Two Tools for Manipulating PDFs on the Linux Desktop

14 September, 2020

Ah, the PDF file. Like it or not (and there are many standing on both sides of that line), the PDF has somehow, in some way, become ubiquitous. It’s become a de-facto standard document file format.

Nowadays, a range of different applications and tools can spit out PDFs with the click of a button or an option added to a command line. Generating a PDF is one thing. Manipulating one is something else. On the Linux desktop, there are several utilities which can do just that. Let’s take a look at two of them.

PDF Arranger

As its name suggests, you can use PDF Arranger to shuffle the contents of a PDF file around. It does a bit more than that, too.

PDF Arranger at startup

Fire up the application and open a PDF file. The pages in the file display as thumbnails.

Manipulating a PDF file with PDF Arranger

Click and drag a thumbnail to move it elsewhere in the file. You can also select multiple thumbnails and drag them to a different point in the file.

Moving multiple pages in PDF Arranger

You can also delete one or more pages by selecting their thumbnails and either clicking the Delete icon on the toolbar or pressing Delete on your keyboard.

To insert another PDF file into the one you’re working on, select Add from the File menu. Find the file, and then click Open. PDF Arranger inserts the other file at the end of one that’s currently open.

Under the Edit menu, you’ll find commands to:

PDF Mix Tool

PDF Mix Tool takes a different approach to manipulating PDF files. You can use it to combine two or more PDFs or to manipulate the layout of a single PDF file.

PDF Mix Tool on startup

On the Multiple files tab (which is what you’re on when you start the application), click the Add PDF file button in open a file. Do that for as many files as you need to combine.

Combining files with PDF Mix Tool

You can rearrange the order of the files by clicking the Move up and Move down buttons on the toolbar. When you’re ready to go, click the Generate PDF button. Give the new file a name and then click Save.

PDF Mix Tool isn’t merely a blunt instrument for mashing together PDF files. You can choose which pages in a particular file to include in the combined PDF. To do that, right click on a file in the list and select Edit from the menu that pops up.

Using the Edit function in PDF Mix Tool

Enter the range of pages to include in the combined PDF in the Pages field — for example, enter 10-21 to only include pages 10 to 21. The text in the Outline entry field is what displays in the outline that displays in your PDF reader (usually on the left side of the screen).

The outline in a PDF reader

That’s great for multiple PDFs, but what about individual files? Click the Single file tab and then click Open PDF file to fiddle with one.

Manipulating a single file with PDF Mix Tool

One the Single file tab, you can:

Scott Nesbitt