I’m currently putting together a grant application. This means I need to get together documentation and press for what I’ve done. I need to submit this all on printed physical paper. URLs or pdf files by themselves are not enough.
I’m on macOS. Normally, you can just print a webpage to pdf from the browser. However, for some crazily-made websites, this doesn’t work and creates broken formatting. I had to use a plugin (which I now forget, because I’ve since switched computers and it was a few months ago) to print these broken webpages. The plugin outputs the page as a single page large pdf, like so:
Unfortunately, this is not “ready to print” yet.
I have several single-page pdfs with page sizes that are much larger than 8.5″ x 11″. I want to split these into pages so that they’re ready to print on a 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Fortunately, the layout of the big pdf is such that we can split it into a single column; we don’t have to have split the page left-to-right, only vertically.
Trying to find a solution:
Nothing seems to do this out of the box. In fact, most of the current pdf management tools seem unprepared for non-standard pdf page size.
This is a hard-to-Google problem, in that all the ways to specify it are ambiguous for the purposes of a search engine. Is there a general term for these kinds of problems? When you search for “splitting pdf” or “crop pdf” or “separate pdf pages” the results assume you want to take a pdf document with several pages in it, and remove some of the pages, without affecting individual pages themselves.
macOS’s Preview app’s print dialogue won’t let me print a single page pdf onto multiple pages. When I try to adjust scale of a single pdf page, it crops the page rather than lets it overflow:
I thought I could maybe use lovely command-line tool image magick convert to take each single-page pdf and crop it into a series of 8.5″x11″ pages. Unfortunately, looks like my source pdfs all have varying widths. While it may be possible, there’s no immediately convenient way to measure the width of a source pdf and split it into semi-overlapping tiles of a given ratio.
I heard that Adobe Acrobat would let me crop pdfs. I installed it via homebrew cask, which is how I install any application whenever possible. After installing it, I that the cropping pdf feature was only available in Acrobat Pro. Cropping a pro feature!? Seems crazy, but given how arduous my search had been so far, maybe that’s not actually that crazy.
Fortunately, I’m already paying for Adobe Creative Cloud at $50 USD/month.
I found the pdf splitting interface in the print dialogue (more on that later). However, Adobe Acrobat won’t print to pdf. And, Adobe won’t print to macOS’s print dialogue – trying to do this crashes Adobe Acrobat. Adobe Acrobat would only print to real printers that were connected to my computer, which I couldn’t do because I’m sending pdfs to a print shop via email.
So, I needed to make a virtual printer that showed up in my print dialogue, but actually printed to pdf. I found one called VipRiser. Here’s the virtual printer:
With VipRiser, you can choose where the pdf goes. I tried setting it to Desktop, and then Downloads, which VipRiser accepted, yet when I tried to print, it would hang for a bit then told me it “couldn’t find the folder”. So, I selected the “Open in Preview” option instead. Then, after the resulting pdf opened, I could save it to the desired location. This yak is a Matryoshka doll.
VipRiser worked fine after that, but it froze if my Mac ever slept. It also hanged for a shockingly long time while printing documents of only a few pages, like 30 seconds.
Now that actually outputting a document is solved, lets go back to the Adobe Acrobat print interface. Under the “Page Size & Handling” Tab, select “Poster” to choose your tiling options.
On the right side, you can see the dotted lines cut the big single page into 3 pages. However, the top of the first page isn’t aligned with the top of the original page. I couldn’t see how to fix this. I just decided to accept this and hoped it wouldn’t make my application look too weird.
You can see I set the “Tile Scale” to 60%; I found this out manually. Note in the page visualization on the right, it tells you the document size is “8.5 x 33 inches”. If you make the Tile Scale one bigger, to 61%, it changes the page layout so it’s 11 inches wide, ignoring the Orientation setting:
But then it worked. Holy shit.
I come across these sorts of “I just want to do a simple thing” deep dives more often than I’d like, so I’ve started a new category: yak-shaving posts. If you aren’t familiar with the definition of yak shaving:
[MIT AI Lab, after 2000: orig. probably from a Ren & Stimpy episode.] Any seemingly pointless activity which is actually necessary to solve a problem which solves a problem which, several levels of recursion later, solves the real problem you’re working on.