Extracting Non-sequential Pages from PDFs

I received this email recently from a paralegal:

My colleague and I have been trying to extract non-sequential pages from a document to create a new document. It appears in the current version of Acrobat Professional (8.1.2) that only sequential documents can be extracted. Is there a work around for this? As an example, in a 100 page document we want to extract pages 12, 43 and 97 only. The ‘extract pages’ option (Document—>Extract Pages) indicates it will extract pages 12-97 which is way more pages than we need.

Yes, it’s true that you cannot select and extract a discontinuous range of pages using the Extract Pages option and the Pages Panel.

However, you can drag and drop a non-sequential bunch of pages between two PDFs using the Pages Panel:

You can drag and drop pages from one PDF document to another. That's what this article is about.

Read on for instructions and screen shots. Are you a really visual person? I’ve also included a movie that shows you how!

Extracting a Discontinuous Range of Pages using the Pages Panel

Watch the movie!

For this workaround, you will use drag and drop capability to move pages between documents.

If you create and save an empty “target document” you can open it as needed as a target for the pages you wish to copy..

Here’s what to do:

  1. Create a new PDF document as a target for the extracted pages. You can do this via File—>Create PDF—>From Blank Page or simply create a blank page in your word processor and convert it to PDF.
  2. Save the new PDF to a location you’ll remember. D not close the document.
Tip: For quick and easy access to your target document whenever you need it, choose File—>Organizer—>Add to a Collection. Create a new Collection and click OK. To quickly recall the document, choose File—>Organizer and choose the Collection and document you saved.
  1. Open the Source PDF from which you will extract pages
  2. Choose Window—>Tile Vertically. This will tile the two document side by side on your monitor.
  3. Documents displayed side by side
  4. Open the Pages panel in each document by clicking on the Pages panel icon in the panel to the left side of each document.
  5. Find the Pages Panel icon
  6. The Pages Panel should now be open in both documents on your screen.
  7. The Pages Panel is open in both documents
  8. Select the pages you wish to copy from the Source Document to the Target Document. Hold down the Control key (Option key on the Mac) to select a discontinuous range of pages.
  9. The selected pages will have a heavier border to indicate they are selected.
  10. Drag the selected pages from the Pages Panel of the Source document to Pages Panel of the Target document
  11. Drag from one pages panel to the next one.
  12. Close the Source document
  13. In the Pages Panel of the Target document, select the first page. Hit the Delete key. Click OK to the Delete Pages warning box.
  14. Delete the first page in the Target document as a last step.
  15. Choose File—>Save As to save your Target document under a new name.

Pages Panel Tricks

To delete a discontinuous range of pages from a document, simply select the pages needed and hit the Delete key.

Many folks don’t know that you can enlarge the Pages Panel and use it as a page sorter. This function is really handy for sorting slides.

Just drag the divider between the Pages Panel and document pane:

Click the divider to open up the Pages Panel

Then, your screen will look something like this:

Showing lots of pages using the Pages Panel

The Pages Panel has an Options menu from which you can access a variety of functions:

Pages Panel Options Menu

For example, you can reduce or enlarge the size of the Page Thumbnail images in the Pages Panel.

Small Thumbnail

Large Thumbnail

Smaller Thumbnail

Larger Thumbnail

One Last Tip

Contextual Menus are available within the Pages Panel. Just click on a page or range of pages and Right-click (Option-click on the Mac):

Right-click to get to a Contextual menu for the Pages Panel