer to leave Output File Name as Same as Input Name, but it’s up to you.

Here’s what the last steps look like:

Automator Split PDF

Save The Service

Alright! You’re done! Here’s the entire rule:

Automator Entire Split Rule
Automator Entire Split Rule

Go to File > Save and give your new service a name. I’ll call mine PDF Split.

Use The PDF Split Service

You have just created a Service. This means that if you right-click a PDF in the Finder, you can split it right from there. Let’s try it.

Find a PDF on your Mac and right-click it. Choose the Services menu near the bottom. If all went well, you should see Split PDF (or whatever you called your Service) in the list. Choose it.

Automator Split Service
Automator Split Service

Once I chose mine, you can see that it automatically kicked out one PDF for each page, with “-pagex” appended to the name for each page.

Automator Split Results

Downloading The Service

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 and double-click it to Unzip it.

You want to move the file to the ~/Library/Services folder. It’s probably hidden for you, so the easiest way to get there is:

  • Go to a Finder window
  • Choose the Go menu and then Go to Folder…
  • Type or paste in ~/Library/Services

Once that window opens up, drag the SplitPDF.workflow file there.

Click Here To Download


About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 195 comments

jay - November 5, 2021 Reply

Can you use the same method to break a document in 3 separate sections? I have a 12000 page pdf and wanted to break it up into 3 4000 page sections

AKE - January 12, 2021 Reply

The saga continues in 2021…thank you for this! I was searching for something to break up a 250 page PDF and this fit the bill and, as many others have commented, was easy to use.

Dane - August 4, 2020 Reply

That was awesome!

Nishant - May 25, 2020 Reply

worked like a charm!!! do you have any more such scripts

shin - March 5, 2020 Reply

Thanks for the post. Is there a way to save each pdf to jpg?

Ben - February 17, 2020 Reply

Thanks. Never thought such power exist in my mac.

Ermanno - July 11, 2019 Reply

Hello Brooks, Thank you so much for this.

I was wondering if you or anyone would know a way to edit the script to name each single page pdf with the page name (or PageLabel) of the page in the original multipage pdf?

That would be perfect!

    Roger Carruthers - July 12, 2019 Reply

    I don’t know how to change the script to do this, but what I’m currently doing to add leading zeros to the numbers, and which you could probably for your issue too, is using A Better Finder Rename ( ) after running the script.

    The demo version will let you change ten names at a time, but you’ll want to buy the full version, of course! 😉

ArtBot - May 9, 2019 Reply

Thank you for sharing. Great insights explained clearly. Very helpful!!

Silvesterfairchildzd - April 7, 2019 Reply

Thank you for this sharing, really helpful. I always use Acethinker PDF writer to split large PDF document into several smaller PDF files, free and works pretty well for me. You just need to open the original PDF file with the app, click edit and go for pages tab on right pane, select split document. You can then specify the page numbers for dividing the file. After completing the work, you can simply save the document by clicking the button in the File Menu. That’s all. Share it here.

Dominic - March 7, 2019 Reply

Thank you so very much! Very clear instructions and a ‘wow’ result!

PAM N STEWART - February 23, 2019 Reply

Thank you so much for the automator download! I was so frustrated! Pam

mart - January 26, 2019 Reply

Wow, this was just what I needed.
Great that you explain in a simple way how to realise the result.
The first time I used your download-file. Now I can make an automater-file myself.

Thanx Martin

Atif - September 18, 2018 Reply

Thanks a lot, this worked like a charm for a huge PDF.

ODETTE - July 5, 2018 Reply


you’ve been an absolute lifesaver and I love this so much. So far though it has required me to bring my Mac around with me to split things, is there a way you can help me to adapt this to windows Actions. I’ve gotten as far as the AppleScript, which I’m not sure how to accomodate to windows.

I’d really appreciate your help.

stacy - July 2, 2018 Reply

It really works!!!thank you

nero - June 23, 2018 Reply

Awesome…worked on the first try!

Rob - June 21, 2018 Reply

loads of options here e.g.

