I have been using this to get a page count of PDFs in shell scripts in OS X:

pdftk "$i" dump_data | grep NumberOfPages | awk '{print $2}' | tr -dc '[0-9]'

(where $i is the PDF filename)

However, there are times when that does not seem to work, so I would like to find another way to do it.

6 Answers 6


Yet another exiftool solution:

cd /path/to/pdf/directory
exiftool -T -filename -PageCount -s3 -ext pdf .
  • This one is very good IMHO. It (1) is simple (2) produces a clean output: file name [spaces] page count (3) can process all pdf files in a dir even if there are other files (4) will probably work on computer with different locales (5) is portable to other systems (using it on Linux). Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 5:36
  • Great solution! Using this right now to count pages in thousands of files recursively and pipe the output to a file. Command is then like this: exiftool -T -r -filename -PageCount -s3 -ext pdf . > pages.txt
    – flomei
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 11:07

You should be able to use mdls to view the metadata attributes for a PDF:

mdls -n kMDItemNumberOfPages "$i" | cut -c24-

  • Note: This solution only works if the target file resides on a volume/location that's being indexed. Personally, I have some locations excluded so for me this would not work in some cases. That said, it's a better way then having to pipe it so many times like shown in the OP. It's worth a +1 though! :) Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 22:55
  • 1
    Even easier: mdls -raw -name kMDItemNumberOfPages I didn't realize there was an attribute for this. All of my files are on indexed HFS+ devices, so that will work fine.
    – TJ Luoma
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 1:41

You can use qpdf command line utility to count the number of pages in a PDF document. qpdf can be installed via Homebrew via running the following command:

brew install qpdf

Once installed, to count the number of pages execute:

qpdf --show-npages file.pdf


Whether the file is indexed or not this works however if the target file does not resides on a volume/location that's being indexed then here is an alternative to the excellent solution presented by jordanmerrick.

I just tried this using exiftool and if it's just the page count you want as a number then this works:

exiftool "$i" | awk -F": " '/Page Count/{print $2}'

mdls did not work for me either. I did this on a Mac, but I expect it'll be the same on any bash or similar shell. With the Mac I have homebrew already installed so I just typed the command "homebrew install exiftool" first.

Here is the script I ran, you can set it up for your purposes. I had a whole folder of PDF files and I wanted page counts on every one of them so I had it look through the files and print out the filename and page with a , in between


for f in $FILES
    fn=$(basename "$f")
    printf "$fn"
    pg=$(exiftool "$f" | grep 'Page Count' | cut -c35-)
    printf ",$pg\n"

Another solution is to use the pdfinfo command from the xpdf package. Once installed, you can get the number of pages alongside the file name as follows:

pdfinfo /path/to/file.pdf | grep -- ^Pages

Or as a batch run (with the output format you asked for):

while read pdf; do 
    pages=$(pdfinfo "$pdf" 2>&1 | grep -- ^Pages | tr -dc '[0-9]')
    printf "%s %d\n" "$pdf" "$pages"
done < <(find /path/to/pdfs -name "*.pdf" -noleaf -type f)

pdfinfo in general outputs the following information:

Creator:        Microsoft� Office Word 2007
Producer:       Microsoft� Office Word 2007
CreationDate:   Tue Feb 25 14:46:56 2014
ModDate:        Tue Feb 25 14:46:56 2014
Tagged:         yes
Form:           none
Pages:          3
Encrypted:      no
Page size:      595.32 x 841.92 pts (A4) (rotated 0 degrees)
File size:      102155 bytes
Optimized:      no
PDF version:    1.5

I use it frequently to check if the pdf is "optimized" or not. In case it's not optimized, I can then run it through the following script to reduce its file size (often significantly):

#!/usr/bin/env bash
# makeSmall.sh 

gs \
  -o $output \
  -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
  -dPDFSETTINGS=/screen \
  -dCompatibilityLevel=1.8 \
  -dDetectDuplicateImages=true \
  -dEmbedAllFonts=false \
  -dSubsetFonts=true \
  -dConvertCMYKImagesToRGB=true \
  -dCompressFonts=true \
  -dQUIET \
  -dBATCH \
  -c '<</AlwaysEmbed [ ]>> setdistillerparams' \
  -c '<</NeverEmbed [/Courier /Courier-Bold /Courier-Oblique /Courier-BoldOblique /Helvetica /Helvetica-Bold /Helvetica-Oblique /Helvetica-BoldOblique /Times-Roman /Times-Bold /Times-Italic /Times-BoldItalic /Symbol /ZapfDingbats /Arial]>> setdistillerparams' \
  -f $input
$ pdfinfo F.pdf | grep -- ^Optimized
Optimized:      no
$ ./makeSmall.sh F.pdf F-reduced.pdf 2>/dev/null
$ gstat --printf "%13n [size=%6s Bytes]\n" F*.pdf
F-reduced.pdf [size= 15983 Bytes]
        F.pdf [size=102155 Bytes]

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