Tech Tip: Using Ghostscript to Convert and Combine Files

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Ghostscript gives you the power to combine files, convert files, and much more, all from the command line.

It is easy to combine several input files into one combined PDF using Ghostscript:

 gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=combined.pdf \
    first.pdf \
    second.pdf \
    third.pdf [...]

Your input files don't even need to be PDF files. You can also use PostScript or EPS files, or any mixture of the three:

 gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=combined.pdf \
    first.pdf \
    second.ps \
    third.eps [...]

The combined.pdf file will contain the input files in the order given on the commandline. If you don't want the combined file to be PDF, but PostScript instead, you may want to use this:

 gs -sDEVICE=pswrite \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=combined.ps \
    first.pdf \
    second.ps \
    third.eps [...]

Should you for whatever reason want PostScript level 1 output, add a language level parameter:

 gs -sDEVICE=pswrite \
    -dLanguageLevel=1 \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=combined.ps \
    first.pdf \
    second.ps \
    third.eps [...]

The default PostScript language output level is 2. Using "1.5" is also supported, which is language level 1 with color extensions.

You can convert color input files into black/white or non-color/gray PostScript like this:

 gs -sDEVICE=psgray \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=combined.ps \
    first.pdf \
    second.ps \
    third.eps [...]

 gs -sDEVICE=psmono \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=combined.ps \
    first.pdf \
    second.ps \
    third.eps [...]

Should you for some reason need a series of single-page EPS files made up of pages from various input files, try this:

 gs -sDEVICE=epswrite \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=p%08d.eps \
    5page-first.pdf \
    7page-second.ps \
    1page-third.eps [...]

The resulting files will be nicely named as p00000001.eps .... p00000013.eps ...

But be aware, converting PDFs back to PostScript (or EPS), like the last 6 commands did, may loose some or much of the original quality. For example, PostScript can't handle transparencies directly (it fakes them by converting them into bitmap patterns), and converting such a PostScript file back to PDF will not restore the original transparency feature. Also, some other aspects of the graphic quality from the input PDFs may be deteriorated.

So in general, it's better to stay with PDFs and avoid roundtrip conversions to PostScript and back to PDF...

Should you need TIFFs or JPEGs from all pages of your input files, try this:

 gs -sDEVICE=tiffg4 \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -sOutputFile=p%08d.tif \
    -r600x600 \
    5page-first.pdf \
    7page-second.ps \
    1page-third.eps [...]

 gs -sDEVICE=jpeg \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -r600x600 \
    -sOutputFile=p%08d.jpg \
    5page-first.pdf \
    7page-second.ps \
    1page-third.eps [...]

Graphic gurus, check this out. To create color separations (CMYK), use:

 gs -sDEVICE=tiffsep \
    -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER \
    -r600x600 \
    -sOutputFile=p%08d.tif \
    5page-first.pdf \
    7page-second.ps \
    1page-third.eps [...]

We included an extra parameter in the last few examples to make the output resolution 600dpi, because we don't like the default 72dpi when it comes to pure full page image files. Now, you may be surprised: for each single page of the input files you automatically get 5 different files:

 p000000XX.tif
 p000000XX.Cyan.tif
 p000000XX.Magenta.tif
 p000000XX.Yellow.tif
 p000000XX.Black.tif

The *.tif file will be the biggest, since it contains a single 32 bit composite CMYK file (tiff32nc format). The four *.Colorname.tif files are not really colored (as one might think from their names), but in reality they are tiffgray files meant for creating offset printing plates for the respective separation in 4-color CMYK printing. If Ghostscript autodetected so called "spot colors" in the input files, these will get their own separation files, with a naming convention of *.s1.tif, *.s2.tif,... etc. (up to 64 different process and spot colors are supported).

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Did not work to combine 2 PDF files

Anonymous's picture

I am having problems getting the first command to successfully combine 2 pdf files. My resulting combined.pdf file only contains the last pdf file specified in the list. Is there a command syntax error in the example?

