This series is written by a representative of the latter group, which is comprised mostly of what might be called "productivity users" (perhaps "tinkerly productivity users?"). Though my lack of training precludes me from writing code or improving anyone else's, I can, nonetheless, try and figure out creative ways of utilizing open source programs. And again, because of my lack of expertise, though I may be capable of deploying open source programs in creative ways, my modest technical acumen hinders me from utilizing those programs in what may be the most optimal ways. The open-source character, then, of this series, consists in my presentation to the community of open source users and programmers of my own crude and halting attempts at accomplishing computing tasks, in the hope that those who are more knowledgeable than me can offer advice, alternatives, and corrections. The desired end result is the discovery, through a communal process, of optimal and/or alternate ways of accomplishing the sorts of tasks that I and other open source productivity users need to perform.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Miscellaneous Monday quickies: manipulating and excising pages from pdfs

So you've gotten, via inter-library loan, the pdf's you requested to aid you in researching the article you're writing. For purposes of putting them on your e-reading device, the form they're in is probably perfectly suitable. But what if you'd like to do other things with one or more of them, such as printing them out? There is quite a range of pdf manipulation tools that can help you put them in a form more congenial to such aims.

One that I recently discovered, for example, allows you to "n-up" your pdf document, i. e., to put more than one page per sheet of paper. Should you wish to print the document, this can help you lessen paper waste. The utility is called pdfnup, and the relevant command for accomplishing this end is pdfnup --nup 2x2 myfile1.pdf myfile2.pdf. Presumably one could use 4x4 in place of 2x2 to get four pages per sheet instead of two.

This utility gives results similar to psnup, a utility I have used (and previously witten about in this blog) in the past for making booklets comprised of multiple pages per sheet of paper, though pdfnup likely lacks the advanced collating options of psnup. But psnup involves greater complexity in that it operates on postscript files, which usually need to be converted to or from some other format.

Getting back to the task at hand, should you wish to print out any of your pdf's with the aim of minimizing paper waste, you may well wish to eliminate extraneous pages from your document. In my experience, for example, inter-library loan pdf documents routinely include one or more copyright notice pages. Before printing such documents, I almost always try to exclude those pages--simple enough if you send them directly from the printer from a pdf reader. But what if you're taking the additional step of n-upping multiple pages per sheet?

As it turns out, pdfnup is actually part of a larger pdf-manipulation suite called pdfjam. And that suite enables you to not only n-up your pdf document, but to eliminate extraneous pages as part of the same process. To give an example, if you have a fifteen page document wherein the first and last pages are copyright notices that you wish to exclude from your 2-upp'ed version, you'd use the command

pdfjam MyDoc.pdf '2-14' --nup 2x1 --landscape --outfile MyDoc_2-up.pdf.

The meaning of the various command switches will, I think, be obvious.

This is just a thin slice of the capabilities offered by just one suite of pdf manipulating tools available under GNU/Linux. I have used other tools such as pdfedit, pdftk, flpsed, to good effect as well.

LATER EDIT: I just discovered a new and interesting functionality of pdfjam; it can convert pdf's from a4 to letter format (and vice versa). The relevant command is pdfjam --paper letter --outfile out.pdf in.pdf

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