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I came across a strange PDF problem. Certain PDFs (they are American Express downloaded statements) don't allow me to delete pages in Preview as I do with most PDFs. From an old online comment, I discovered that if I export it as a PDF, I can then delete pages. I can't see what makes these PDFs different. Is there some hidden feature?
 


It has to be how the Mac sees certain PDF's. I just did this for a friend. He got a PDF that he could not read. I took the PDF file into Preview, re-exported it and then he could read it. I don't know the technical explanation, but that is what works.
 


I came across a strange PDF problem. Certain PDFs (they are American Express downloaded statements) don't allow me to delete pages in Preview as I do with most PDFs. ...
I experience this a lot with downloaded PDFs. The acid test is whether the latest version of Adobe's Acrobat Reader works correctly with these PDFs. If so, then Preview is the problem. If not, then most likely the PDF wasn't created properly. Many websites create PDFs on-the-fly - the code that produces them can be buggy.

Apple's Preview supports a PDF standard several versions behind Adobe's latest. In Adobe Acrobat Pro X I converted a document to PDF. It defaulted to PDF-1.6. In Sierra I printed the same document and then chose Save As PDF. That PDF is using PDF-1.3. Adobe's reference for PDF-1.7 was published in 2006....
 


I came across a strange PDF problem. Certain PDFs (they are American Express downloaded statements) don't allow me to delete pages in Preview as I do with most PDFs. From an old online comment, I discovered that if I export it as a PDF, I can then delete pages. I can't see what makes these PDFs different. Is there some hidden feature?
Could it be a matter of document permissions? Adobe has a bunch of different protection options that can be applied to PDF documents, including:
  • Encrypt (via password or certificate) - either the entire document, all but metadata, or only attachments
  • Require a password to open the document
  • Prevent printing or limit printing to 150 dpi
  • Prevent modification:
    • Prevent any modification
    • Allow inserting, deleting and rotating pages
    • Allow filling in form fields and signing existing signature fields
    • Allow commenting, filling in form fields and signing existing signature fields
    • Allow all but extracting pages
  • Block copying content to the clipboard
  • Block screen-reader access (which can be used to extract content)
If your document is protected to prevent modification, but allows printing (as might be expected for a financial statement), I would expect it to block page-deletion, but allow printing to a new PDF file (which would not be protected). If you try this from within Adobe Reader, it should prompt you for a password (which you won't have if you're not the document's author) instead of silently failing.

I don't know if you can read the protection status from within Preview, but Adobe Reader should definitely let you see it (but it will require a password to remove the restrictions).
 


I came across a strange PDF problem. Certain PDFs (they are American Express downloaded statements) don't allow me to delete pages in Preview as I do with most PDFs. From an old online comment, I discovered that if I export it as a PDF, I can then delete pages. I can't see what makes these PDFs different. Is there some hidden feature?
In 2002 I read of a similar problem where a PDF would not open in a PDF reader. The article included a download link to a "standard" PDF that could be used to test readability of PDFs by an application. Wonder of wonders, I still have that download (not the link, never really used it), which is how I know this all happened in 2002.

Bottom line according to the article, there are PDFs, and then there are PDFs and not all PDFs are created equal.
 


I have another PDF issue (also have Michael Arons' issue but the "export-then-reopen" fix works). I am finding that I am unable to move annotations (lines, text blocks, ovals, whatever) I add using Preview. I can re-size the annotations and even edit the text but moving them anywhere else on the page other than where Preview initially drops them is impossible. I've had to switch to another PDF editor (PDF Pen Pro seems to work as advertised).

I'll mention I'm running Sierra.
 


With Preview if you open the Inspector from the Tools menu you can look at the various permissions (shown under the tab with the lock icon). The Inspector tab also has a bunch of other useful information.

By the way, "printing" a PDF into another PDF will not remove encryption or permissions (if they are set).
 


With Preview if you open the Inspector from the Tools menu you can look at the various permissions (shown under the tab with the lock icon). The Inspector tab also has a bunch of other useful information.

By the way, "printing" a PDF into another PDF will not remove encryption or permissions (if they are set).
My PDFs (these are ones I create - perhaps by opening a JPEG and "saving as..." a PDF) show they are not locked and I have full permissions according to the Preview Inspector, yet I can't move the annotations Preview lets me create on the PDF.
 


