pdftk – A handy tool for manipulating PDF
pdftk <input PDF files | – | PROMPT>
[ input_pw <input PDF owner passwords | PROMPT> ]
[ <operation> <operation arguments> ]
[ output <output filename | – | PROMPT> ]
[ encrypt_40bit | encrypt_128bit ]
[ allow <permissions> ]
[ owner_pw <owner password | PROMPT> ]
[ user_pw <user password | PROMPT> ]
[ flatten ] [ compress | uncompress ]
[ keep_first_id | keep_final_id ] [ drop_xfa ]
[ verbose ] [ dont_ask | do_ask ]
<operation> may be empty, or:
[ cat | shuffle | burst |
generate_fdf | fill_form |
background | multibackground |
stamp | multistamp |
dump_data | dump_data_utf8 |
dump_data_fields | dump_data_fields_utf8 |
update_info | update_info_utf8 |
attach_files | unpack_files ]
For Complete Help: pdftk –help
If PDF is electronic paper, then pdftk is an electronic staple-remover, hole-punch, binder, secret-
decoder-ring, and X-Ray-glasses. Pdftk is a simple tool for doing everyday things with PDF documents.
Use it to:
* Merge PDF Documents or Collate PDF Page Scans
* Split PDF Pages into a New Document
* Rotate PDF Documents or Pages
* Decrypt Input as Necessary (Password Required)
* Encrypt Output as Desired
* Fill PDF Forms with X/FDF Data and/or Flatten Forms
* Generate FDF Data Stencils from PDF Forms
* Apply a Background Watermark or a Foreground Stamp
* Report PDF Metrics such as Metadata and Bookmarks
* Update PDF Metadata
* Attach Files to PDF Pages or the PDF Document
* Unpack PDF Attachments
* Burst a PDF Document into Single Pages
* Uncompress and Re-Compress Page Streams
* Repair Corrupted PDF (Where Possible)
A summary of options is included below.
Show summary of options.
<input PDF files | – | PROMPT>
A list of the input PDF files. If you plan to combine these PDFs (without using handles) then
list files in the order you want them combined. Use – to pass a single PDF into pdftk via
stdin. Input files can be associated with handles, where a handle is a single, upper-case let‐
<input PDF handle>=<input PDF filename>
Handles are often omitted. They are useful when specifying PDF passwords or page ranges, later.
For example: A=input1.pdf B=input2.pdf
[input_pw <input PDF owner passwords | PROMPT>]
Input PDF owner passwords, if necessary, are associated with files by using their handles:
<input PDF handle>=<input PDF file owner password>
If handles are not given, then passwords are associated with input files by order.
Most pdftk features require that encrypted input PDF are accompanied by the ~owner~ password. If
the input PDF has no owner password, then the user password must be given, instead. If the
input PDF has no passwords, then no password should be given.
When running in do_ask mode, pdftk will prompt you for a password if the supplied password is
incorrect or none was given.
[<operation> <operation arguments>]
If this optional argument is omitted, then pdftk runs in ‘filter’ mode. Filter mode takes only
one PDF input and creates a new PDF after applying all of the output options, like encryption
Available operations are: cat, shuffle, burst, generate_fdf, fill_form, background, multiback‐
ground, stamp, multistamp, dump_data, dump_data_utf8, dump_data_fields, dump_data_fields_utf8,
update_info, update_info_utf8, attach_files, unpack_files. Some operations takes additional
arguments, described below.
cat [<page ranges>]
Catenates pages from input PDFs to create a new PDF. Page order in the new PDF is specified
by the order of the given page ranges. Page ranges are described like this:
<input PDF handle>[<begin page number>[-<end page number>[<qualifier>]]][<page rotation>]
Where the handle identifies one of the input PDF files, and the beginning and ending page
numbers are one-based references to pages in the PDF file, and the qualifier can be even or
odd, and the page rotation can be N, S, E, W, L, R, or D.
If the handle is omitted from the page range, then the pages are taken from the first input
The even qualifier causes pdftk to use only the even-numbered PDF pages, so 1-6even yields
pages 2, 4 and 6 in that order. 6-1even yields pages 6, 4 and 2 in that order.
