Dividing a PDF File Into Multiple Files

by Danielle Fernandez

PDFs offer a reliable and effective way to distribute important documents electronically, but there are times when you need to manipulate files before sharing them with others. You might, for example, only need a page or two of an especially long PDF file. On the other hand, you might run into file size issues -- a lengthy PDF file laden with graphics and photos be cumbersome to send via email. Using Adobe Acrobat, a PDF splitter or Preview, you can extract pages of the PDF into individual files to make sharing more efficient.

Adobe Acrobat

Whenever possible, it is most effective to manipulate PDFs using software developed by the company who created PDFs in the first place. Adobe introduced PDFs in 1993, which was the same year their first generation of Acrobat products were available on the market. The free Adobe Reader -- which lets you read, search and print PDF files -- does not include an extraction feature for dividing documents into individual pages. Adobe Acrobat, on the other hand, does. You can purchase and install Acrobat from Adobe's website where you can also access a free 30-day trial.

Accessing the Extract Tool

There are two ways to access page extraction in Adobe Acrobat. One way is in the "Page Thumbnails" pane, accessed with the thumbnails icon that looks like two pieces of paper and is located directly to the left of your PDF document. Use the drop-down "Options" menu at the top of this pane to select "Extract." You can also open the "Tools" task pane located to the right of your PDF document and use the "Pages" menu to access the extraction tool.

Using the Extract Tool

Once you have accessed the tool in Acrobat there are a number of options to customize your extraction. For example, you can manually enter a range of pages to extract from your document. Select "Delete Pages After Extracting" if your aim is to remove the pages from the original file. The "Extract Pages as Separate Files" check box creates individual PDFs from the material extracted.

Page Thumbnails

Thumbnails help identify and organize your pages, eliminating the hassle of guessing which page numbers you should input. In the "Page Thumbnail" pane, use your mouse to highlight the first page you would like extracted. Scroll to the last thumbnail in the desired range and press the "Shift" key while you click the thumbnail with your mouse. Hold the "Control" (PC) or "Command" (Mac) key to select additional pages that are not in consecutive order. Select "Extract" from the drop-down menu at the top of the Thumbnails pane and Acrobat will automatically import the settings for your selected pages.

PDF Splitter

If you use a PC, are not eligible for a free Adobe Acrobat trial and are seeking a free way to perform the page extraction, a separate PDF splitter can do the same job. There are several free software solutions available -- Simpo PDF Splitter, for example, is among the most popular PDF splitting downloads on CNET (link in Resources). These types of applications work like Acrobat, allowing you to specify a page range, delete pages from a document or split individual pages separately.

Using the Preview App on a Mac

If you have a Mac, you can skip Acrobat or a third-party splitter and use the Preview software to extract individual pages from the PDF. First launch Preview and open the file. If the sidebar is not showing, press "Command-Shift-D" to display it. You will also need to display thumbnails -- the keyboard shortcut for that is "Command-Option-2." From there, simply select the thumbnail of the page you wish to extract and drag it to your desktop.

About the Author

Based in Tampa, Fla., Danielle Fernandez been writing, editing and illustrating all things technology, lifestyle and education since 1999. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Tribune, Working Mother magazine, and a variety of technical publications, including BICSI's "Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual." Fernandez holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images