Roger - June 1, 2018 Reply

The only thing that could make it better would be for pages to be numbered with zero padding – I’m using this with an app I’m developing that doesn’t sort properly without the leading zero’s for pages 1 – 9.
If there were a way to do this in Automator, I would love to know…

Alan - May 31, 2018 Reply

There’s a much easier approach. No one tried so far? Just a few seconds.

1. Open original pdf
2. click on print
3. select your page range
4. at the bottom left corner, select save as pdf
5. click print

    iji - April 2, 2019 Reply

    that does not work

Bruce - May 21, 2018 Reply

All of the pages in the split are black… ???

Caro - April 25, 2018 Reply

THANK YOU! Sooo useful

myradio - April 3, 2018 Reply

Hi Brooks,
Nice article, just a minor mistake, maybe just a typo:

Now in Library on the right, choose PDFs. Find Split PDF and drag it under the last step.

Should be

Now in Library on the LEFT, choose PDFs. Find Split PDF and drag it under the last step.

Simon - March 11, 2018 Reply

Deep thanks from a non-tech guy whose heart sank at the prospect of having to split out a full deck of playing card templates supplied as one pdf by the printer ….one by one for a custom graphics task….a rare moment of techno joy as 54 cards sprouted on my desktop in 1 second….aaahhh!

Thank You!

dantasdamiris - January 24, 2018 Reply

merge multiple PDF files into one PDF on Mac

Nigel - January 16, 2018 Reply

Brilliant! Thank you!

Vitalii Zurian - December 18, 2017 Reply

Thanks! Worked! Really useful when your scanner app compiles all pages into one PDF.

sun - December 18, 2017 Reply

Work like a charm! Thank you!

jay - November 25, 2017 Reply

hi all,

ok so is it possible to extract the first 3 pages from a pdf file into a new pdf file? then repeat on pages 4-7 then 8-11 etc? (repeating by 3 each time)


Natalia - November 10, 2017 Reply

Thanks so much for uploading the instructions, screenshots, and downloadable service! I was so excited when I followed the directions and it worked! YOU ROCK <3

Mike - November 5, 2017 Reply

I followed the instructions, but the Split PDF doesn’t show up under the Services menu.

    Judy - March 20, 2018 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I have the same problem, did you find a solution?

Stéphane - November 5, 2017 Reply

Thanks a lot for sharing your service file! It works like a charm.

Lonnie - November 5, 2017 Reply

Downloaded your link for splitting PDFs but once it displayed the split and I open document there was no text. Can you assist?

Herb - October 15, 2017 Reply

Thanks Brooks for an excellent tutorial and a great Applescript-Automator Service. I was in a real bind trying to burst a number of PDF documents to put their contents into another document as captioned figures. Splitting the documents by hand was not only tiresome, but also prone to error. So your solution was just what I needed and when I needed it. Most appreciated. Really well done!

Crystal - October 10, 2017 Reply

Thank you so much for sharing this is a life saver! This made my work so much easier. Now i just need to rename each file no nee to drag out individually. 🙂

Marika - September 23, 2017 Reply

I did all of the steps and in the end, when I select split PDF it didn’t do anything.

Francesca - September 20, 2017 Reply

Thank you so much! This worked perfectly, only took me two minutes and is allowing me to continue a project I thought I’d have to wait weeks to finish!

Marieke - September 9, 2017 Reply

Super helpfull and very easy to follow explanation, thank you!

Mandhira Chhetri - August 16, 2017 Reply

Thank you so much!!

Bjorn - June 16, 2017 Reply

Wonderful! Works excellent, will save me hours!

Tom - June 15, 2017 Reply

This is great! It’s going to save soo much time. Any idea how to alter to only extract page 1 of a multipage pdf?

SyberKnight - June 12, 2017 Reply

DUDE! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! this saved me TONS of time during a big work crunch today. much appreciate the Automator Service download – that too saved me time in not having to make it myself. ✌

Tushar - May 18, 2017 Reply


CJ - May 15, 2017 Reply

worked great, thanks!

Jasper Robinson - May 5, 2017 Reply


Pam - April 5, 2017 Reply

Fantastic article. Solved my problem in minutes. Thanks for sharing 🙂

Kelly - March 27, 2017 Reply

This helped so much! Thank you!!!