The odd qualifier works similarly to the even.
The page rotation setting can cause pdftk to rotate pages and documents. Each option sets
the page rotation as follows (in degrees): N: 0, E: 90, S: 180, W: 270, L: -90, R: +90, D:
+180. L, R, and D make relative adjustments to a page’s rotation.
If no arguments are passed to cat, then pdftk combines all input PDFs in the order they were
given to create the output.
* <end page number> may be less than <begin page number>.
* The keyword end may be used to reference the final page of a document instead of a page
* Reference a single page by omitting the ending page number.
* The handle may be used alone to represent the entire PDF document, e.g., B1-end is the same
Page Range Examples w/o Handles:
1-endE – rotate entire document 90 degrees
5 11 20 – take single pages from input PDF
5-25oddW – take odd pages in range, rotate 90 degrees
6-1 – reverse pages in range from input PDF
Page Range Examples Using Handles:
Say A=in1.pdf B=in2.pdf, then:
A1-21 – take range from in1.pdf
Bend-1odd – take all odd pages from in2.pdf in reverse order
A72 – take a single page from in1.pdf
A1-21 Beven A72 – assemble pages from both in1.pdf and in2.pdf
AW – rotate entire in1.pdf document 90 degrees
B – use all of in2.pdf
A2-30evenL – take the even pages from the range, remove 90 degrees from each page’s rotation
A A – catenate in1.pdf with in1.pdf
AevenW AoddE – apply rotations to even pages, odd pages from in1.pdf
AW BW BD – catenate rotated documents
shuffle [<page ranges>]
Collates pages from input PDFs to create a new PDF. Works like the cat operation except that
it takes one page at a time from each page range to assemble the output PDF. If one range
runs out of pages, it continues with the remaining ranges. Ranges can use all of the fea‐
tures described above for cat, like reverse page ranges, multiple ranges from a single PDF,
and page rotation. This feature was designed to help collate PDF pages after scanning paper
burst Splits a single, input PDF document into individual pages. Also creates a report named
doc_data.txt which is the same as the output from dump_data. If the output section is omit‐
ted, then PDF pages are named: pg_%04d.pdf, e.g.: pg_0001.pdf, pg_0002.pdf, etc. To name
these pages yourself, supply a printf-styled format string via the output section. For exam‐
ple, if you want pages named: page_01.pdf, page_02.pdf, etc., pass output page_%02d.pdf to
pdftk. Encryption can be applied to the output by appending output options such as owner_pw,
pdftk in.pdf burst owner_pw foopass
Reads a single, input PDF file and generates an FDF file suitable for fill_form out of it to
the given output filename or (if no output is given) to stdout. Does not create a new PDF.
fill_form <FDF data filename | XFDF data filename | – | PROMPT>
Fills the single input PDF’s form fields with the data from an FDF file, XFDF file or stdin.
Enter the data filename after fill_form, or use – to pass the data via stdin, like so:
pdftk form.pdf fill_form data.fdf output form.filled.pdf
After filling a form, the form fields remain interactive unless you also use the flatten out‐
put option. flatten merges the form fields with the PDF pages. You can use flatten alone,
too, but only on a single PDF:
pdftk form.pdf fill_form data.fdf output out.pdf flatten
pdftk form.filled.pdf output out.pdf flatten
If the input FDF file includes Rich Text formatted data in addition to plain text, then the
Rich Text data is packed into the form fields as well as the plain text. Pdftk also sets a
flag that cues Acrobat/Reader to generate new field appearances based on the Rich Text data.
That way, when the user opens the PDF, the viewer will create the Rich Text fields on the
spot. If the user’s PDF viewer does not support Rich Text, then the user will see the plain
text data instead. If you flatten this form before Acrobat has a chance to create (and save)
new field appearances, then the plain text field data is what you’ll see.
background <background PDF filename | – | PROMPT>
Applies a PDF watermark to the background of a single input PDF. Pass the background PDF’s
filename after background like so:
pdftk in.pdf background back.pdf output out.pdf
Pdftk uses only the first page from the background PDF and applies it to every page of the
input PDF. This page is scaled and rotated as needed to fit the input page. You can use –
to pass a background PDF into pdftk via stdin.
