DIY Bookbinding

Spreading The Words One Author At A Time

Making Booklets From PDF Files

Are you trying to print out the contents of a PDF document in booklet format?

A colleague of mine just told me about a very long and drawn out process he went through to create a booklet for his work. The original file he was given for the project had been created with Microsoft Publisher. He, being a Mac Guy, was using Quark for page design. Overall, it just did not go well.

He copied and pasted elements from the original file into his new Quark file, but ran into trouble trying to impose the pages for printing (this is the re-ordering of the individual booklet pages so that the printed pages, when stacked together and stapled down the middle, will be in the correct reading order.)

To print a typical booklet, 4 pages are combined and printed onto a single sheet of paper – 2 pages on the front and 2 on the back. When all of the printed pages are stacked together and folded, the individual booklet pages should be in the correct reading order.

My colleague went ‘old school.’ He printed out all of the individual pages and taped them together in the right order for printing. Then, he photocopied the results and sent them to the printer to print the finished copies. Technology to the rescue.

Watch The Complete Process Demonstrated

Simple Method To Print Booklets From PDF Files

A much less labor intensive, and higher quality, method is available. This is what I recommended to him:

  1. Print a copy of the booklet in normal reading order to a PDF file (this is easy to do and can be accomplished with free software)
  2. Using a program like CutePDF Pro ($50), or the PDF Snake plugin ($340) for Adobe Acrobat, open the file and use the booklet function to reorder the pages
  3. Print a test copy by printing all of the odd pages first, flipping the paper stack, and then printing all of the even pages (each page in the file will contain 2 booklet pages side-by-side and alternate between the front and back pages)
  4. Send the new PDF file to the printer

The computer can do all of the hard work and the results are great. Whenever I want to print out an e-book, I do this step first. I have stacks of booklets created in this fashion.

If you are creating the book in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, you can set up booklet printing inside the software for each new document. The pages will automatically be reordered when you print. There is also a product called Clickbook that intercepts the file when you hit the print button and reorders the pages before sending them on to the printer. It will work with any program that is capable of printing. The price is comparable to CutePDF Pro.

CutePDF Pro and PDF Snake both offer a free trial version. Hardcore users will appreciate the features of PDF Snake, but most folks will do fine with the cheaper CutePDF Pro.

If you have questions about this process or want a more detailed tutorial, leave a comment and let us know.

[nms:booklet maker,5,0]

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24 Comments

  1. Do you know the best way to print out a book (not booklet) on an auto duplex printer if I intend to have 5.5×8.5 pages?

    I can get it to work with the program Clickbook, however when I try to do it with a pdf program, the duplex feature will reverse the pages on the back side, as the program thinks you will be turning the pages from one of the edges, NOT from folding down the middle like a normal book

  2. Scott,

    I’m not 100% sure I understand exactly what you’re asking, but it sounds like you want to create 4 page signatures to print out (2 pages on each side of the paper which gets folded in half to create a sort of ‘one page booklet’ out of every 4 pages in your book.)

    This is what I do whenever I need to print a PDF that is too large for the booklet format. It’s a 2 step process. First you re-order the pages and then print them out.

    There is an option in the CutePDF program I demonstrated in the video that lets you do this.

    You select the booklet option, and then (under Binding Type) you select ‘book’ and set the number of pages per fold to 1.

    This will re-format the PDF file so that every 4 pages will be grouped together: A B C D becomes DA BC. Then, you print out the resulting pages front and back.

    I hope that makes sense. If you need some other ordering to the pages, CutePDF has an Impose option that lets you set the order and grouping of pages in all common impositions for printing. You can also create your own custom settings – but I’ve never needed to do this myself.

    Andrew

  3. Yeah,
    Sorry I could not be more exact.
    The program ClickBook solved all my problems.

    The problem was, is that on my auto-duplexing printer (Brother 5250dn) when printing duplex the printer/software cant handle printing 1 signature with 4 pages on it. As the software doesn’t account for the possibility of folding down the middle, only if the pages were to be attached along one of their edges, so it rotates the 2 pages on the back side of the signature so they are not upside down when the page is turned from a edge bound book.

