I have a scanned pdf file which has scanned two pages on one virtual page (page in pdf file).

The resolution is with good quality. The problem is I have to zoom when reading and drag from left to the right.
Is there some command (convert, pdftk, ...) or script that can convert this pdf file with normal pages (one page from book = one page in pdf file)?

  • 1
    Athough it is not the most upvoted answer, this one really surprised me. It is simple, short, fast and elegant. I thought it was worth to mention it here, as sometimes we are too lazy to scroll down to other answers... – Peque Nov 15 '15 at 16:10
  • For the records, the reverse operation (joining multiple pages) can be obtain from the command line (rather than "print to file") with pdfnup, from the pdfjam suite. – Skippy le Grand Gourou Sep 26 '17 at 8:19

Here's a small Python script using the PyPdf library that does the job neatly. Save it in a script called un2up (or whatever you like), make it executable (chmod +x un2up), and run it as a filter (un2up <2up.pdf >1up.pdf).

#!/usr/bin/env python
import copy, sys
from pyPdf import PdfFileWriter, PdfFileReader
input = PdfFileReader(sys.stdin)
output = PdfFileWriter()
for p in [input.getPage(i) for i in range(0,input.getNumPages())]:
    q = copy.copy(p)
    (w, h) = p.mediaBox.upperRight
    p.mediaBox.upperRight = (w/2, h)
    q.mediaBox.upperLeft = (w/2, h)

Ignore any deprecation warnings; only the PyPdf maintainers need be concerned with those.

If the input is oriented in an unusual way, you may need to use different coordinates when truncating the pages. See Why my code not correctly split every page in a scanned pdf?

Just in case it's useful, here's my earlier answer which uses a combination of two tools plus some manual intervention:

  • Pdfjam (at least version 2.0), based on the pdfpages LaTeX package, to crop the pages;
  • Pdftk, to put the left and right halves back together.

Both tools are needed because as far as I can tell pdfpages isn't able to apply two different transformations to the same page in one stream. In the call to pdftk, replace 42 by the number of pages in the input document (2up.pdf).

pdfjam -o odd.pdf --trim '0cm 0cm 14.85cm 0cm' --scale 1.141 2up.pdf
pdfjam -o even.pdf --trim '14.85cm 0cm 0cm 0cm' --scale 1.141 2up.pdf
pdftk O=odd.pdf E=even.pdf cat $(i=1; while [ $i -le 42 ]; do echo O$i E$i; i=$(($i+1)); done) output all.pdf

In case you don't have pdfjam 2.0, it's enough to have a PDFLaTeX installation with the pdfpages package (on Ubuntu: you need texlive-latex-recommended Install texlive-latex-recommended and perhaps (on Ubuntu: texlive-fonts-recommended Install texlive-fonts-recommended), and use the following driver file driver.tex:

\includepdfmerge[trim=0cm 0cm 14.85cm 0cm,scale=1.141]{2up.pdf,-}
\includepdfmerge[trim=14.85cm 0cm 0cm 0cm,scale=1.141]{2up.pdf,-}

Then run the following commands, replacing 42 by the number of pages in the input file (which must be called 2up.pdf):

pdflatex driver
pdftk driver.pdf cat $(i=1; pages=42; while [ $i -le $pages ]; do echo $i $(($pages+$i)); i=$(($i+1)); done) output 1up.pdf
  • The PyPdf library works perfect. I only changed it a little and run it with python conv_pdf.py res.pdf . How would you run your script shebang from commandline? – xralf May 3 '11 at 8:03
  • I'd like to try the version with pdfjam (because of slight scaling) too, but after the installation of pdfjam package my shell won't recognize pdfjam command. – xralf May 3 '11 at 8:34
  • @xralf: My python script just reads from standard input and writes to standard output. The pdfjam version requires pdfjam 2.0; it's only a small wrapper around pdfpages, and I've added the bit of LaTeX it generates so you can use that directly. The scaling issue is probably solvable with pypdf, it could be a page size issue (I may or may not be able to help if you give more details on what's happening and especially the page sizes involved). – Gilles May 3 '11 at 10:22
  • Thank you, the difference is in very slightly worse resolution, but this doesn't matter. I will turn back to it when I know more about Latex (it's too complex for me now and the solution is really good with PyPdf). – xralf May 3 '11 at 11:10
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    @Gilles Versy useful script. I've expected to see something like that in pdfjam, pdftk. Anyway, some people may want some modifications to split pages over other axis and use different ordering. This is possible to with changing few lines and using q.mediaBox.lowerRight = (w, h/2) – ony Feb 26 '12 at 20:44

Just an addition since I had issues with the python script (and several other solutions): for me mutool worked great. It's a simple and small addition shipped with the elegant mupdf reader. So you can try:

mutool poster -y 2 input.pdf output.pdf

For horizontal splits, replace y with x. And you can, of course, combine the two for more complex solutions.

Really happy to have found this (after years of daily mupdf usage :)

mutool comes shipped with mupdf starting from version 1.4: http://www.mupdf.com/news

Installing mupdf and mutool from source:

wget http://www.mupdf.com/downloads/mupdf-1.8-source.tar.gz
tar -xvf mupdf-1.8-source.tar.gz
cd mupdf-1.8-source
sudo make prefix=/usr/local install

Or go to the downloads page to find a newer version.

