Is there a way to open two views of the same PDF in Preview (without creating two copies of the file), or perhaps split the window and show two different pages at the same time?

This is very useful when reading a paper which refers back to equations on previous pages.


From the Print dialogue choose the PDF button, Open PDF in Preview.

The temporary copy seems just to vanish when closed, as you would want; and it has the same name and location as the original. If you markup the new copy, it creates a duplicate with new name and you choose to save or not.


Open the first one regularly and then use the open command with the -n option.

  1. Open Terminal
  2. Type open -n and drop the file into the Terminal window. The full path of the file will appear after what you've typed.
  3. Hit enter.

The -n option opens a new instance of the application (in this case the default one, as no other is specified) even if one is already running.

  • 1
    Excellent! Is there a GUI way to do this? Would services be the way to set it up (if I use it often)? (New OS X user)
    – Szabolcs
    Nov 27 '12 at 14:29
  • @Szabolcs It will be an approach, indeed.
    – Thecafremo
    Nov 27 '12 at 14:37
  • 1
    In case someone doesn't know, you can select the file in Finder, press Cmd+c, open the Terminal, write open -n and press Cmd+v to paste the path
    – nachocab
    May 12 '15 at 13:33
  • If the PDF is edited in one of the windows, the other window jumps to the point of the edit. So friggin frustrating. Jul 28 at 3:41

Skim has menu items for marking a page and going back to a marked page. You can assign shortcuts to them in System Preferences.

  • 1
    It seems Skim has a split view too. It's probably better to use Skim instead of preview. Thanks for the suggestion!
    – Szabolcs
    Nov 29 '12 at 16:37
  • 3
    More directly in Skim, one can hold the Cmd key and click somewhere in your document. A new "view"/window will open centered on where you clicked and both windows can now scroll independently.
    – Sam Mason
    Jan 28 '14 at 11:29

One other solution would be use your browser to open the PDF file. For me is common to use chrome for reading a PDF when I want 2 instances of the file. I also believe that is faster to search a word in a large PDF file using the browser than the PDF software.


The "open -n" solution can be integrated to Finder using Automator.

For this, open Automator and select "Quick Action" for new document type. Then, select "Workflow receives current" "files or folders" in "Finder.app".

Then from the list of search items, enter "Run Applescript" and use the following script, which takes the selected file from finder and opens it using "open -n" command:

  on run {input, parameters}
    set pathToMe to POSIX path of input
    set command to "open -n " & "\"" & pathToMe & "\""
    # display dialog command #(this is for debugging)
    do shell script command

    return input

Save the document with name "Open with new instance". Then, when you right click on a pdf file on finder, the "Open with new instance" menu item will be available.

I have tried to bring this into the services menu of Preview, however I could not succeed in that. For now, finder integration works for me.

Note: When you use the File -> Print option suggested in the accepted answer, Preview temporarily creates a file with name: Filename.pdf.pdf. This means that, when you accidentally make highlights, annotations on the temporary file, you'll loose your edits when you close that temporary file. On the other hand, when you use the "open -n" solution, two instances of Preview works on the very same files. Edits to any of the files are reflected to other instance when you save it. The only glitch is, after editing in one instance of preview when you save the file, the other instances scroll to the same page. This actually happens after some timer expires, even if you don't save the file. If this is annoying for you, the File->Print approach would work better.

In the end, it is a plain shame that Apple does not implement a proper implementation of multiple views of same pdf document for Preview. Adobe Acrobat Reader does it very nicely, for example (Window -> New Window) however, for now, Adobe Reader has poor performance on Mac operating system, compared to Windows Operating system.


The combination of Copy and New from Clipboard lets you open any part of the PDF in a new window (with the caveat that it's not a view in the sense that modifications do not propagate to the original document). Use rectangular selection to select the part of the PDF you want in a separate window , e.g. a figure or chart, or select a whole page, and hit command-c-command-n.

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