    I dont know if that makes any sense, or if this can be overcome in cutepdf. I found the CutePDF Impose function to be very confusing. But like I said, ClickBook fixed everything.

    I successfully perfect bound my first book last night. Your website helped a lot!!!!
    I am currently folding 8.5×11 signatures and then just gluing these. I am considering going to a copy center to get them to cut some reams of paper down to size.

  4. Scott,

    Page imposition is always a confusing subject to discuss. I’m just glad you worked it out.

    The solution I recommended basically pre-composes the pages so that there are 2 pages on each 8.5 x 11 page. When each new odd and even page is printed onto one sheet of paper (front and back) you get a 4 page signature.

    Having the paper cut down is a good option. Even better is to cut it down from tabloid sized paper so that you can get the paper grain running vertically – just like it is supposed to.

    I have searched for A5 paper in the US, but the only distributors I have come across charge a fortune.

    I’m glad the site has helped you with your bookbinding projects.

    Andrew

  5. If you are creating the book in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, you can set up booklet printing inside the software for each new document.

    How do you do that in OpenOffice? I can’t find it.

    FWIW, psbook, part of the psutils package, does page imposition (on PostScript, not PDF), but I don’t use it because I’d written my own tool to do it before I discovered psbook (and I like mine better anyway – it can adjust the position of the page content (even and odd pages independently) to correct for misaligned/single-sided source files, and shift the content within each signature to account for the width of the fold – i.e., the innermost folio in each signature is further to the right than the outermost folio, when looking down on the front of the closed signature, so if you stick a pin through the top left corner of the text on the page, it’ll be some distance into the margin in the inner pages – my tool fixes that). I do use psnup, though.

  6. Hi,

    I have spent the last three days trying to do this on my computer :
    “A B C D becomes DA BC. Then, you print out the resulting pages front and back.”
    And have failed miserably. Is there a site you can point me to, or give me a hint. I have Clickbook for Mac, and a 224 page book I would like to print out. I have to flip the pages to make them duplex printing, but at this point, I can get a booklet, but the pages do not come out even. (The pages stick out!)
    Any help is appreciated. – Kim

  7. Kim,

    The goal for your printing (at least how I demonstrate in this video) is to have your book print out in a series of 4 page signatures – a signature being one sheet of paper with 2 pages printed on each side DA BC.

    Each of these sheets gets folded in half and then stacked-up with the folded edges becoming the spine of the book.

    I don’t have access to Clickbook for Mac, but according to the manual, there is an option in the ‘Modify Layout’ menu called “Sub-Booklets.” Select this and set the number of pages per sub-booklet to 4. This setting should cause Clickbook to group every 4 pages together into a 1-sheet booklet (aka – a 4 page signature.)

    Since every booklet consists of only one piece of paper, the pages won’t stick out once they’ve been folded and bound. If you need more info about that, see the binding tutorial on this site and watch the video there.

    Please let me know if this doesn’t resolve your problem so we can figure out what’s not working.

    Andrew

  8. Paul,

    The instructions for setting up booklet printing in OpenOffice are a bit confusing, so my preference is just to print a standard PDF and then impose the pages using CutePDF (like I show in the video.)

    I always create 4 page signatures which means I avoid the page shifting issues that come with multi-sheet signatures. CutePDF will make allowances for the gutter, or I can set that inside my word processor (but, again, CutePDF is just a lot easier – and I’m all about easy and fast on these projects. I bind my books for practical reasons.)

    If I could find pre-cut A5 paper at a decent price (or move into a bigger apartment with room for a stack cutter) I’d never impose pages again. I’d just print back and front to the pre-sized pages.

    Thanks for the info on PSBook and PSNUp.

    Andrew

  9. Thanks for the quick answer Andrew. I realized I have an older version of Clickbooks, and thats what has been causing me problems, cause it does not have a “sub-booklet” option. I may have to find another option 🙁

  10. Hi,

    I find the info on your website quite helpful.