  • 3
    I had a djvu... I turned it into a postscript (quite fast), then into a pdf (turtle slow) -- and finally mutool cut it so fast I thought it hadn't work -- it had! – Julien Puydt Apr 16 '15 at 9:32
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    yes, i was also really pleased with the speed. – martz Apr 17 '15 at 0:51
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    This one is the easiest and better. mutool was made for this. Also, beware of -y, I think in most cases what you want is -x. – fiatjaf Dec 24 '15 at 20:13
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    This utility is very fast, however I have a problem with the page order. The command allocates the right page at first position and the left page in the second one. Can somebody help me with this issue? – garciparedes Sep 23 '17 at 11:02
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    @garciparedes unix.stackexchange.com/questions/184799/… – Nobody Sep 26 '18 at 11:53

Imagemagick can do it in one step:

$ convert in.pdf -crop 50%x0 +repage out.pdf
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    Thanks. If I add the -density 400 parameter` it has even better quality. – xralf May 20 '11 at 14:27
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    It looks like convert uses raster as an intermediate format. That causes blurish look even when original PDF contains vector objects. – ony Feb 26 '12 at 20:40
  • Does anyone know of a way to do this without rasterizing page contents along the way...or at least to set a higher resolution? – Tomislav Nakic-Alfirevic Feb 28 '13 at 21:47
  • this rendered texts into images and created pdf from images. Maybe nice for pics but useless for text extraction. – andrej Apr 13 '17 at 16:06

ImageMagick's Convert command can help you to crop your file in 2 parts. See http://www.imagemagick.org/Usage/crop/

If I were you, I'd write a (shell) script like this:

  1. Split your file with pdfsam: 1 page = 1 file on disk (Format doesn't matter. Choose one that ImageMagick knows. I'd just take PS or PDF.
  2. For each page, crop the first half and put it to a file named ${PageNumber}A

  3. Crop the second half and put it to a file named ${PageNumber}B.

    You get 1A.pdf, 1B.pdf, 2A.pdf, 2B.pdf, etc.

  4. Now, assemble this again in a new PDF. There are many methods to do this.
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    Wouldn't using ImageMagick rasterize the files? And you should explain that last part inline, especially for the benefit of the non-francophones in the audience. – Gilles May 2 '11 at 22:17
  • Because you don't need to understand French. It just show how you can use ImageMagick's convert, pdftk, or ghostscript (gs) alone to achieve this goal. I like using pdftk. "Rastering" doesn't matter as it's a scanned document. – tiktak May 4 '11 at 9:29

Based on answer from Gilles and how to find PDF page count I wrote



pages=$(pdftk $pdforiginal dump_data | grep NumberOfPages | awk '{print $2}')

pagesize=$(pdfinfo $pdforiginal | grep "Page size" | awk '{print $5}')
margin=$(echo $pagesize/2-$margin | bc -l)

pdfjam -o $pdfood --trim "0cm 0cm ${margin}pt 0cm" --scale $scale $pdforiginal
pdfjam -o $pdfeven --trim "${margin}pt 0cm 0cm 0cm" --scale $scale  $pdforiginal

pdftk O=$pdfood E=$pdfeven cat $(i=1; while [ $i -le $pages ]; do echo O$i E$i; i=$(($i+1)); done) output $pdfout

rm $pdfood $pdfeven

So I can run

./split.sh my.pdf 50 1.2

where 50 for adjust margin and 1.2 for scale.


Here's a variation of the PyPDF code posted by Gilles. This function will work no matter what the page orientation is:

import copy
import math
import pyPdf

def split_pages(src, dst):
    src_f = file(src, 'r+b')
    dst_f = file(dst, 'w+b')

    input = pyPdf.PdfFileReader(src_f)
    output = pyPdf.PdfFileWriter()

    for i in range(input.getNumPages()):
        p = input.getPage(i)
        q = copy.copy(p)
        q.mediaBox = copy.copy(p.mediaBox)

        x1, x2 = p.mediaBox.lowerLeft
        x3, x4 = p.mediaBox.upperRight

        x1, x2 = math.floor(x1), math.floor(x2)
        x3, x4 = math.floor(x3), math.floor(x4)
        x5, x6 = math.floor(x3/2), math.floor(x4/2)

        if x3 > x4:
            # horizontal
            p.mediaBox.upperRight = (x5, x4)
            p.mediaBox.lowerLeft = (x1, x2)

            q.mediaBox.upperRight = (x3, x4)
            q.mediaBox.lowerLeft = (x5, x2)
            # vertical
            p.mediaBox.upperRight = (x3, x4)
            p.mediaBox.lowerLeft = (x1, x6)

            q.mediaBox.upperRight = (x3, x6)
            q.mediaBox.lowerLeft = (x1, x2)



The best solution was mutool see above:

sudo apt install mupdf-tools pdftk

the split:

mutool poster -y 2 input.pdf output.pdf

but then you need to rotate the pages left:

pdftk output.pdf cat 1-endleft output rotated.pdf
  • Still no overlap... – MUY Belgium Apr 21 '18 at 23:20

Based on the answer by Benjamin at AskUbuntu, I would recommend using the GUI tool called gscan2pdf.

  1. Import the PDF scan file to gscan2pdf. Note that non-image PDF files may not work. Scans are fine, so you don't have to worry.

    enter image description here

  2. It might take a while depending on the size of the document. Wait till it loads up.

  3. Press Ctrl+A to select all pages and then rotate (Ctrl+Shift+C) them if necessary.

    enter image description here

  4. Go to Tools >> Clean up. Select Layout as double and # output pages = 2.

    enter image description here

  5. Hit OK and wait till the job is finished.

    enter image description here

  6. Save the PDF file. Done.

  • Tested, failed with complex pdf documents with a huge nulber of images. – MUY Belgium Apr 21 '18 at 23:28

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