Works for me

Anonymous's picture

Works for me.

separation

arif's picture

i have pdf file. i want to print it separated (just only cyan, magenta, yellow or black) with pdf generic printer likes CUPS-PDF. would you like to help me to tell me the script. My pdf files in /arif/pdffiles.pdf

Thanks, how about reversed (combining separations)

NachtVorst's picture

Thanks for the tip on the TIFFSEP option! I will be giving it a try soon.

But actually I was looking for a way to de the reverse:
I have TIFF-files that are already separated into C, M, Y and K 1 bit tiff-files, but for proofing purposes I want them combined back into a PDF (CMYK or RGB).

Does anyone know a trick to do that?

Thank in advance,

NachtVorst

combined back

Yves's picture

I,
just found your message and i'm trying to do the same. Did you find a way to combine back separated the 4 1 bit tiff files?

Thanks if you can help me. Thanks too if not

Yves

Thank you for this tutorial,

Anonymous's picture

Thank you for this tutorial, it saved me *quite* some time. Good job!

create grayscale graphics

Maik's picture

Kurt Pfeifle shows how to make black / white or grayscale graphics using postscript.
However if you are using psmono or psgray as devices, you'll end up having a raster image.

To retain your vectors you can follow the hints in:
http://handyfloss.net/2008.09/making-a-pdf-grayscale-with-ghostscript/

so for converting an eps file into gray you might want to use something like this:

gs -sOutputFile=gfile_gray.pdf -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sColorConversionStrategy=Gray -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceGray -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -sEPSCrop gfile.eps

pdftops gfile_gray.pdf gfile_gray.ps
ps2eps -f gfile_gray.pdf

enjoy

gs won't accept jpg as input

Roland's picture

Used gwenview to view the JPG then print it to the PDF pseudo-printer. The resulting PDF file separated without problems. GS will display the resulting TIFs. Used 'gm convert' to change original JPG to TIF, but GS won't display it, even though 'file' says it's OK, and gwenview will display it.

Not an Image Viewer

Mitch Frazier's picture

GS is not an image viewer. You're not going to be able to view jpegs or tiffs with it. Errr, what in this tech-tip made you think you could do that?

Mitch Frazier is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal.

Au Contraire

Roland's picture

Actually, GS is a very good image viewer, for postscript files. Try it.

The article indicated GS could handle multiple different types of input files. I mistakenly thought it could handle jpegs. Mea culpa.

Image Files

Mitch Frazier's picture

I don't think of postscript files as image files, but yes it is an "image" viewer for postscript and related things.

It can create output files that are jpegs.

Mitch Frazier is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal.

Didn't work, no idea why

Roland's picture

Didn't work for me, even when I used GraphicsMagick to scale color jpg down to 400x400. Ran 'gs -h', it shows I have the tiffsep device. Got this error:

Error: /undefined in ���
Operand stack:

Execution stack:
%interp_exit .runexec2 --nostringval-- --nostringval-- --nostringval-- 2 %stopped_push --nostringval-- --nostringval-- --nostringval-- false 1 %stopped_push 1905 1 3 %oparray_pop 1904 1 3 %oparray_pop 1888 1 3 %oparray_pop 1771 1 3 %oparray_pop --nostringval-- %errorexec_pop .runexec2 --nostringval-- --nostringval-- --nostringval-- 2 %stopped_push --nostringval--
Dictionary stack:
--dict:1152/1684(ro)(G)-- --dict:0/20(G)-- --dict:92/200(L)--
Current allocation mode is local
Current file position is 5
GPL Ghostscript 8.61: Unrecoverable error, exit code 1

Anyone have any idea what happened? Vanilla Kubuntu 8.04 with latest updates.

error postscript

Anonymous's picture

You have an postscript error in your input file. This one should only be a ps or a pdf file.

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