    Here is an open free software that I found useful
    to create PDF booklet:
    http://www.comonto.dk/sider/pdf-booklet-creator_179.aspx

    Cheers,
    Gig

  11. I have a large pdf document that I want to split and print into several smaller booklets. How would you recommend handling this?. I can split into several pdf’s using pdfsam but then how do I print all at once with just 1 dialogue box. Is there some programme that will just do this for me.

    Cheers for your help

  12. JanG,

    I use a program called CutePDF to convert my PDF files for printing. When you click the booklet conversion option you have an option for binding type. The book option lets you select the number of pages per fold – that’s the number of sheets of paper and not the printed pages.

    Once you hit the convert button, it will re-order all the pages of the PDF to print as a sequence of booklets.

    Generally, I set the number of pages to 1 which prints 4 document pages onto each sheet of paper (front and back) which I then fold in half to create a sequence of booklets.

    CutePDF isn’t free (but it’s pretty cheap.) They have a trail version that puts a small watermark on the front page.

    Andrew

  13. aWSOME! tHAnks alot!

  14. Hello Andreew~
    I have a brothers duplex printer and have been trying to print in four page signature with no luck. When the book is completely finished, if I fold the whole stack of pages in half the the pages are in order…I have to cut all the pages, it seems so much easier to just fold each page in half. My printer doesn’t give me the option for that. You mention cutepdf, does the program actually convert the pfd file so that it will print correctly? What I mean is will it re-arrange the pages in a pdf file that I didn’t create? Like a free download google book? I went to the cutepdf site and there are severial downloads? Which one does this, I’ll need the freeby for now. Thanks, hope I was clear enough 🙂

  15. Hello again~

    Ok so I figured out which program to download, the professional one and after that it’s pretty straight forward as you had explained in previous replies.

    Thanks for all your info you have posted 🙂

  16. This is an interesting post and it gave me some ideas for binding my own booklets. Thanks!

  17. Hi,
    Thanks–this will be a wonderful problem solver for me, but so far I have not been able to get the booklet function in CutePDF Pro (trial download) to open up. The booklet buttons on the toolbar and in the Tools dropdown menu are simply grayed out and won’t click. Many of the other buttons are grayed out as well. I’ve tried this on a Vista laptop and a Windows XP laptop with exactly the same results.

    First I downloaded and saved the free trial, then I clicked to install, which opened the CutePDF installation wizard and I went through the simple installation steps in the wizard, installing the program.

    Then I opened a 180 page pdf file in CutePDF and tried to click the booklet buttons, which as I said above, were grayed out and inactive. I presume something is wrong with the installation or I’ve omitted some step or other.

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks 🙂
    Doug

  18. Doug,

    The makers of CutePDF may have changed the way their trial version works. When I wrote this article originally, the trial version was fully functional and placed a watermark on the first page of every document you processed.

    I’ve long-since made the upgrade to the full Pro version (great investment for me) so I can’t test out what you are experiencing.

    After visiting the site, I couldn’t find any details about the trial version – just a download link. Try re-installing the latest version. If that doesn’t fix the issue, leave a support desk ticket.

    Wish I could offer more help here, but I don’t have any connections at Acro Software (wish I did ’cause I love the software.)

    Andrew

  19. Thank you so much for sharing your method! I wasn’t sure if there was a way to create PDF signatures w/o investing hundreds into Acrobat. Now I have this easy and simple method, I couldn’t be more excited to get started. 🙂

  20. Hey!

    Thanks for this article. It helped me a lot.

    Raj.

  21. We used to use Cocoa Booklets, which was free for macs. But, they quit developing it and it does not work for Snow Leopard and later. I then found BookletCreator for PC or Mac and the cost is under $20. Works great!

  22. Thanks for your share. And hope it can be as good as the flipbook creator.

    http://www.kvisoft.com/flipbook-maker/

    • Annay,

      The latest editions of the free Adobe Reader software will allow you to print in booklet format directly. The options are right in the print settings. These days, that is how I handle most of my PDF booklet printing. It’s very easy once you know where the controls are.

      Andrew

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