Preview can be pretty awful with some PDFs. I'm sure it was on MacInTouch where there was a discussion about Preview opening a PDF as blank but on Acrobat it showed the entire page without issue. As much as I dislike Adobe, Acrobat is one application we find essential as a publishing company - we simply couldn't trust Preview.
 


By the way, "printing" a PDF into another PDF will not remove encryption or permissions
I received an encrypted PDF of a K-1 for taxes and removed the encryption by printing. Using Preview on High Sierra, it seems to work. Tried it again just now to make sure and, yes, printing removes the encryption. Not sure, but is it possible that different programs create differing types of encryption?
 


I came across a strange PDF problem. Certain PDFs (they are American Express downloaded statements) don't allow me to delete pages in Preview as I do with most PDFs. From an old online comment, I discovered that if I export it as a PDF, I can then delete pages. I can't see what makes these PDFs different. Is there some hidden feature?
Odd. I have no problem deleting pages in my downloaded AmEx pdfs. I'm on Sierra if that makes any difference.
 


I came across a strange PDF problem. Certain PDFs (they are American Express downloaded statements) don't allow me to delete pages in Preview as I do with most PDFs.
If your document is protected to prevent modification, but allows printing (as might be expected for a financial statement), I would expect it to block page-deletion, but allow printing to a new PDF file (which would not be protected). If you try this from within Adobe Reader, it should prompt you for a password (which you won't have if you're not the document's author) instead of silently failing.

I don't know if you can read the protection status from within Preview, but Adobe Reader should definitely let you see it (but it will require a password to remove the restrictions).
This is exactly what the problem is. I encountered the same issue a few months ago with my Citibank statements. New statements that I started downloading from their site had password protection enabled for a number of functions, including page deletion and redaction. I redownloaded old statements from previous months and the new downloads also had the protections enabled, whereas my previous download of the same statements a few months earlier did not.

I called customer service to get the password to remove the protections, and after having to be transferred to a supervisor, I received confirmation that this was a recent intentional change. He said it was due to people "making alterations to their statements". I left feedback with him about what a ridiculous and ineffective restriction this was, that did little more than inconvenience legitimate use cases for electronic manipulation.

I downloaded my latest AmEx statement today to check, and it has the same kind of protections on the PDF now that I found on my Citibank statements.
 


By the way, "printing" a PDF into another PDF will not remove encryption or permissions (if they are set).
That's not true, at least with the credit card statements in question. I tried that with both of my credit card statements, and the resulting PDF's allowed the previously restricted functions.
 


By the way, "printing" a PDF into another PDF will not remove encryption or permissions (if they are set).
That's not true, at least with the credit card statements in question. I tried that with both of my credit card statements, and the resulting PDF's allowed the previously restricted functions.
Perhaps Austin S. only interacts with PDF files via Adobe Reader or Acrobat software, both of which respect the restrictions applied by the document creator/owner. Many (most?) non-Adobe applications for accessing PDF files, including Preview in macOS, do not honor those restrictions. Printing or saving to a new PDF is a quick way to strip them away entirely. One caveat when doing this with Preview—the resulting file will be a version 1.3 PDF, which lacks support for transparency that is supported in PDF 1.4 and newer versions.

My take on why Preview and macOS native Print-to-PDF outputs to a "flat" version 1.3 PDF, is it's due to a lack of effort on Apple's part to modernize the Display Postscript/PDF underpinnings of the macOS Quartz graphics layer/engine.
 


[...] I am finding that I am unable to move annotations (lines, text blocks, ovals, whatever) I add using Preview. I can re-size the annotations and even edit the text but moving them anywhere else on the page other than where Preview initially drops them is impossible. I've had to switch to another PDF editor (PDF Pen Pro seems to work as advertised).
I'll mention I'm running Sierra.
If you are opening a pixel-based file, like JPEG or PNG, adding annotations in Preview, then saving, those annotations will be converted to pixels and burned into the file - though it sounds like you are not able to move those items during the initial editing session, which is not normal.

I had a hard time recently trying to move text annotations because the virtual "grab zone" is tiny, perhaps only one pixel wide. If you miss it you have either activated a text cursor or deselected the target or created a new text box. Ridiculously frustrating but not impossible. I have not experienced the same challenge with respect to objects like lines and shapes.

The signing tool works surprisingly well if you have a trackpad. I would love for Apple to add a transparent highlighter to Preview's tool set!
 