Ivy - March 9, 2017 Reply

Hello Brooks, thank you so much for this! Though you wrote this a while ago (2011?), it’s still helping folks six years on. Awesome job. 🙂

Afonso Liberal Fernandes - February 28, 2017 Reply

Many Thanks!
You unlock a new mac perspective for me!! 🙂

Gabriela - January 27, 2017 Reply

Loved it!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

Eze - January 23, 2017 Reply

Wow, Thanks so much! I tried to manually enter the AppleScript, then realized that you said to copy it. My manual entry did not work although exactly the same. Your paste did! Thanks for this, I feel like a programmer, though I am totally not 🙂

Allan - January 10, 2017 Reply

Thanks for this! A 42 page document split in 2 minutes! Awesome!

Simon - December 8, 2016 Reply

This is fantastic! Will save hours! Thank you so much!

Heather - November 28, 2016 Reply

Thanks for this handy tool, it works great. I am using this to create individual files ultimately from a mail merge saved as one large pdf document. Is there a way to specify the filename from an original merge field? For example a booking reference? I’m not sure if there is a way to tag a field on each page within the PDF for then automater to use that tag as the file name rather than Page 1 / Page 2 etc.

Adeola - October 17, 2016 Reply

You are a genius. Thank you so much 🙂

Matt - October 9, 2016 Reply

Extremely useful service that took no time to set up – Awesome!

Achim - August 11, 2016 Reply

Aya, thanks very much for all your efforts to find a solution for the problem of the apparently missing automator action in Mavericks. It’s very much appreciated!

Unfortunately as stated in my original post, I already tried using the “PDF to Images” actions as at some point I thought the action “Split PDF” had been renamed to “PDF to Images”, which also seperates PDF documents into single-page files.

However, it turns out that this automator action creates Images (as its name suggests) and any previously searchable text in the PDF document is converted in the process. This makes their further processing very difficult. Hazel, for example, cannot read the content of the split pages but could do so for the original, combined PDF document.

I guess I have to look further for the automator action or venture into running scripts in shell in automator.

Thanks again!

Aya - August 10, 2016 Reply

Achim, sorry there was a mistake in the workflow I provided. To ensure text in the PDF will not be converted to an image you can use this workflow which is much simpler, requires only two actions.

Action1: In the Library > under category “Files & Folders” > you will find “Get Specified Finder Items” action, then drag it to the main window. You will see an “Add” button click on it and select your PDF file(you could choose multiple files to split).

Action2: In the Library > under category “PDFs” > you will see “PDF to images” action, then drag it to the main window. Choose the output location and if you want the custom name to your files.

hit “Run” button and you will see the results. Hope this will work for you.

Aya - August 10, 2016 Reply

Many thanks for sharing this will assist me in better understanding the AppleScript and services.

Aya - August 10, 2016 Reply

Achim, I have the same challenge as yours no “PDF Split” action in my library as I’m using a 10.6.8 OS X version. So I created a simple workflow that worked as magic on 239 pages PDF.

Action1: In the Library > under category “Files & Folders” > you will find “Get Specified Finder Items” action, then drag it to the main window. You will see an “Add” bUtton click on it and select your PDF file(s)

Action2: In the Library > under category “PDFs” > you will see “Render PDF pages as images” action, then drag it to the main window. You will see some options available and one of them is “Format”. I’ve chosen “Portable Document Format(PDF)”

Action3: In the Library > under category “Files & Folders” > you will see “Create Archive” action, then drag it to the main window. In the “save as” field, type in the name of a compressed file where you want to store it, and in the “Where” field choose the folder where you want to save it.

hit “Run” button and you will see a the results. Hope this will work for you.

Baruch Kly - August 8, 2016 Reply

Super! All works. Thanks a lot!

Achim - August 5, 2016 Reply

Fantastic script, works brilliantly for “Combine PDF” – many thanks!
However, after hours of research (library on Mac and Web) I am still short of the Automator action: “Split PDF”.
When downloading your kindly provided workflow this action can also not be found and the workflow does not complete – this particular action is simply not on my Mac.

Would you or anyone have any hint where to find it or where to download it from?

