Q&A: Pages + Finale = Opera

Q I am setting an opera using the combination of Pages, for the scene synopses, and Finale, for the score. I then use Preview to assemble these into the complete document of around 400 pages of PDF. However when I edit that PDF to remove and replace sections that I have amended in Pages or Finale, pages sometimes get replaced by blanks. How can I get this to work properly?

A What you are doing is a pretty heavyweight task, given the length, size, and complexity of the finished document, and is probably a bit overambitious for Preview to handle reliably. Preview is what its name suggests, a basic and free PDF and graphics previewer. It is not a full-blown pro PDF editor, unlike Adobe Acrobat Pro. Furthermore PDF is intended to be a write-once format, and is not particularly suited to repeated editing in this way. Even a pro editor may start to do odd things if you push its editing too far.

Your missing pages could simply be losing their contents, or more frustratingly the contents might still be there, just hidden from view.

To get this working at industrial strength, you should re-think your workflow. Although it might seem cumbersome, this could involve placing all the constituent PDFs used to create the final document into a single folder, named 01.pdf, 02.pdf, and so on, in the order in which they will appear.

Try to generate each file so that it stands alone and fits into the overall document structure in a simple way, without any overlaps or other intricacies. Whenever you need to alter any of those component files, edit them in the original application (Pages or Finale) and generate a fresh PDF file for that folder.

When you want to create the complete document, you can then use the Combine Files command in Adobe Acrobat (Pro DC) 2015 to join those individual files up into the finished item. Once so generated, do not attempt to edit that output, for instance trying to remove or substitute constituent parts, but make the changes in the folder of PDFs and create a new version of the complete document.

With Acrobat Pro, you have another more flexible output option that could prove ideal for drafts if not the final document, that of the PDF Portfolio. Try that with different reader applications to see how well it is supported.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 28 issue 02, 2012.