He said it was due to people "making alterations to their statements". I left feedback with him about what a ridiculous and ineffective restriction this was
I send my clients PDF invoices, and I always add restrictions to make them read-only and print-only. For thousands of years, people have found ways to falsify documents, but there have been, and today still are, simple ways to prevent less knowledgeable people from changing document content. Today, it is relatively easy to forge documents, but we can still prevent "amateurs" from changing important documents.

By the way, instead of changing statements, why don't you just add a comment to the restricted document, just like you would for a paper hard copy? I'm not sure if Adobe Reader allows that for protected documents, but PDF Expert does.
 


For getting around "print to PDF" restrictions that sometimes turn up in Acrobat Reader (necessary for filling in some documents properly) I have used "PDFwriter for Mac" which uses the Mac's build-in PDF capabilities to create a "printer" that other programs view as a standard printer.

There are some challenges with finding the resultant documents after they have been printed (they turn up buried away in Unix-land, somewhere in the /tmp folder, as I recall, but I think there are shortcuts created in the /Users/Shared folder), but it has been extremely useful when needed.
 


By the way, instead of changing statements, why don't you just add a comment to the restricted document, just like you would for a paper hard copy?
For my particular use case, I needed to extract certain pages to combine with a larger electronic document packet, and use the redaction feature to completely eliminate certain sensitive personal information. None of that was possible with the protected PDF.
 


If you are opening a pixel-based file, like JPEG or PNG, adding annotations in Preview, then saving, those annotations will be converted to pixels and burned into the file - though it sounds like you are not able to move those items during the initial editing session, which is not normal....
That's correct, Scott. If I try to annotate any document in Preview (be it JPEG, PNG, PDF, whatever it will open) during the initial editing session, any added annotation elements can't be moved. Changing size or altering the text of an annotation does work, however (although that ability is somewhat useless if I can't move the annotation to where it's needed).

I use fewer and fewer of Apple's included tools; I try to find apps that work the same on various OS's. Apple should be afraid. I've abandoned iOS a number of years ago, and once my 2015 iMac is no longer useful for my needs, I don't have to spend $2500+ to replace it with a very nice Windows box.
 


I would love for Apple to add a transparent highlighter to Preview's tool set!
Actually, you can highlight text (real text, not an image) using the Highlight tool using a variety of colors.

If you want to highlight text which is really part of an image (scan embedded in a PDF or just an image), you can use a line created with Markup enabled by selecting a Line from Shapes dropdown menu, or even the Sketch tool if you want to be more creative. The line can be a variety of stroke sizes and colors. The transparency (opacity) feature is not in the standard color swatch shown in the Border Color dropdown menu, but when clicking Show Colors under the swatches, you can select opacity 0-100. You can also pick your favorite crayon color.

For large areas, you can create a transparent box using similar techniques using no border and a Fill Color with your choice of opacity.

All Colors palette features like this are available with any application which uses it. You can also save your favorite color to the swatch area at the bottom of Colors in one app and use it in another.
 


Actually, you can highlight text (real text, not an image) using the Highlight tool using a variety of colors.
Thanks, that does exactly what I desired. I had overlooked that tool because it was not in the Annotation Toolbar set, where I was expecting to find it.
If you want to highlight text which is really part of an image (scan embedded in a PDF or just an image), you can use a line created with Markup enabled by selecting a Line from Shapes dropdown menu, or even the Sketch tool if you want to be more creative. The line can be a variety of stroke sizes and colors. The transparency (opacity) feature is not in the standard color swatch shown in the Border Color dropdown menu, but when clicking Show Colors under the swatches, you can select opacity 0-100. You can also pick your favorite crayon color.
This, I knew about and use on occasion, though setting the opacity is a clumsy two-step process. I also don't like the resulting alteration of the underlying image—sometimes it desaturates and goes gray and other times it picks up the hue of the highlight color.

While exploring your Highlight Tool suggestion, I discovered the very nifty Loupe Annotation tool and Mask Annotation tool at the bottom of the Shape tool palette.
 


I am running the latest version of Mojave on a 2009 Mac Pro. I have a .pdf document opened up in Preview into which I wish to place my signature, so I can email it. This is very easy to do if one has a Mac with a built-in camera, but my Mac Pro does not.

How can I get my signature file (.jpg or .png) into my .pdf file?

Is there somewhere on the computer where I can place the file, so that Preview will recognize it as a signature?
 


I am running the latest version of Mojave on a 2009 Mac Pro. I have a .pdf document opened up in Preview into which I wish to place my signature, so I can email it. This is very easy to do if one has a Mac with a built-in camera, but my Mac Pro does not.
Could you use your phone camera to bring in your signature?

