AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue
#6 (May 24, 2006)
Combining Several PDFs on One Page in Adobe
Founder, LineType Software, Inc.
Although Adobe Acrobat is not intended to be
a page-layout tool, it can be used to import pages
from one PDF file into another and to reposition
or scale these pages on the larger layout page
of the main document.
Note that this procedure requires Adobe Acrobat
Professional (version 6.0 or 7.0). It will also
work with Acrobat 5.0. The necessary tools are
not included in Acrobat Standard 6.0 or 7.0, however.
In this example, we will create a 24 x 36 PDF
from a CAD application, and then "paste up"
letter-size sheets of specifications on that large
24 x 36 sheet. This might be useful, for instance,
if specifications are being written in a word
processing program but the architect or engineer
wishes to include them on the drawings.
Creating the CAD Layout
First, create the sheet in CAD. Here is what
it looks like in the CAD application.
There is some general drawing information at
the top of the page, and then ten empty rectangles
are drawn in the lower part of the sheet. These
are actually a little bit smaller than letter-size
paper, but they are the same proportion as an
8½ x 11 page and so the letter-size specification
pages can be scaled to fit these boxes.
Now create a PDF of this drawing, using the PDF-creation
features of Adobe Acrobat. This process will not
be described here, but it is easy to do. This
gives us a 24 x 36 PDF as shown below.
We'll also assume that the specification pages
have already been created as a separate PDF documentthese
may have been printed from a word processor to
a PDF printer driver, for instance. The next step
will be to import each page of this specification
document into one of the boxes on the 24 x 36
Creating Button Fields
We will use the form-creation tools in Adobe
Acrobat Professional to do this import procedure.
As shown below, choose Tools
> Advanced Editing > Button
Tool to create a "button" form
field. Usually, this type of field is used to
create an interactive form that has click buttons.
We will be taking advantage of other properties
of the button field, however, and won't be using
its interactive capabilities.
When the Button Tool becomes
active, draw a rectangle that almost fills the
first empty box on the layout sheet. Set its properties
as indicated in the dialog boxes shown below.
It is important that the border and fill colors
under the Appearance tab are
both set to None, and that under
the Options tab we set Layout
to Icon only and Behavior
Now click Close on the Button
Properties dialog box, and with the Button
Tool still selected, right click on the
button field that was just created. Under the
context menu that appears, select Create
Multiple Copiesthis will allow
us to duplicate the button field several times
on the page.
The figure below shows the dialog box that appears
to duplicate this form field. Enter 2 and 5 for
the number of rows and columns, and then click
The document now appears as shown below.
There is now one button form field for each box
on the sheet, but they are not in the right locations.
There are several ways to reposition these fields,
but the easiest is probably to select the bottom
row of buttons using the Shift-Click
method, and then move all these fields down to
align with the bottom row of boxes. Holding Shift
down while moving will constrain the fields to
vertical movement only.
The same method can then be used to move two
button fields at a time over to the right. Now
the document appears as shown beloweach
button field is aligned over one of the boxes
in the underlying 24 x 36 sheet.
Since these are empty button form fields with
no border or background, they will be invisible
if the Button Tool is inactivated.
If the Hand tool is selected,
for instance, all the button fields will seem
to vanish. They are still there, though; by selecting
Tools > Advanced Editing
> Button Tool again, the editing
borders around the fields reappear and they can
be moved or edited.
Importing the PDF Specifications
Now that the button fields are all in their correct
places, we can import the specification pages.
Double-click on the first field, and the Button
Properties dialog box opens up. As shown
below, under the Options tab,
click on the Choose Icon
button. This brings up another dialog box that
allows us to specify which PDF file and which
page number of that file will be used as the image
for this button field. Choose the first page of
the specifications PDF, and click OK.
The button field now appears with that page of
the specifications reduced to fit inside the bounds
of the field.
Now without closing the Button Properties
dialog box, click on the next button field in
line, and then click on Choose Icon
again. Select the next page of the specifications
PDF for this field, and so on for each button
field in sequence. When complete, each page of
the specifications is now in its own box on the
24 x 36 sheet, as shown below.
When we click on the Hand tool
now, the buttons remain visible because there
is now something "inside" each button
Making (and preventing) Changes to Imported
Note that page contents imported in this way
are not linked directly to the original document.
That is, if the PDF containing the specifications
changes, the imported "image" will not
changethe pages will have to be re-imported
if changes are to be reflected in the 24x36 sheet.
Also, if the 24x36 document is sent to someone
else, it is not necessary to send the specification
document as wellthe imported pages are embedded
in the receiving document, which is entirely self-contained.
Because the imported images are in button fields,
however, it is possible for someone to change
them using Adobe Acrobat. It is also possible
that some third-party PDF reader programs (such
as those used by print management software at
a reprographer's shop) may not correctly interpret
or print these form fields.
The solution is to "flatten" the form
fields containing the imported pages. The flattening
operation removes the form field from the document
and inserts just the image of the imported file,
which cannot be easily modified as can a form
field. For more information on flattening, see
my earlier article, Flattening
PDF Annotations, in AECbytes Tips and Tricks.
About the Author
John TeSelle is a practicing architect in Nashville,
Tennessee. He is the founder of LineType
Software, Inc., which develops plug-ins for
Adobe Acrobat and Reader for the AEC industry.
He is an authority on the use of PDF and PDF-based
digital signatures for architects and engineers,
and has shared this expertise with professionals
across the country in seminars and webcasts sponsored
by Adobe Systems, Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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