At some point I thought may be the action “Split PDF” has been renamed to “PDF to Images”, which also seperates PDF documents in single-page files and your workflow/service works also fine with “PDF to Images” . Unfortunately, as the action name suggests, this automator action creates Images and any previously searchable text in the PDF document is converted in the process. This makes their further processing very difficult.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Dipak - July 28, 2016 Reply

Seems I am little late using Mac. Recently migrated from Windows to Mac. The article helped like a Magic. Not finding words to Thank.

Marco - July 25, 2016 Reply

Sometimes life is good to you. This is one of this moments! Plain and easy tutorial and works like a charme. I made my wife’s workflow so much easier. I added a “change name” bit to it and BOOM 150 order slips pdf’s are spit out in the way she wants. THANKS!!

Jacobite - July 20, 2016 Reply

Magic wee utility, super fast and great work!

oliver - July 18, 2016 Reply

thank you for sharing!

Ella - June 1, 2016 Reply

Wow, amazing!
Thank you so much, I had a file consisting of 52 individual documents and with your help I was able to split the file into 52. You are a savior 🙂 THANK YOU

Alicia - April 20, 2016 Reply

This is great! Thank you so much! Is there a way to then convert the single pdf pages into png files using this method?

Evan - March 6, 2016 Reply

Sweet! Loved the walkthrough to go along with the download.

Cookie Boy - February 6, 2016 Reply

Absolutely awesome ! It save me a lot of work !
Lot of thanks !!

Fabian - January 26, 2016 Reply

Absolutely awesome! Worked like a charm! Thanks!

Flavien - December 21, 2015 Reply

Huge Big Up for this Service and also for explaining what is going under !

roth - December 18, 2015 Reply

helooo mate , thank soo much for this perfect example of teaching for a perfect job, thanks many thanks, clean , fast, simple automator click,, jeje insolit but true.
keep in touch!.

and happy christmas eve
and new year 2016

Helena G - November 26, 2015 Reply

THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! You just…. you have no idea how much this article helped me! THANK YOU!!!!!

    Brooks Duncan - November 26, 2015 Reply

    Awesome Helena! Glad it helped! 🙂

Jim - November 14, 2015 Reply

Thank you for a great tutorial! I tried writing the program myself, but it didn’t work, so I was relieved to know you shared the file with us and it worked like a charm. I was also able to batch rename the files!

Kelly - November 10, 2015 Reply

might sounds like a stupid question but is there anyway for it to save it as “pg1” vs “page-1” Otherwise this was a huge help!! Thank you!

    Brooks Duncan - November 10, 2015 Reply

    Not a dumb question but I don’t think so. You can use Hazel (or something similar) to rename it after though if you’d like.

Jeff - November 10, 2015 Reply

Thank you! The preview tip at top was very helpful to me.

Anna - November 4, 2015 Reply

Hi Brooks, clicking reply directed me to the top of the page so I’ve posted again

I exported a pdf to png (20 pages)

The png showed in the designated spot with the preview being just the first page.

I open the png and each image appears in the thumbnail view on the side. When I cmd click in an attempt to “open image in new window”. The option text is grey (not selectable)

The file(s) behaves as a pdf (“get info” confirms png) however I am able to drag each one individually into OneNote. If I cmdA all thumbnails select, but only the first page (preview image) responds as the output (in onenote).

In this case, if I have a pdf file that I want to use OCR with in OneNote, I need spend time dragging each page. It would really save time.

I feel I should point out exporting the multi page pdf to other image files such as jpg and tiff only gives one page of the document. Basically, the export only works on png.

Anna - November 4, 2015 Reply

Great Tutorial! I need to do this with a PNG file as OneNote’s OCR does not work in PDF’s. (Defeats the purpose I know…). I got as far as “Get value of variable”, but could not find anything along the lines of “split image” in the image section. I couldn’t see anything specific to PDF’s in the code you provided. Would I have to tweak the code if I wanted to do this?

    Brooks Duncan - November 4, 2015 Reply

    Hm. I am not totally sure what you’re looking to do. A PNG doesn’t have pages. What are you actually splitting?

Hema S - October 27, 2015 Reply

Awesome! Thanks for sharing ..