If not, do you have a trackpad you can attach to the Mac Pro? If so, you can create a new signature within Preview > Tools > Annotate > Signature > Manage Signatures.
 


Could you use your phone camera to bring in your signature? If not, do you have a trackpad you can attach to the Mac Pro? If so, you can create a new signature within Preview > Tools > Annotate > Signature > Manage Signatures.
I would have been willing to bet that Preview would permit a scanned image as a choice in place of a webcam; but, no, someone at Apple had to have made the decision to not permit anything other than the iSight. Guess who?
 


I would have been willing to bet that Preview would permit a scanned image as a choice in place of a webcam; but, no, someone at Apple had to have made the decision to not permit anything other than the iSight. Guess who
That is the way Acrobat Pro brought signatures into their system previously, so it doesn't surprise me that it would not work with Apple Preview. I had tried scanning before and knew it would not work. I do know that you can create a signature that does work with Preview using a trackpad. I guess that "1 out of 3 ain't bad", to paraphrase Mr. Loaf.
 


I am running the latest version of Mojave on a 2009 Mac Pro. I have a .pdf document opened up in Preview into which I wish to place my signature, so I can email it. This is very easy to do if one has a Mac with a built-in camera, but my Mac Pro does not.
How can I get my signature file (.jpg or .png) into my .pdf file?
Is there somewhere on the computer where I can place the file, so that Preview will recognize it as a signature?
One can attach an external webcam via USB to your Mac Pro and use that. I use my MacBook Pro in clamshell mode and attach a Logitech 920 to a USB hub. It is recognized by the Preview dialog for creating signatures and any other apps trying to connect to a built-in iSight camera.
 


I am running the latest version of Mojave on a 2009 Mac Pro. I have a .pdf document opened up in Preview into which I wish to place my signature, so I can email it. This is very easy to do if one has a Mac with a built-in camera, but my Mac Pro does not.

How can I get my signature file (.jpg or .png) into my .pdf file?

Is there somewhere on the computer where I can place the file, so that Preview will recognize it as a signature?
An iPhone can be used as a iSight Camera. Plug in an iPhone to your Mac, open QuickTime Player, and choose new recording. Next to the Record button is a down arrow that will let you choose the iSight camera you want to use. Choose the iPhone. In the Signature collection section of Preview choose camera. An image from your iPhone "iSight" camera should be visible.
 


I would have been willing to bet that Preview would permit a scanned image as a choice in place of a webcam; but, no, someone at Apple had to have made the decision to not permit anything other than the iSight. Guess who?
I'm curious what the rationale behind that choice would be. "Just update to a new Mac" doesn't really fly, because Minis and even the latest (hah!) Mac Pros don't have a built-in camera....
 


I'm curious what the rationale behind that choice would be. "Just update to a new Mac" doesn't really fly, because Minis and even the latest (hah!) Mac Pros don't have a built-in camera....
I'd guess the rationale is a poorly thought out security decision (as in, someone, somehow, thought that requiring a picture of a signature was more secure than just being able to copy it off of a document.)
 


Here's a problem I've had with Preview since, I think, Sierra and maybe earlier. It still exists in macOS 10.14.5. Create two one-page PDFs. Open the first and view thumbnails. Drag the second PDF on top of the thumbnail of the first, which should add the second PDF as page two. Instead, it treats the second PDF as a separate file. Close that second PDF in Preview. Now repeat the drag of the second PDF to exactly the same spot. It will be added as page two. I have had this happen many times.

If anyone has a workaround, please let me know.
 


Here's a problem I've had with Preview since, I think, Sierra and maybe earlier. It still exists in macOS 10.14.5. Create two one-page PDFs. Open the first and view thumbnails. Drag the second PDF on top of the thumbnail of the first, which should add the second PDF as page two. Instead, it treats the second PDF as a separate file. Close that second PDF in Preview. Now repeat the drag of the second PDF to exactly the same spot. It will be added as page two. I have had this happen many times.

If anyone has a workaround, please let me know.
I’ve always appended PDFs by dragging the thumbnails from second and subsequent PDFs to the first PDF’s thumbnail list.
 


I’ve always appended PDFs by dragging the thumbnails from second and subsequent PDFs to the first PDF’s thumbnail list.
I, too, have always succeeded appending PDFs in Preview by keeping both documents open (with thumbnails showing), and dragging the "second" doc's page(s) to the bottom of the "first" doc's thumbnail list — not dragging the document itself, but the thumbnail.

