Monday, April 6, 2015

How to n-up pages in a PDF or PPT file via the command-line

Suppose you downloaded a PowerPoint or a PDF file from slideshare. You liked it so much that you wanted to print it out. But, alas, it was 50 pages long.

This tutorial introduces the command-line tools to n-up a PPT or PDF file, i.e., batch multiple pages of the input file onto a single page on the output file. The output file is of the PDF format.

To 2-up a file, you place 2 original pages on a single output page. Similarly, to 4-up a file, 4 original pages on a single output page. By n-upping a file, you drastically reduce the number of pages for printing.

Convert to PDF

If the original file is a PowerPoint file (PPT, PPTX, PPS, PPSX), you need to first convert it to PDF. The tool I use is unoconv.

To install unoconv on Debian,

$ sudo apt-get install unoconv

To convert input.ppt to input.pdf,

$ unoconv -f pdf input.ppt

N-up PDF

Now that you have a PDF file, use the pdfnup program to n-up the file.

To install pdfnup,

$ sudo apt-get install pdfjam

Behind the scene, pdfnup uses the TeX typesetting system to do the n-up conversion. So, you need to first install some LaTeX-related packages.

$ sudo apt-get install texlive-latex-base texlive-latex-recommended

Now, you are ready to execute the following command to n-up input.pdf.

$ pdfnup --nup 2x3 --paper letter --frame true --no-landscape input.pdf

  • --nup 2x3: 2x3 means 2 columns and 3 rows. This houses a total of 6 input pages on each output page.

  • --paper letter: The default paper size is A4. For North Americans, specify --paper letter for the US letter size.

  • --frame: By default, the subpages on the output page are not framed, i.e., there are no borders around each subpage. To specify that a frame should be drawn around each subpage, specify --frame true.

  • --no-landscape: The default page orientation is landscape. If you want the portrait orientation, specify --no-landscape.

  • The output PDF filename for the above example is input-nup.pdf. The output filename is constructed by appending the default suffix -nup to the input filename.

The above method is not the only way to n-up a PDF file. Below is an alternative method that involves first converting the PDF file to PostScript format, then doing the n-up, and finally converting it back to PDF.

$ pdf2ps input.pdf
$ psnup -2
$ ps2pdf output.pdf

You can choose either method to do the n-up conversion. I generally avoid the PostScript method because it involves an extra conversion step. Regardless of which method you choose, the environment will thank you for using less paper.

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