I recently started a project converting a magazine's PDFs into a digital reader app.

Up until now, the PDFs that were given to me were all set up so that each page of the magazine was a separate page of the PDF.

Recently I have been getting them formatted differently however. Now they are set up so the front and back pages are single pages, but very inside page is set up as a landscape shaped PDF page that contains two different magazine pages per PDF page (I hope that makes sense).

The problem I have is the digital reader app cannot support this and I am at a loss trying to figure out how to split each page.

Any advice?

  • Can't you simply ask whoever is providing the PDF to send single pages?
    – Scott
    Oct 30, 2012 at 23:44
  • Yes I have, but I haven't received a response. Is this something that's simple to do after a project has been laid out? I was under the impression that once it was laid out like that in InDesign that there was no easy way to switch it.
    – Brodie
    Oct 30, 2012 at 23:47
  • 1
    It depends upon how it's created in indesign. If its laid out in single pages, creating the spread PDF is a simply tick of an option. In most cases, it's easier to set things up as single pages in Indesign. My guess would be, they may not be aware they are providing spreads or could easily generate a second PDF for you as single pages.
    – Scott
    Oct 30, 2012 at 23:50
  • Thanks Scott, I will wait to see what they say before I freak out any more, haha.
    – Brodie
    Oct 31, 2012 at 0:00
  • 2
    If they don't have the ability to send a single page PDF, you can crop pages with Adobe Acrobat. You'd have to crop a copy of the PDF to get the right side, then crop another copy to get the left side, then merge the two cropped PDFs. Not difficult, but I can provide steps for Acrobat if needed.
    – Scott
    Oct 31, 2012 at 0:03

3 Answers 3


@Scott is correct. It sounds like they are sending you full spreads rather than the single page PDFs, and that should be very easy for them to fix.

However, for the "programmer/designers" among us, I thought I would share another solution. This requires:

  • pdfinfo from xpdf to identify the bounding box of the page in points
  • gs from Ghostscript to split the left and right pages
  • pdftk from the PDF Toolkit to put the PDF back together again.

Once these are all installed and in your PATH, you should be able to do the following.

Imagine you are dealing with a file named Example.pdf. You first run:

pdfinfo -f 1 -l 1000 -box Example.pdf

This will give you a lot of info about your PDF, including, for each page, the size in points as Page 1 size: 595 x 842 pts (A4). We need this information for our gs command. Specifically, each page (after being split) is 421 points wide by 595 points high. Since Ghostscript's pdfwrite's resolution is 720 dpi and 1 inch is 72 points in PDF, we'll multiply those values by 10 in the pdfwrite step below.

gs \
    -o out%03d_A.pdf \
    -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
    -g4210x5950 \
    -c "<</PageOffset [0 0]>> setpagedevice" \
    -f Example.pdf
gs \
    -o out%03d_B.pdf \
    -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
    -g4210x5950 \
    -c "<</PageOffset [-421 0]>> setpagedevice" \
    -f Example.pdf

If you are using Windows, replace the "\" with "^".

The above commands will create a bunch of files named something like "out001_A.pdf", "out001_B.pdf" and so on. Notice for the right pages, we use a negative page offset.

Finally, use pdftk to put it all back together again.

pdftk out*_?.pdf cat output combined.pdf

This worked like a charm for me ;)


You can use the freeware Briss. I've tried it and it works fine. You can read more details here.

Unpack the zip file, run briss-0.9.exe and load your PDF file. The program show 2 template pages, representing odd pages and even pages.

Draw 2 blue rectangles (1 and 2) in odd pages (usually occupying the entire page). Do the same in even pages. The rectangles also are labeled as 1 and 2

Select Crop PDF and save as a new name.

  • Briss doesn't handle nicely huge files. Also there is mutool poster.
    – mlt
    Apr 6, 2016 at 21:19

I had this same issue, but all I did was copy each page and then crop them. ie. Crop the first copy on the left and then 2nd copy on the right. Acrobat resized the cropped section to a full page and as far as I can tell, the document is good.

  • +1 This really is the quickest solution if all you've been given is Acrobat and the PDF and told to "Make it Work". Also if you are new to Acrobat (like me), Adobe has a good guide on using the crop tool helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/crop-pdf-pages.html
    – RedRiderX
    Jan 8, 2015 at 16:37

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