Trying to learn how to use my camera, I downloaded this PDF manual. Once I opened it in Preview, I noticed that the pages were not in the right order, so I tried moving them in the left-side drawer to reorder them. But Preview wouldn't let me.

I usually have no issue reordering pages of a PDF by dragging them around. But for some reason, I cannot rearrange this document (I can't rotate the pages either).

I checked, and the file isn't locked and I have read and write permissions.

Why can't I reorder the pages of this PDF file?

4 Answers 4


The PDF is, somehow, locked against editing.

Here is the workaround I found, to achieve the desired result without having to use a third-party app. The idea is to duplicate the PDF from Preview in a way that will remove the restrictions.

Open the PDF and chose File then Print. In the dialog, chose size and orientation, then click on PDF on the bottom left, then Print to PDF.

Open the new file. It can now be modified at will, like any unlocked PDF.


Apparently, reordering pages requires copying, which is not allowed for that PDF.

Preview: Tools / Show Inspector / Lock tab gives this:

enter image description here

This image is from Preview in El Capitan. In High Sierra it says "You may copy from this PDF"!

  • 1
    Very strange, when I look at the Inspector for this document, I get something completely different (on High Sierra). Sep 8, 2020 at 1:15
  • 2
    I found a workaround by creating a PDF from the Print command, and the created PDF could be reordered. Sep 8, 2020 at 1:20
  • @MicroMachine, yes, in the meantime I've tested it on High Sierra and got the same results as you. The mystery remains. Printing to a PDF is the solution I've used in the past.
    – lhf
    Sep 8, 2020 at 10:36
  • 2
    @MicroMachine Nice workaound, why don't you expand your comment into an answer? If no other answer provides a better solution, you could then mark it as accepted.
    – jaume
    Sep 8, 2020 at 15:14

The pdf file appears to be encrypted. You can use a tool like qpdf https://github.com/qpdf/qpdf to decrypt the pdf and gain full permissions on the file.

I found a similar question/answer here https://superuser.com/a/924794 and running the following command qpdf --decrypt input.pdf output.pdf seemed to do the trick.


You cannot edit a PDF in preview, you can only annotate and yes, there is a distinction between editing. and annotation.

To edit a PDF you will need a tool like Adobe Acrobat (not the reader) or any of the many 3rd party utilities designed to do so; the good ones are generally paid

Additionally, you can edit PDFs in Word as well as LibreOffice, it's not as seamless as Acrobat but if you own/subscribe to Office you don't have to purchase something else. LibreOffice is free, of course ( I prefer Word). Pages may have this ability, but I'm not a user of it so I cannot confirm.

  • 4
    Preview allows pages to be rearranged.
    – lhf
    Sep 8, 2020 at 15:21
  • 2
    I find that I can open a pdf in preview, delete a page or two and add other new pages...
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 8, 2020 at 15:28
  • 1
    You can edit page order and delete pages of a PDF in Preview. Just drag and drop to desired position. Sep 8, 2020 at 20:13

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