HOWTO: Scan directly to PDF (well, almost) on OSX

I have to print, sign, scan, and e‑mail a lot of documents and have been seeking out an easy way to do it for a while. It’s been particularly aggravating for multi-page documents because ImageCapture saves each page as individual files. There are a couple of tools that can scan directly to PDF but they cost about $60 or more, and that’s a lot for a simple function like this, in my opinion. Today I hit upon an extremely easy way of scanning directly to PDF format that uses freeware tools. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Get your scanner all set up, using whatever drivers you need. (This can sometimes be a bear on OSX. If your scanner manufacturer doesn’t provide a driver, check out the SANE project; they may have something for you)
  2. Download and install CombinePDF, a really fantastic little tool that I’ve found handy on many occasions
  3. Connect your scanner to your Mac and fire up ImageCapture
  4. In the toolbar to the right, click on the dropdown next to “Automatic Tasks”
  5. Click on “Other…”
  6. Browse to wherever CombinePDF is installed, select it and click “Open”
  7. Now insert your document into the scanner and click Scan
  8. As each page is scanned, its file will be dumped into CombinePDF. So this works for multi-page documents, too — each page will appear as a filename in CombinePDF
  9. When all of your pages are scanned in, click on “Merge PDF…” in CombinePDF
  10. Select a location for the final PDF and give it a name, then click on OK
  11. Your PDF will be created!