D - October 10, 2015 Reply

Thanks so much for that. I am useless at technology and you really made it easy to understand and it works a treat. The world is lucky to have people like you in it.

Alexandra - September 24, 2015 Reply

This was the perfect solution – easy instructions to follow, thanks!

Jacob - August 7, 2015 Reply

This is a great tutorial for Automator but it does not solve my problem:
I have a 600 pages long pdf file.
I would love to make a service/droplet that would create 2 different pdf files,
one containing the unequal pagenumbers: 1,3,5,7,9,11 etc…
and another file containing the equal pagenumbers: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc…

Could you help me create something like that ?

    Jacob - August 7, 2015 Reply

    I found a solution on another site.

    Get PDFTK (to osx terminal)
    run the 2 commands:
    pdftk input.pdf cat even output even.pdf
    pdftk input.pdf cat odd output odd.pdf

      Brooks Duncan - August 7, 2015 Reply

      Thanks for sharing Jacob! There is an “Extract Odd & Even Pages” command in Automator, but if pdftk works for you, awesome.

Randy - July 31, 2015 Reply

Hi, great tutorial, worked like a charm. I have a question. Is it possible to edit something in the script that the Automator will split a large PDF file of 100 pages to 50 files. 1 file has 2 pages..

Hope to hear from you soon,

Thanks in advance.


Randy - July 31, 2015 Reply

Hi, great tutorial, worked like a charm. I have a question. Is it possible to edit something in the script that the Automator will split a large PDF file of 100 pages to 50 files. 1 file has 2 pages.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Thanks in advance.


Darlene - July 21, 2015 Reply

Thank you SO much!

Although I followed all of the steps and they “matched” the screen shots, my own attempt didn’t work. (The “Run Apple Script Code” format spacing didn’t match/indent on each line the way it did in your screen shot, so I wonder if that had something to do with it.) I sincerely appreciated finding your downloadable version at the end of your very clear instructions after my failed attempt! (It worked perfectly!)


Jack - July 19, 2015 Reply

Thanks for the great tutorial, if you want to split pdf to images on a Windows PC, you can use this free online app:

Cindy - May 21, 2015 Reply

Worked great! Thanks!

Joyce - April 1, 2015 Reply

I used option 2 and choose “split pdf” instead of “pdf to images” option. It worked like a charm, Thanks a million!

Bryan Hadley - February 14, 2015 Reply

Thank you! Great tool, great explanation.

Chad - November 7, 2014 Reply

Perfectly easy. Thanks!

Lynn - November 6, 2014 Reply

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

Satyam - October 2, 2014 Reply

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 Reply

    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.

dips - August 24, 2014 Reply

Thank you very much.
The information was really helpful.

Jay - July 31, 2014 Reply

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.

MS - July 22, 2014 Reply

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

Simona - June 12, 2014 Reply

For the first Option, the pdf must be opened with 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.

Rhonda - June 5, 2014 Reply

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

Gabriel - May 19, 2014 Reply

Perfect!! Thanks 🙂

Ana - March 12, 2014 Reply

File > Save as > format > pdf

    Ana - March 12, 2014 Reply

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

      Clive - March 12, 2014 Reply

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

Ana - March 12, 2014 Reply

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?

    Brooks Duncan - March 12, 2014 Reply

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

    Ana - March 12, 2014 Reply

    I mean portrait and landscape 🙂

      Ana - March 12, 2014 Reply

      from word. Mac.

        Brooks Duncan - March 12, 2014 Reply

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

    Brooks Duncan - March 12, 2014 Reply

    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, 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 Reply

      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!!

Cullen - March 11, 2014 Reply

Great stuff. Thanks for sharing this sweet tool

Clive - February 22, 2014 Reply

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.

    Brooks Duncan - February 26, 2014 Reply

    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 Reply

      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?

PeterK - February 20, 2014 Reply

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

Mark - January 15, 2014 Reply

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!

Tammy - December 9, 2013 Reply

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!

@harpurliam - December 4, 2013 Reply

Great stuff !

Richard - December 2, 2013 Reply

Nice clear instructions. Worked like a treat. Thanks

Carly - October 10, 2013 Reply

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

hanny - October 7, 2013 Reply

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

Sam - September 28, 2013 Reply

Well done. Good post.

