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Preview used to open multiple PDFs in one window - by selecting multiple files in finder, you could right-click and open all of them together. This was particularly useful to 1) get a total page count of all documents combined and 2) Be able to search within all of the PDFs simultaneously.

Preferences -> Images has "open all in one window", but it seems to be nonfunctional - when I open multiple PDFs from finder, it opens in multiple windows even with this selected.

Oddly (to me anyway), I have also noted that in macOS 10.13.1 (High Sierra) it seems possible to change Preview behaviour by visiting System Preferences -> Dock -> Prefer tabs when opening documents manually (dock has little to do with finder or preview IMO). When this is changed to "always," you can open multiple documents in a tabbed format, but not in one window with each file on the lefthand side pane as before - this doesn't assist searching or getting a total page count.

The only workaround I have found so far is to drag and drop all files to one pre-existing preview window. You have to be exceptionally careful as dragging the document to the wrong area will add the PDF pages to the existing PDF, and even if you close preview, the changes persist.

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  • 1
    It is same for me in high sierra. What's worse is that I can't even drag and drop to an already existing window.
    – user26732
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 17:29
  • 1
    You can, you need to use the sidebar, and as I mention, be careful, it will merge the files and drop right in the middle of a file.
    – Gryph
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 18:10
  • I found it. I need to select the thumbnails view in sidebar to do drag and drop the files. Thanks, but it changes the original PDF as you mentioned. QA of apple is definitely deteriorating in every new release. I wish they reverse to the original way of opening multiple files.
    – user26732
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 20:27
  • Update: This is a confirmed change in the function of MacOS, and not an error (discussions.apple.com/thread/8265886). There are no effective workarounds (that are as quick in searching, especially), and so my daily workflow has been severely broken.
    – Gryph
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 16:38
  • One workaround for searching is to use Spotlight search in Finder. If you have all your pdfs in one folder you can search within that folder and it will search the pdf contents and match a file. Not as convenient though as you still have to open the file and search again within that file
    – Jason S
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 23:25

3 Answers 3

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To work around Apple's removal of this feature in Mac OS High Sierra (10.13), you can use the Automator application to build your own application to combine pdfs which you can then save, search, count pages or print.

Open the Automator application from the /Applications folder
Choose to create a "New Document" and choose "Application" for "Choose a type for your document"

From the Actions Library drag the "Ask for Finder Items", "Combine PDF pages" and "Open Finder Items" actions to the workflow pane in that order. The workflow pane shows "Drag actions or files here to build your workflow" when there are no items in it.

Select the options to "Allow multiple selection" for the "Ask for Finder Items" action, "Appending pages" for the "Combine PDF pages" action and "Default Application" for the "Open Finder Items" action.

Save your application somewhere (I saved mine to /Applications), and run it the same way you run any application.

It will ask you for the files you want to combine, combine them, and then open them in your default pdf reader ready for you to save somewhere, count pages, print, search etc.

See the screenshot for an example.

enter image description here

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  • This works for a small workload - but if you are working with hundreds or thousands of PDF files this is much less efficient and causes sorting difficulty later.
    – Gryph
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 16:31
  • @Gryph Did you open 100s or 1000s of pdfs in one window via Finder previously? How is it different with this method? Your two use cases were combined page count and searching across all items. Doesn't this do that? Sort order could be a problem but your OP doesn't mention that case. You could use the "Sort Finder Items" action in Automator if you need sorting.
    – Jason S
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 22:07
  • @JasonS yes, regularly. Previously, Preview opened them in one 'container' on the lefthand side pane. When a search was executed, it searched everything within the container and you could simply skip from one to the next. It didn't actually merge the files - this is important in my use case because I've got hundreds of folders with strict naming conventions for each file. I can merge them all to do the search, yes, but we're talking about a few GB of files total being merged to conduct a search. The search in finder also works, but it is far slower for some reason than it was in Preview.
    – Gryph
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 23:21
  • @JasonS I've been trying to get this app to work with my volume and it crashes - says "couldn't posix_spawn: error 7"
    – Gryph
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 1:19
  • @Gryph From what I remember of the previous feature my solution is very similar. My answer also leaves the original files intact, and doesn't create a merged copy unless you choose to save it. Did you try it with fewer files? I expect you're hitting a memory limit. I don't have the old feature to test, but I am sure that you could get it to fail by throwing enough files and large enough files at it.
    – Jason S
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 6:52
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Open a document in preview, select edit->insert->page from file, then you can insert the remaining files you want to open in the same window.

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  • this does 'work', but it stalls horribly when working with the number of docs i used to be able to simply open. not a bad workaround for opening 2-9 docs though.
    – Gryph
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 2:36
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Open preview with your first PDF. Then choose thumbnails using the small menu tab in the upper left of the pdf window. (just below the 3 colored dots) then drag your remaining PDF files into the gray area below the first PDF thumbnail on the left. It will populate the remaining PDFs in order just like the old system of opening all PDFS in one doc for printing, etc. This works well for us and we open over 1000 at a time

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