How to Combine or Merge PDFs for Free on iPhone & iPad

It's not often that you'll likely need to merge PDFs using an IOS device. When it happened to me, I was at the departure gate, waiting to catch a flight. I got a call from the office.

"Hey Anthony, is there any chance you can bundle up those documents you created into one file and send them to the client? They're being pedantic and want to be sure they have absolutely everything before agreeing."

"Err… I'm about to board a plane, and my laptop is in my checked luggage. Let me think - I'll call you back."

All I had was my phone, but I knew the files I needed were on my Google Drive. I quickly scanned the App Store for an app that could merge documents. It turns out there are several apps that will merge PDFs. The better ones like Foxit PDF cost money. The rubbish ones (of which there are many) will tell you they're free, only to add a watermark to every page. Paying for the 'Pro' version removes the watermark.

I was considering giving up when I stumble upon a little gem of an app called 'I Love PDF'. This screenshot below gives an indication of just how many apps I tested.

PDF apps used in my test

The PDF Apps I Tested

Using I Love PDF couldn't be more straightforward. To merge or combine PDFs on iPhone or iPad for free, install the I Love PDF app from the App Store. Choose Merge from the Tools menu. Select your documents from either Google Drive, Dropbox or the Files app on your IOS device. Set the order of the PDFs and click Merge. Email or save your new document.

In the end, the client was happy, my boss happy, and I could sit back, relax and begin my holiday.

Just in case you ever find yourself in the same situation here's a complete breakdown of the instructions for merging PDFs using the 'I love PDF' app. I'll explain the process using both the Files app on my iPhone and my Google Drive. 


How To Merge PDFs Using 'I Love PDF'

Open up the App Store on your IOS device and search for 'I Love PDF'. Strangely it doesn't always appear automatically, so be sure to hit the Search button.

Install I Love PDF From The App Store

Install I Love PDF From The App Store

Download, install and open the app.

The app will open and display the Tools menu with all the features available for editing PDFs. We want to use the first option - Merge PDF.

Choose Merge From The App Menu

Choose Merge From The App Menu


Using PDFs Stored On Your Google Drive...

You start by choosing the location of your documents. We'll select Google Drive.

Choose The Location Of Your PDFs For Merging

Choose The Location Of Your PDFs For Merging

The app needs permission to access your Google Drive before it can retrieve your PDFs. You'll need to add your Google account details and allow I Love PDF access.

Allow Access To Your Google Drive

Allow Access To Your Google Drive

Is it safe to allow I Love PDF access to my Google Drive?

Personally, I'm reluctant to give anyone or any 3rd party app access to my Google Drive. I prefer to save the PDFs to the Files app on my phone and retrieve them from there. You can, however, always allow access temporarily and remove it once you've copied the files you need to the I Love PDF app.  Click here to learn how to revoke third-party app access to your Google account.

Having allowed access, you should see the contents of your Google Drive. Find the files you want to merge, select them and click Next.

Select The PDFs From Google Drive You Wish To Merge

Select The PDFs From Google Drive You Wish To Merge

On the next screen, you can rearrange the order of the documents, as you want them to appear in the final, combined PDF. Hold your finger on the cross-hair to the right of each file and drag them into position. When happy, click Merge

Re-order The Files To Be Merged

Re-order The Files To Be Merged

The app will copy your PDFs from Google Drive, combine them and save the new file in the original location. Be patient as the process can be slow. The time taken to process the files will depend on the number of PDFs being combined, their file size and your mobile's signal strength.

Wait For The App To Finish Combining Your Files

Wait For The App To Finish Combining Your Files

When the process has finished, click on the button to open the new file.

When Complete The File Is Saved To The Original Location

When Complete The File Is Saved To The Original Location


Using PDFs From Your Files App...

Instead of choosing Google Drive, we'll click on 'iPhone'.

Choose The Location Of Your PDFs For Merging

Choose The Location Of Your PDFs For Merging

I Love PDF creates a folder in the Files app. If you save your PDFs to this folder, they appear automatically on opening the app. Files held in a different folder can be accessed by clicking on the big plus icon in the top right corner.

From the options that appear at the bottom of the screen, choose Browse. It will display a list of your recently used files. Alternatively, click on the folder icon to navigate to the correct folder in your Files app. 

Browse Your Files App To Find Your Documents

Browse Your Files App To Find Your Documents

The two PDFs I'm working with are in my Recent list. You can only choose one file at a time, so repeat the process for all the documents you wish to merge.

Select Each Document To Be Included And Repeat The Process

Select Each Document To Be Included And Repeat The Process

Once all your PDFs are in the app, click on each one to include them in the merged document. A green tick will confirm they are selected. Click Next.

Select The PDFs To Be Combined

Select The PDFs To Be Combined

On the next screen, you can arrange the files into the order that they will be merged into the one file. Hold the cross-hair to the right of each one to drag it into position. When happy, click Merge.

Re-order The Files To Be Merged

Re-order The Files To Be Merged

Allow time for the process to complete. The time it takes can depend on the size of the files and how many you are combining.

Wait For The App To Finish Combining Your Files

Wait For The App To Finish Combining Your Files

When complete the combined files are stored in the, I Love PDF app. Clicking on the three dots to the right of the file will allow you to share it via email or alternative app.

The Newly Combine File Can Be Emailed Straight From The App

The Newly Combine File Can Be Emailed Straight From The App

And that's it! I hoped this walk through will help if you ever find yourself in a similar situation to me. Where you quickly need to merge documents and you only have your Apple device to hand. 


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