Courtney - September 10, 2013 Reply

Thank you! Just made my life so much easier!

violetta - August 29, 2013 Reply

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

Steve Root - July 20, 2013 Reply

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 –

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

    Brooks Duncan - July 20, 2013 Reply

    Great thanks Steve!

happybastien - July 13, 2013 Reply

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 :

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

Nate - June 27, 2013 Reply

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

susan - June 18, 2013 Reply

Soooo cool!! Thank you so much!!!

@DHfromKorea - April 28, 2013 Reply


Joe - April 4, 2013 Reply

Easier than i thought, thank you so much.

Louisa - February 14, 2013 Reply

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

Frederic - February 8, 2013 Reply

Option 1 worked perfectly for me (OS X Lion)

    Brooks Duncan - February 8, 2013 Reply

    Thanks Frederic!

Doreen - October 11, 2012 Reply

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

Scott - October 9, 2012 Reply

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.

    Brooks Duncan - October 9, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Scott.

Anonymous - October 3, 2012 Reply

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.

@KrogerLawOffice - September 22, 2012 Reply

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.

Heather - September 18, 2012 Reply

You are a lifesaver! Thank you!!!

maddy - August 1, 2012 Reply

Brilliant, Thanks for sharing the knowledge

    Brooks Duncan - August 1, 2012 Reply

    No problem maddy, thanks for the note!

M_A - July 16, 2012 Reply

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

    Brooks Duncan - July 16, 2012 Reply

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

Kelly M - July 11, 2012 Reply

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 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

KO7 - June 14, 2012 Reply

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!

    Brooks Duncan - June 15, 2012 Reply

    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;”>

Anne - May 29, 2012 Reply

just what i needed. thanks! 🙂

    Brooks Duncan - May 29, 2012 Reply

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

Dickon - May 26, 2012 Reply

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!

Sophie - April 24, 2012 Reply

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!

Amber - April 12, 2012 Reply

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

    Brooks Duncan - April 12, 2012 Reply

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

Brooks Duncan - April 11, 2012 Reply

Awesome Deanna, glad it helped!

DeannaM - April 11, 2012 Reply

Thank you, this is awesome!

stefano - March 30, 2012 Reply

Thanks so much. It's been REEEALLY helpful.

    Brooks Duncan - March 30, 2012 Reply

    Great stefano, thanks for letting me know!

ularit - March 22, 2012 Reply


Selly - March 14, 2012 Reply


    Brooks Duncan - March 14, 2012 Reply

    No problem Selly, glad it helped!

kef - February 7, 2012 Reply

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?

John Smith - January 29, 2012 Reply

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.


    Brooks Duncan - January 29, 2012 Reply

    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 Reply

      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”.

John Smith - January 29, 2012 Reply

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.


James927 - January 7, 2012 Reply

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!

    Brooks Duncan - January 7, 2012 Reply

    Nice, thanks James927!

DMA - November 28, 2011 Reply

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.

gworks - October 12, 2011 Reply

Brilliant!!! Thanks for the great tool!

    Brooks Duncan - October 12, 2011 Reply

    No worries gworks, glad it helped!

jnjrosenfeld - September 22, 2011 Reply

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

    Brooks Duncan - September 22, 2011 Reply

    Awesome, glad it helped!

      Bhaskar Maddi - June 19, 2014 Reply

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

        Brooks Duncan - June 19, 2014 Reply

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

Aima - August 6, 2011 Reply

hey but it increases the size !!!

Helen - May 11, 2011 Reply

This is absolutely brilliant, thank you very much!

    Brooks Duncan - May 11, 2011 Reply

    No worries Helen, glad it helped!

F.Rodriguez - April 12, 2011 Reply

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.

    Brooks Duncan - April 12, 2011 Reply

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

whatdoido - February 17, 2011 Reply

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.

    Brooks Duncan - February 17, 2011 Reply

    Not sure what to tell you. Just tried it and it worked for me as you can see in this screenshot:….

    But, you're welcome for nothing I guess!

      AjMWD - May 15, 2011 Reply

      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 Reply

    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.

maurice - January 13, 2011 Reply

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.

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