I've also been able to insert the "second" doc's thumbnail into any place in the "first" doc's thumbnail list, even rearranging them — always by manipulating the thumbnails, not the docs.
 


I, too, have always succeeded appending PDFs in Preview by keeping both documents open (with thumbnails showing), and dragging the "second" doc's page(s) to the bottom of the "first" doc's thumbnail list — not dragging the document itself, but the thumbnail.
I've also been able to insert the "second" doc's thumbnail into any place in the "first" doc's thumbnail list, even rearranging them — always by manipulating the thumbnails, not the docs.
I have come to use PDFSuite to collate PDFs into larger documents and then reduce their file size. Have had great success with this product.
 


Apple Preview should allow you to drag another closed PDF to the thumbnail of another open thumbnail list. I tried this yesterday, and I could not add a PDF to the thumbnail window. But this is rare. The PDF I used came from a Windows system. Maybe there was an inconsistency there. I was trying to add a PDF to an open JPEG. Should both documents be either PDFs or JPEGs? Preview typically just works either way, because it converts the PDF to JPEG or vice versa on the fly as required to merge both documents in my experience.

For some reason, some PDFs just don't work with Preview as they should. This may be due to some corruption in the PDF itself after it is sent through email or some other corrupting process. Perhaps re-saving the PDF in Preview would make the merge work as it is supposed to.
 


Here's a problem I've had with Preview since, I think, Sierra and maybe earlier. It still exists in macOS 10.14.5. Create two one-page PDFs. Open the first and view thumbnails. Drag the second PDF on top of the thumbnail of the first, which should add the second PDF as page two. Instead, it treats the second PDF as a separate file. Close that second PDF in Preview. Now repeat the drag of the second PDF to exactly the same spot. It will be added as page two. I have had this happen many times.

If anyone has a workaround, please let me know.
Dropping the file on the thumbnail works in High Sierra.
 


I have come to use PDFSuite to collate PDFs into larger documents and then reduce their file size. Have had great success with this product.
Preview is not really a PDF tool. As Larry notes, if you deal with PDFs much, you need an editor. I'm running PDFpen Pro with success. I've associated the .pdf [file type] with it. Far less irritating than Preview and much more useful.
 


Preview is not really a PDF tool. As Larry notes, if you deal with PDFs much, you need an editor. I'm running PDFpen Pro with success. I've associated the .pdf [file type] with it. Far less irritating than Preview and much more useful.
How does PDFpen Pro compare with Acrobat Pro for editing PDFs? I tried using Acrobat Pro to edit an out-of-print book of mine that I had scanned to PDF so I could self-publish it, and I could not figure out how to get Acrobat Pro to change things like page size and "bleeding" print to the edge of the page. Can PDFpen Pro do that?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
How does PDFpen Pro compare with Acrobat Pro for editing PDFs?
For what it's worth, I just went through these struggles with an IRS PDF fill-in form.
  1. Apple Preview is worthless/useless for this.
  2. I downloaded a trial copy of PDFpen that isn't sufficient, because it watermarks files, but the trial seemed promising enough to make a purchase.
  3. PDFpen (not "Pro") did at least function with the IRS fill-in PDF form, but I ended up having a lot of headaches with it unexpectedly deleting information from the fill-in fields (at least sometimes during Save). There also seems to be no Save As function.
  4. You can import a signature by getting the signature into a graphics file, then adding that graphic and changing the white background to transparent. (This required some documentation study.)
  5. Despite the hassles, I was eventually able to edit the form and Export it to a "flattened PDF", which seemed to be what I needed. The process wasn't a lot of fun.
 


From my previous post on Preview issues:
Drag, say, the thumbnail for a page in a multi-page PDF from the sidebar to some location. Then delete that page. Now drag the thumbnail for another page to the sidebar to add it to the PDF. The deleted page shows up. The next drag works as expected - of course, you have to delete the supposedly deleted page again.
 


Preview is not really a PDF tool. As Larry notes, if you deal with PDFs much, you need an editor. I'm running PDFpen Pro with success. I've associated the .pdf [file type] with it. Far less irritating than Preview and much more useful.
I've tried PDFpen Pro, and while it works very well, it's a bit pricey.

I just completed a 112-page technical catalog using PDFSuite, and its compression algorithm is vastly superior to the Reduce File Size command in Preview.
 


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