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I'm getting into bookbinding, and I'd like to make my own sewn signatures, but I'm having problems with finding a good way to use my computer and printer to print out pages so that I can simply fold them in half and sew them into book signatures. With double-sided printing, this often requires that pages be rotated between the front/back pages on the leaf, and that pages be printed in a stair-step order, so that 1 and 16 are side by side, 2 and 15, and so on and so on, if I'm making four-sheet signatures of 16 pages, folded and sewn down the middle.

Is there any way to get my computer/printer to print out pages for single-fold and double-fold signatures easily? I have a laser printer that can handle duplex printing, and I do have the full Pro version of Acrobat, and an InDesign license, but it's an old one, and I don't have any imposition plug-ins.

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  • Are you not just asking for booklet print which indesign and even current adobe reader do? – Matt May 24 '16 at 1:51
  • Singatures seem too vague a tag. I could see people using this for signing their artwork or some other not related topic. A wiki excerpt won't even fix that. I removed it for now. – Matt May 24 '16 at 2:12
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I looked into this years ago when I was printing out some books to test my leather binding skills. Back then you likely would have used dedicated software to perform this function.

Software has changed since then and Adobe Reader DC does this as well as InDesign from what I gather. Depending on your Acrobat version it should be able to do this well. In short form: the instructions from Adobe Reader DC

  1. In the printer dialog select Booklet. This is found under Page Sizing and handling.

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  1. In the Booklet Subset pop-up menu select "Both sides" if you have duplex printer.

  2. Leave the numbers in the Sheets From boxes as they are.

  3. Select Auto-Rotate Pages to automatically rotate each page for the best fit in the printable area.

InDesign has instructions to do this as well. That link is for CS6 and other versions might have similar UI or more specific instructions sets. The Indesign wizard for booklets is more in depth than Reader DC's and covers topic like bleeding, page spacing, magins etc.


Another possible solution is that many modern enterprise copy machines do this natively with their drivers. A place like a copy center likely would do it on the cheap. My old Ricoh at work does this function. It is about 6 years old now and was not top of the line at the time. This might be cheaper depending on your ink/toner costs and size of the book you are making

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  • Assuming I know what you are asking for this should be the answer. If not it can just be deleted. – Matt May 24 '16 at 2:11
  • I'm on OSX, and all my software's apparently too old to have these options. :) But I don't think there's any need to delete. It's still a useful answer for anyone coming along later. – inkista May 24 '16 at 2:54
  • Matt, which version of OS X? I might be able to poke around on my machine for you. I still use one that runs Snow Leopard (10.6) and Acrobat Pro 5.1 on occasion. Editing to add: I know I've done this booklet thing before using a much much older Mac, probably even before OS X! – Kellerra May 24 '16 at 6:19
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If you have a LaTeX distribution on your computer and are not afraid of using a terminal the programme pdfjam is quite handy for creating booklets from PDF files. You can choose the signature size and get as output a pdf file containing all pages ordered in a way so that when printed contains the pages for all the signatures.

More information about this tool can be found via the following link: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/statistics/staff/academic-research/firth/software/pdfjam/

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  • "November 2019: pdfjam has relocated to a new home, on GitHub: github.com/DavidFirth/pdfjam" – vitaly Jan 23 at 19:43
  • Specifically, pdfbook and pdfbook2 scripts from pdfjam-extras are designed for the task. I ended up using: pdfbook2 --paper=letterpaper --signature=32 -n my.pdf – vitaly Jan 24 at 18:27
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Assuming you have (or can export) pdf format, pdftk (server) is designed for generic pdf page manipulation. It's a commandline tool and for what you want you mainly need to feed it a list of page numbers, as shown here. You could easily script the page number sequencing (I'd use python) for large numbers of pages, though I'm sure this has been done before (but I can't find it at the moment).

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