If the input PDF does not have a transparent background (such as a PDF created from page
scans) then the resulting background won’t be visible — use the stamp operation instead.
multibackground <background PDF filename | – | PROMPT>
Same as the background operation, but applies each page of the background PDF to the corre‐
sponding page of the input PDF. If the input PDF has more pages than the stamp PDF, then the
final stamp page is repeated across these remaining pages in the input PDF.
stamp <stamp PDF filename | – | PROMPT>
This behaves just like the background operation except it overlays the stamp PDF page on top
of the input PDF document’s pages. This works best if the stamp PDF page has a transparent
multistamp <stamp PDF filename | – | PROMPT>
Same as the stamp operation, but applies each page of the background PDF to the corresponding
page of the input PDF. If the input PDF has more pages than the stamp PDF, then the final
stamp page is repeated across these remaining pages in the input PDF.
Reads a single, input PDF file and reports various statistics, metadata, bookmarks (a/k/a
outlines), and page labels to the given output filename or (if no output is given) to stdout.
Non-ASCII characters are encoded as XML numerical entities. Does not create a new PDF.
Same as dump_data excepct that the output is encoded as UTF-8.
Reads a single, input PDF file and reports form field statistics to the given output filename
or (if no output is given) to stdout. Non-ASCII characters are encoded as XML numerical enti‐
ties. Does not create a new PDF.
Same as dump_data_fields excepct that the output is encoded as UTF-8.
update_info <info data filename | – | PROMPT>
Changes the metadata stored in a single PDF’s Info dictionary to match the input data file.
The input data file uses the same syntax as the output from dump_data. Non-ASCII characters
should be encoded as XML numerical entities. This does not change the metadata stored in the
PDF’s XMP stream, if it has one. For example:
pdftk in.pdf update_info in.info output out.pdf
update_info_utf8 <info data filename | – | PROMPT>
Same as update_info except that the input is encoded as UTF-8.
attach_files <attachment filenames | PROMPT> [to_page <page number | PROMPT>]
Packs arbitrary files into a PDF using PDF’s file attachment features. More than one attach‐
ment may be listed after attach_files. Attachments are added at the document level unless the
optional to_page option is given, in which case the files are attached to the given page num‐
ber (the first page is 1, the final page is end). For example:
pdftk in.pdf attach_files table1.html table2.html to_page 6 output out.pdf
Copies all of the attachments from the input PDF into the current folder or to an output
directory given after output. For example:
pdftk report.pdf unpack_files output ~/atts/
pdftk report.pdf unpack_files output PROMPT
[output <output filename | – | PROMPT>]
The output PDF filename may not be set to the name of an input filename. Use – to output to std‐
out. When using the dump_data operation, use output to set the name of the output data file.
When using the unpack_files operation, use output to set the name of an output directory. When
using the burst operation, you can use output to control the resulting PDF page filenames
[encrypt_40bit | encrypt_128bit]
If an output PDF user or owner password is given, output PDF encryption strength defaults to 128
bits. This can be overridden by specifying encrypt_40bit.
Permissions are applied to the output PDF only if an encryption strength is specified or an
owner or user password is given. If permissions are not specified, they default to ‘none,’
which means all of the following features are disabled.
The permissions section may include one or more of the following features:
Top Quality Printing
Lower Quality Printing
Also allows Assembly
Also allows ScreenReaders
Also allows FillIn
Allows the user to perform all of the above, and top quality printing.
[owner_pw <owner password | PROMPT>]
[user_pw <user password | PROMPT>]
If an encryption strength is given but no passwords are supplied, then the owner and user pass‐
words remain empty, which means that the resulting PDF may be opened and its security parameters
altered by anybody.
[compress | uncompress]
These are only useful when you want to edit PDF code in a text editor like vim or emacs. Remove
PDF page stream compression by applying the uncompress filter. Use the compress filter to
Use this option to merge an input PDF’s interactive form fields (and their data) with the PDF’s
pages. Only one input PDF may be given. Sometimes used with the fill_form operation.
