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How To Crop a PDF on Mac – Two Fast & Free Ways

by Eric Johnson

Need to crop a PDF on your Mac—for free? Here are two easy options, so you can pick the way that’s best for you.

You want a PDF to look just as the creator intended. Until you don’t.

One change you might want to make is to crop a PDF. Sometimes PDFs have unnecessarily wide margins, headers, or footers. This can make the important content more difficult to read on smaller screens.

Other reasons for cropping PDFs include: extracting specific sections of a document for presentations, removing sensitive information that some readers shouldn’t see, preparing a PDF for better printing, or maybe you just have an eye for aesthetics and want a cleaner looking document.

You’ve got your reasons, we’ve got your solutions.

In this article we’ll show you two simple, fast ways to crop a PDF on Mac for free using:

  • Mac’s built-in Preview function.
  • Smallpdf’s free cloud tool.

Both have their strengths. Neither requires you to download or sign up for any new tools. Let’s get to it.

→ If you’re using a Windows machine, we suggest you jump over to this article for how to crop a PDF on Windows.

Local: Use Your Mac's Built-in PDF Crop Tool

Your Mac has basic PDF tools built in. The easiest way to access these tools is through your Mac’s Preview function. First we’ll give you the TL;DR version, followed by a little more detail.

Here’s how to crop a PDF on Mac using Preview:

  1. Open your PDF file in Preview.
  2. Select the area to keep by dragging with the Rectangular Selection tool.
  3. Go to the Tools menu > Crop, and then ‘OK’.
  4. Save the file.

If you need a little more info on any of those steps, keep reading.

First, start by opening a PDF on your Mac. You can do this by double-clicking a PDF in your Mac’s Finder, or by right-clicking the document icon and selecting Open With > Preview.

Next, make sure your markup tools are visible. To do this, click the Markup icon in the main toolbar, or in the View menu > Show Markup Toolbar.

Crop a PDF on Mac - Local

Then, select the Rectangular Selection tool, and drag your mouse over the area of the PDF you want to keep.

Next, go to the Tools menu at the top of your screen and choose ‘Crop’.

This may bring up a dialog box warning you that cropping the PDF doesn’t fully delete the content outside the area you wish to crop. This is because your Mac stores your edited PDFs as different versions, giving you the option to revert to earlier versions if desired.

Crop a PDF on Mac - warning

After you click ‘OK’, Preview will crop your PDF page down to the selected area. Save your file by clicking File > Save in the menu at the top of your screen.

That’s it. You’ve cropped your PDF right there on your Mac.

Key advantages:

  • Built into your Mac
  • No internet connection required
  • Basic options are free and easy to use

In summary, this is a nice feature if you’re cropping PDFs for personal use, but it may not be the best option for professional use, or when you need more security or privacy after cropping your PDF.

Another limitation is that you need to crop each page individually. It’s not possible to crop, for example, the top and bottom edge of every PDF page all at once—you have to manually crop page by page.

If you need more advanced and user-friendly features, you’ll want to check out this next online option for cropping PDFs on your Mac.

Cloud: Crop PDFs on Mac With Smallpdf

If you need a little bit more than your out-of-the-box Mac tools, another option is the Smallpdf PDF Crop tool. It’s fast, free, and it’s got an intuitive interface that people literally fall in love with (okay, maybe not literally, but it sure is sweet).

Like before, here’s the TL;DR before the details.

How to crop a PDF on Mac using Smallpdf:

  1. Go to the online PDF Cropper.
  2. Drag and drop your PDF into the box.
  3. Use the crop tool to highlight the PDF area to keep.
  4. Toggle to ‘Apply selection to all pages’ or to a single page.
  5. Click ‘Finish’ and wait just a second.
  6. Download your cropped PDF.
Crop a PDF on Mac - button

From here, you have a couple of simple options:

  • Zoom and scroll through your pages to easily find the areas you want to crop
  • Toggle to crop pages individually or to ‘Apply selection to all pages’

This latter option makes it super easy to crop margins, headers, or footers across all of your pages uniformly in an instant.

When you’re ready to crop, click the Crop icon and highlight the area of your PDF that you want to keep.

Crop a PDF on Mac - icon

Repeat this as needed until your document looks just like you need it, then click the big blue ‘Finish’ button.

Before downloading your cropped PDF, you’ll see other options to compress, convert, merge, and sign your PDF if desired.

You can do all of those things for free, too. And none of it requires any signup or software download to get started.

Key advantages:

  • Simple, user-friendly interface
  • No signup or installation required
  • Bulk crop pages for perfect formatting
  • Full range of PDF annotating and editing features

You don’t need to worry about privacy or security either. All documents you upload and modify are deleted from Smallpdf’s servers when you’re done, unless you choose to create an account.

How Should You Crop Your PDFs on a Mac?

This may fly in the face of intuition, but for most people, it’s actually faster and easier to crop a PDF on Mac using the Smallpdf Crop tool than your native Mac tools. It requires fewer clicks and zero learning curve, plus you can bulk crop pages if needed.

That said, Macs have their great reputation for a reason. One of those is giving users basic, user-friendly tools for day-to-day needs. So if you just need to crop a one-off PDF page, try your native tools first and see if they work for you.

Or if you want to crop a PDF right now, right here on the screen you’re looking at, why not use this big button to try to Smallpdf Crop tool for free.

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson
Senior Content Writer @Smallpdf