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A fast way to turn lots of images into an Adobe Acrobat PDF file

I have a collection of magazine scans that, inconveniently, came as a series of JPG images rather than as PDFs that are more conducive to reading. I wanted PDFs, so I found a way to turn lots of images into an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

Building the PDF manually took a good 30 minutes per issue, so I wanted a faster way. Using command-line tools, I was able to convert the entire collection (about 40 issues) in less than 30 minutes.

The key is a utility called Imagemagick, originally created for Unix and Linux systems, but also available for Mac OS X and Windows. I downloaded the portable Windows binary, since it doesn’t require installation and I found it more convenient. Download the version for whatever OS you run.

My collection of JPEGs were all in their own directories. So converting them was just two commands, once I had Imagemagick downloaded and runnable:

cd issue1
convert *.jpg issue1.pdf

I just repeated for all 40 directories, and before I knew it, I had easy-to-read PDFs from a once-awkward collection.

Making the issues searchable and indexable, unfortunately, isn’t as fast or easy, nor is it free. But at least now the files are convenient.

There are other uses for this trick as well. For example, I have a Canon scanner that I can run on 32-bit Windows 7, but the software that came with it doesn’t work under anything newer than Windows XP. The last time I used it, I had to do my scanning from Irfanview, for lack of anything else to use. This is awkward, but you can make it workable. Scan each page in Irfanview, save the files in a non-lossy format (PNG or TIFF would be ideal) with sequential filenames, then use Imagemagick from the command line to merge the scanned files into a single PDF that you can e-mail.

Eventually I may need to buy another scanner, but since I don’t scan documents all that often, I’m willing to put up with workarounds in order to save $70. For all I know, it will be four years before I need to scan again, and any scanner I buy today could be similarly abandoned by then anyway.

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