[keep_first_id | keep_final_id]
When combining pages from multiple PDFs, use one of these options to copy the document ID from
either the first or final input document into the new output PDF. Otherwise pdftk creates a new
document ID for the output PDF. When no operation is given, pdftk always uses the ID from the
(single) input PDF.
If your input PDF is a form created using Acrobat 7 or Adobe Designer, then it probably has XFA
data. Filling such a form using pdftk yields a PDF with data that fails to display in Acrobat 7
(and 6?). The workaround solution is to remove the form’s XFA data, either before you fill the
form using pdftk or at the time you fill the form. Using this option causes pdftk to omit the
XFA data from the output PDF form.
This option is only useful when running pdftk on a single input PDF. When assembling a PDF from
multiple inputs using pdftk, any XFA data in the input is automatically omitted.
By default, pdftk runs quietly. Append verbose to the end and it will speak up.
[dont_ask | do_ask]
Depending on the compile-time settings (see ASK_ABOUT_WARNINGS), pdftk might prompt you for fur‐
ther input when it encounters a problem, such as a bad password. Override this default behavior
by adding dont_ask (so pdftk won’t ask you what to do) or do_ask (so pdftk will ask you what to
When running in dont_ask mode, pdftk will over-write files with its output without notice.
Collate scanned pages
pdftk A=even.pdf B=odd.pdf shuffle A B output collated.pdf
or if odd.pdf is in reverse order:
pdftk A=even.pdf B=odd.pdf shuffle A Bend-1 output collated.pdf
Decrypt a PDF
pdftk secured.pdf input_pw foopass output unsecured.pdf
Encrypt a PDF using 128-bit strength (the default), withhold all permissions (the default)
pdftk 1.pdf output 1.128.pdf owner_pw foopass
Same as above, except password ‘baz’ must also be used to open output PDF
pdftk 1.pdf output 1.128.pdf owner_pw foo user_pw baz
Same as above, except printing is allowed (once the PDF is open)
pdftk 1.pdf output 1.128.pdf owner_pw foo user_pw baz allow printing
Join in1.pdf and in2.pdf into a new PDF, out1.pdf
pdftk in1.pdf in2.pdf cat output out1.pdf
or (using handles):
pdftk A=in1.pdf B=in2.pdf cat A B output out1.pdf
or (using wildcards):
pdftk *.pdf cat output combined.pdf
Remove ‘page 13’ from in1.pdf to create out1.pdf
pdftk in.pdf cat 1-12 14-end output out1.pdf
pdftk A=in1.pdf cat A1-12 A14-end output out1.pdf
Apply 40-bit encryption to output, revoking all permissions (the default). Set the owner PW to
pdftk 1.pdf 2.pdf cat output 3.pdf encrypt_40bit owner_pw foopass
Join two files, one of which requires the password ‘foopass’. The output is not encrypted.
pdftk A=secured.pdf 2.pdf input_pw A=foopass cat output 3.pdf
Uncompress PDF page streams for editing the PDF in a text editor (e.g., vim, emacs)
pdftk doc.pdf output doc.unc.pdf uncompress
Repair a PDF’s corrupted XREF table and stream lengths, if possible
pdftk broken.pdf output fixed.pdf
Burst a single PDF document into pages and dump its data to doc_data.txt
pdftk in.pdf burst
Burst a single PDF document into encrypted pages. Allow low-quality printing
pdftk in.pdf burst owner_pw foopass allow DegradedPrinting
Write a report on PDF document metadata and bookmarks to report.txt
pdftk in.pdf dump_data output report.txt
Rotate the first PDF page to 90 degrees clockwise
pdftk in.pdf cat 1E 2-end output out.pdf
Rotate an entire PDF document to 180 degrees
pdftk in.pdf cat 1-endS output out.pdf
The pdftk home page permalink is:
The easy-to-remember shortcut is: http://www.pdftk.com
Sid Steward (sid.steward at pdflabs dot com) maintains pdftk. Please email him with questions or bug
reports. Include pdftk in the subject line to ensure successful delivery. Thank you.
October 28, 2010 PDFTK(1)