Recently updated to Big Sur. Previously in Catalina (and prior) I was able to open a print dialog box, select the PDF drop down and choose a preset folder I had saved (Dropbox/Receipts folder) where macOS would then generate a PDF of whatever I was trying to print and drop it into that folder.

~/Library/PDF Services still has this folder alias but when I select it to "print" to, there is no PDF file generated.

I've read some stuff about PDF Services changing in Big Sur but no conclusive answer how to bring back this essential function where I can print anything to PDF to a preset folder with like 3 clicks.

  • 1
    Booting a clean install of macOS Big Sur 11.4, and making a folder named PDF Services in ~/Library, then adding a Finder alias named Save to PDF Documents, which points to a folder named PDF Documents in my Documents folder, to the PDF Services folder, now Save to PDF Documents shows on the PDF popup menu in the Print dialog box. So, it still work in macOS Big Sur and I'd suggest you recreate the Finder alias to the target folder you want the documents saved to. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 19:34
  • @user3439894 did you confirm that it generates the PDF and saves it in the folder? Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 19:48
  • RE: "did you confirm that it generates the PDF and saves it in the folder?" -- Well of course I did. Why else would I had gone thru the process to make the first comment that I did? (Rhetorical question!) Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 19:53
  • ok just checking. So further testing - it works on a folder created OUTSIDE of Dropbox but not on a folder created inside Dropbox. I gave Dropbox full disk permissions but may have to try to reinstall the client as a next step. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 19:58
  • 1
    Sorry I do not use Dropbox or I would have tested with it, however, it was important to let you know that the process still works in general. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


UPDATE: This problem is fixed in Monterey, which restores writing permissions to PDF Services. The solution is thus to update beyond Big Sur.

The problem is that as of Big Sur, PDF Services has been massively sandboxed so as to render it useless.

error   09:33:50.180022+0100    kernel  Sandbox: printtool(5086) deny(1) file-write-create /Users/Shared/Print/Out/big sur - Fix-restore "Print to PDF" to preset location in Big Sur - Ask Different.pdf

The only thing I have found that works is an Automator Application (nb: not 'workflow' or anything else). Presumably, applications have local code-signing or something that lets them through the sandbox. So you will need to create an Automator sequence that saves the file to your destination.

The problem also affects executables, like shell and python scripts. Automator Print plug-ins no longer work either.

Relax the sandbox

However, this sandboxing can be 'fixed' by adding the words Sandboxing Relaxed to /etc/cups/cups-files.conf. You can do this from within the CUPS web front-end (Administation tab > Edit Configuration File button), or just with Terminal or with BBEdit etc. You'll need to restart cupsd if you don't use the web front-end.

This seems to allow printtool a bit more freedom, but the executables it calls are still subjected to various restrictions.

Please 'send feedback' to Apple.

  • I would happily give half my points and my daughter's hand to anyone who can provide a better fix.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 10:00
  • See my answer. Workaround 3 is pretty easy, particularly if you use Hazel. But it is a workaround, not a fix. Unsandboxing would be a fix.
    – Gilby
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 23:08
  • Yes, I'm looking for a fix! I have lots of python scripts that manipulate PDFs in various ways: create booklet, make PDF/X-3. I can wrap them in an Automator app, or could put them in a workflow for a Folder Action, but it's just another nail in the coffin of usability.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Jul 5, 2021 at 6:57

Rewritten 9th April 2023 using macOS Ventura.

macOS Support Essentials 12 from Peachpit says (page 884):

"From the PDF menu, you can also choose a PDF workflow that accepts and processes PDF files. Some preset workflows are built in, but you can add your own PDF workflows by choosing Edit Menu from the PDF menu. Or, depending on who needs access to them, you can manually add PDF workflows to /Library/PDF Services or ~/Library/PDF Services. To create custom PDF workflows, use Automator to create a Print Plugin or use Script Editor."

This a very near supported solution as the book is part of the Apple Pro Training series.

So the solution is to create an Automator Print Plugin (not a Workflow) for each folder that you want in the PDF dropdown menu.

In Automator's new dialog, choose Print Plugin, and add a "Move Finder Items" action. In my example, the destination is a folder inside the new style Dropbox.

Save to Dropbox Test

Save this plugin in ~/Library/PDF Services.

  • Ventura looks like it has broken this again.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 21:49
  • @benwiggy I had not checked with Ventura, but you are right. I have been using my workaround 3 for so long. Using Hazel, my print destinations are all .hazel/xxx so the folder if nicely hidden from default Finder.
    – Gilby
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 2:32
  • @benwiggy For completeness I have rewritten my answer with the correct solution using Automator Print Plugins.
    – Gilby
    Commented Apr 9, 2023 at 2:41

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