PDFs have long been a commonly used format for eBooks, digital manuals or documents thanks to how content is presented regardless of operating system that is used and great support for PDF reading applications (check out Sumatra for an excellent PDF reader).
Editing PDF documents on the other hand has never been great, especially if you limited your search to free solutions.
Most free PDF tools are online based, which means you’re uploading your document to a third-party server. While that is okay for generic files, it may be an issue for anything else.
PDFSAM — PDF Split and Merge
If you just want to perform some basic operations such as splitting a PDF or merging multiple files into a single document, you can use PDFsam Basic. It’s a free, open source program that’s available for Windows, Linux and macOS.
The main screen of PDF Split and Merge is where you select what you want to do. The application provides the following options:
- Split by bookmarks
- Split by Size
Clicking on one of the options takes you to the editor interface which may look different as it depends on the selected action. The left side-bar can be used to switch between the tools. You can drag and drop files on to the interface or use the add button to select the PDFs that you wish to use. Right-clicking on the added files allows you to rearrange the order of the documents, remove them, or view the PDF’s properties.
This option can be used combine multiple PDF documents into one. The Page range selector lets you select specific pages from each document for the merging process.
The Merge tab has options to add a blank page at the end of each document if the number of pages is odd. The footer setting, when selected, adds the name of the PDF to the page, while the normalize page size option re-sizes pages to the width of the first page. Other options provided include generating a Table of Contents, Bookmark retention, and interactive form management. To merge the selected files, set the desired options and hit the Run button; the merged PDF will be ready in a few seconds.
You can customize the destination folder where the PDF should be saved, and also set the name of the new file using the “Destination” section.
The Mix and merge section of the sidebar uses pages in alternating order from two or more PDFs to create a single PDF. So it will use a page from the first PDF followed by one from the 2nd PDF, and so on to mix and merge the document.
If you have a large PDF that you wish to break down into smaller documents, you can do that with PDFsam. There are a few different ways to split a PDF including: after each page, odd or even pages, split after specific page numbers, or after every “n” pages (for e.g. after every 5 pages). There are two more ways to Split PDFs: by bookmarks and by size (in KB and MB).
Ever had a PDF which had pages or pictures in landscape mode? This set of options in PDFsam can be used to rotate individual pages, all pages, odd or even pages of a PDF, by 90 or 180 degrees clockwise, or 90 degrees anti-clockwise.
This option is handy if you just want to extract one or two pages, to use for reference or quick access. You can also extract the pages by using the page ranges selection tool (like extracting a Chapter).
There is a whole section of Premium features that you obviously can’t use in the free version. It just serves as an ad for the paid versions, and you can ignore it or disable the Premium section from the settings. PDFsam Basic does not require Java to be installed, it comes with the required files needed to run the application. The program is available as a portable version.
In my tests, I merged various eBooks to form a single book. I did this a few times with various options enabled, and the size of the final PDF differed a bit depending on what I selected. For the price of free, I have no complaints with it.