Python scripts, Automator Services and Quartz Filters for MacOS (OS X) that create, manipulate, and query PDF files
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Python scripts for MacOS (OS X) that create, manipulate, and query PDF files

Last updated: February 2018.

This suite of python scripts for MacOS performs a wide range of PDF manipulation:

  • Combining PDFs
  • Splitting PDFs
  • Booklet imposition
  • Converting PDFs to images and images to PDFs
  • Rotating the pages of PDFs
  • Adding page numbers, watermarks or other text and graphics to PDFs
  • Applying Quartz filters to PDFs
  • Adding metadata to PDFs and querying existing metadata
  • Reading and writing Table of Contents data.

This is all done by accessing Apple's Core Graphics Quartz APIs. They should therefore run on any Mac using 10.6 Snow Leopard or higher!

Most of these scripts are designed to be used in the Run Shell Script action of Apple's Automator app, which provides an easy interface for use. Once an Automator service is installed in the user's Library/Services folder, it will be available in the Finder's Services menu (or right-click context menu) when PDF files are selected. Services can be modified in Apple's Automator utility. Example Services can be found in the Automator_Services folder.
The bare scripts can also be run directly in a shell (Terminal), taking one or more PDF files as their argument. They are found here in the Automator_Scripts folder. (Drag the script file onto a Terminal window; then drag the PDF files you want to the same window; then press Enter!)

Some are designed as PDF Services. PDF Services should be installed in the {user}/Library/PDF Services folder (or the top-level /Library/PDF Services folder). They will then be available in the PDF button of the print menu. See the ReadMe in the subfolder for installation instructions.

A few scripts take more complex arguments and so will work only as Unix shell scripts. They may need further work for other purposes.

The Suite also includes some Quartz Filters, which can apply various transformations to PDF files, such as PDF/X-3 compliance or reduced file size.

Apple already includes Automator actions that provide some (but not all) of these functions -- however, these scripts are faster and more easily configured for different uses than Apple's own actions! Also, they serve as useful algorithmic examples of how to use Apple's APIs, which may benefit programmers working in any language.

Automator Services

Add Blank Page (
Adds a blank page to the end of a PDF file.

Add Index Numbers to PDFs (
Adds the text "n of x" to the first page of all selected PDF documents, where x is the total number of PDFs, and n is a sequential index. New PDFs are saved to a folder, named "Indexed".

Add Page Number (
Adds a folio number to facing pages of PDF files supplied as arguments. Users can set the offset position from the outer top corner, font, size.

Combine images to one PDF (
This script is several seconds faster than Apple's own Automator action! It also adds a Table of Contents entry for each component file.

Count pages in PDF (
Counts the cumulative number of pages in all the PDF files passed to it.

Export pages as images (
Exports each page as 300dpi RGB TIFF images from PDFs supplied as arguments. Options in the script alow for JPEG and PNG filetypes, resolution, transparency and other parameters.

Join PDF files into one file (
Combine all PDF files supplied as arguments into one file, called Combined.pdf.

Rotate all pages in PDF (
Rotate all the pages of any PDF files passed as arguments by 90˚ into a new file suffixed "+90".

Split PDF into separate files (
Creates separate PDFs for each page in an existing PDF.

Watermark all pages of PDF (
Adds the word "SAMPLE" in 150pt Helvetica-Bold, at 45˚ angle, with 50% opacity, to every page of PDFs passed to it. These settings can easily be altered.

PDF Services

Booklet Imposition (
Designed to work from the PDF button of the print menu, this script creates booklet spread sheets, then brings up a Save dialog.

Save As PDF-X PDF Service (Save As
This replaces the PDF Service that Apple removed from MacOS in Snow Leopard, which saved the PDF after applying a filter that makes the PDF conform to PDF/X-3 spec. Apple's built-in PDF-X filter is quite poor, so you may want to use a better one. An improved PDF/X-3 filter is included in this suite, and is used by the script, if installed.

Shell scripts

Apply Quartz Filter (
This replaces Apple's own quartzfilter command, which was removed from OS X (in Lion?). It takes three arguments: the input file, the path to the quartz filter, and an output filename. It could be easily modified along the lines of the other scripts, to apply one fixed filter to all files given as arguments.

Creator (
Changes the "Creator" metadata to the value supplied. Other metadata keys are provided, allowing the script to be easily modified for other metadata values. If no output file is set, it will overwrite the input file. -c CreatorName -i inputfile [-o outputfile]

Get Info (
Outputs all the available PDF metadata for a file: Author, Creator, etc, Number of Pages, Version number, flags for encryption and security.

Get PDF from Clipboard (
Saves PDF data on the MacOS Clipboard to a file, adding pages for each save.

List Quartz Filters (
Lists all Quartz Filters installed on the system.

Page Layout (
Provides simple functions to easily draw rectangles, circles, lines, and text on a PDF page, with colours and transparency.


Please read the file for details of future plans, limitations and known issues.


These scripts were not possible without taking inspiration from other code examples, particularly the Apple open source python scripts; nor without help and advice from a range of people, such as Jeff Laing, user Hiroto on Apple Support Community and the users of StackOverFlow. Also Cocoa/ObjC code in other languages. The scripts are free to be used and adapted in any way, though I ask that you retain the acknowledgements within. I welcome help in improving them.

Ben Byram-Wigfield