Aggregating PDFs with a One-Line Bash Script

This year, like dozens of Canadian researchers, I’m serving on a SSHRC Insight Development Grant selection committee. While SSHRC has a decent back end (I think I’m one of the only people who kinda likes SharePoint now), they do tend to provide the documents that need to be reviewed in a bunch of seperate documents, i.e.:

  • App_Milligan_Ian.pdf
  • Attach_Milligan_Ian_Description.pdf
  • Attach_Milligan_Ian_References.pdf
  • Attach_Milligan_Ian_Timelines.pdf
  • CCV_App_Milligan_Ian.pdf

Scale this up by the 11 or 12 proposals that you need to read, and suddenly, you’re working with 60 individual PDFs rather than just 12 nicely-packaged PDFs. As somebody who tends to move PDFs to my iPad to annotate there, this is a bit annoying.

This isn’t just a SSHRC problem, of course. Until a few years ago, when reviewing graduate admissions, we would get four or five PDFs per applicant.

Bash to the rescue. This MacOS command will turn all of the above into a nice PDF for review:

"/System/Library/Automator/Combine PDF Pages.action/Contents/Resources/" -o Milligan.pdf *Milligan*

This saved me a lot of headache, so maybe if it saves just one of you some headache, posting it here will be worth it too.

Ian Milligan
Associate Professor of History

Exploring how technology is transforming historical research.