PDF editor to edit page numbers

Fowl

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 28, 2018
23
19
I need a PDF editor — not Acrobat — with which to edit page numbering. What I mean is change the numbering scheme for the number which typically appears in the toolbar of a PDF viewer. In Acrobat this used to be called "Number Pages..." IIRC, and now it's called "Page labels" or such.

I am not looking to add numbers in the footers of the pages themselves. Just the ones the PDF browser uses for navigation. That is handy with scanned book PDFs, where the numbers on the pages might go i-xx, then a couple of blank pages, then start with 1, things like that.

The only software I know that does that is Acrobat Pro CC, but I don't want to pay $25/month or $180/yr for it, especially since it's something I do infrequently. What else can I do this with? I looked at PDFpen, Foxit, and PDF Expert. As far as I can tell none of them do this (PDFpen does "page numbering" but that adds numbers to the pages, not what I want). Any other options?
 

jchap

macrumors member
Sep 25, 2009
61
82
I think I understand where you're coming from. You want the numbering (not the physical numbering on the page, but the numbering shown in the page display control of the app) to match the actual page numbers of the scanned material. Sometimes the printed and scanned material might skip some pages, so you want the page numbers shown when you navigate in the PDF to reflect and match that. Is that right?

Broadly speaking, there are apparently two different approaches to doing what you are asking: (1) assigning logical page numbers during the export of the PDF (settings made on the app side), or (2) editing the PDF data already exported.

For approach (1):
I tried this with the free version of Acrobat (Acrobat Reader DC), which surprisingly offers some of the functionality of the paid CC version, but you cannot even access the "Organize Pages" menu there without proceeding to the subscription unlock process. (I guess you would also be unhappy if I suggested the single-app CC subscription for a month, rather than the whole lot? Did you already use up your free trial? I know that would not help you if you have to do this numerous times...) macOS Preview doesn't help, either—too rudimentary for the task 😌

What other apps do you use that generate PDF data? I guess you do not have Illustrator or InDesign either, so no help there. I was thinking PowerPoint (!), because you can select certain slides to be hidden and export the whole thing as a PDF, which might also hide those pages in the PDF while still retaining the order of succeeding pages... but the navigation page numbers stay in order, which is not what you want.

For approach (2):
Is there any way to hide PDF pages in a PDF file, or make the blanks less obvious and easier to skip? For instance, you might add blank pages intentionally to "fill the space" and keep the numbering, but then just hide those pages in the PDF so that they don't display. If those PDF pages were very small in terms of dimensions (maybe just a 1 cm high page or less), it wouldn't be terribly intrusive, perhaps.

Going deeper into the muck, if we understood how those page navigation numbers are generated in the first place, it might theoretically be possible to create a script (unless someone else has already done this) to find and edit those instances in the PostScript source code of the PDF. If you wanted to create a home-brewed solution that does it this way, you'd need to understand the PDF file structure, how to parse it and take it apart...

I can totally get how you don't want to pay up the nose for a monthly subscription to an app that you only need certain features from, on sporadic occasions. Let us know if you find something that might work for this. If you have a Windows license or use Windows on Boot Camp or in a VM (Parallels, Fusion, etc.), your options will probably increase—there might be a Windows app out there that does what you want, and there seem to be more Windows app developers out there who just make things for free (a casual observation that may or may not be supported by fact)...
 
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Fowl

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 28, 2018
23
19
I am mostly dealing with the second scenario, files which someone else created, for example scanned books from Google Books or from the Internet Archive.

Blanks are not the problem. The main problem is that the main numbering in books usually starts after the introductory pages, and the introductory pages (table of contents, preface, etc.) may have a separate numbering system (like Roman numerals). So if you might have a couple of un-numbered pages (title page and its back), 20 pages numbered i through xx, and then the body of the book. What I want is, if such a scanned book has written somewhere "see p. 200", I want to type 200 in the navigation bar and go to the page numbered 200 in the book, not the 200th image in the PDF (which in the above case would be p. 178).

I have thought of looking for a Window app; best would be one that could run under Wine. I'd like a less kludgy solution, if one exists.
 

jchap

macrumors member
Sep 25, 2009
61
82
Gotcha. Yes, I totally understand that. It's an issue that requires advanced customization of logical page numbers.

As far as actually viewing logical page numbers, the macOS Preview app does have a toggle that lets you choose whether to view them or not, as shown below.

macos-preview_logical-page-numbers.png


The question is, how to actually make a document with different logical page numbers than the actual (physical) page numbers? As you said, turning to a Windows app for a solution might be necessary. That said, I did find a very reasonably-priced app on the Mac App Store called "pdf Paginate Pro" that lets you customize page number labels, but I realize you want to change the logical page numbering, not add labels. There does seem to be an option in this app to uncheck the positions where the page numbering labels should be placed. If you unchecked everything regarding label display and then used this to just repaginate the numbers, it might just work...
 

McScooby

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2005
636
324
The Paps of Glenn Close, Scotland.
As I said I'm no expert, but what I can do with this is reorder pages (& if required change the physical page number).
So I would:
  • Open original PDF in Expert
  • Drag all the pages in the order I want to see them (so rather than the view 1,2,3,4 change to 4,2,1,3)
  • Save File
  • Open in Preview
Preview then shows rearranged PDF but the viewer page numbers show as 1,2,3,4 but are actually 4,2,1,3 from original as shown above.

If I so wished I could change the physical page number using the OCR stuff.

For blank pages either just delete them completely or drag 'em all to end of doc.

I apologise if I've misinterpreted what you've meant, guidance is here.


(& I think I must've got this in one of these mac update bundles as I didn't pay $79, prob closer to $20)
 

Fowl

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 28, 2018
23
19
I found a makeshift solution. The free version of the Windows app PDF-XChange does it. It works with WineBottler, so you don't need to run an emulator. The UI is a little clunky, but straightforward. You can also use it to edit bookmarks.
 
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