How to print 5½″×8½″ pages in booklet format using 8½″×11″ paper

Among my other activities, I’m the editor of the Local Post Collectors Society’s bimonthly journal, The Poster. In addition to writing and editing material, the job also involves layout of the journal. Until early this year, we were using an 8½″×11″ page size, but switching to a 5½″×8½″ page size seemed appealing based on the amount of content that goes into each issue.

We use Scribus for laying out The Poster, so setting the page size to what I wanted was simple enough: create a new document, change the Default Unit from points to inches, and then enter the appropriate values in the Width and Height boxes. I began setting up a test issue and soon had several pages ready to go.

Although designing using a half-page format, my goal all along was to print two pages per side of a letter-sized sheet of paper. I knew that the first and last pages would need to be on one sheet, the second and next to last pages on a second sheet, and so forth. My printer (an HP Officejet Pro 8100) has duplexing capabilities; what I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have the software to make things happen.

This is an explanation of how I finally got the half-page formatted example of The Poster ready to print. It’s entirely possible that in your role as an IT professional, someone may ask you at some point how to do something exactly this.


My initial thought was that I should be able to do the combining of pages and preparation of the final PDF in Scribus itself. After all, it’s a desktop publishing tool, right? It should be able to handle this kind of task, right?

Wrong. Although Scribus is a really nice open-source (free) tool that can do a lot of things, it can’t combine pages onto a single sheet of paper while exporting a PDF, and it doesn’t reorder pages in preparation for duplex printing, either. I would have to find a different option.

Adobe Reader

My next thought was the print dialog in Adobe Reader. Under the “Page Sizing & Handling” section, if you click the “Multiple” button, you can specify how many pages you want on to print on each side of a sheet of paper. Okay, so maybe I would have to manually arrange my pages in Scribus so that they could print in the correct order in Adobe Reader, but being able to print multiple pages on a sheet should solve my problem, right?

Wrong again. Although I probably could have made this work on some level, Adobe Reader helpfully pads the margins of sheets printed in this manner, meaning my careful page layouts would be shrunk. I tried it out, and the result was not visually pleasing. Additional research revealed that there’s no way to change that padding behavior, so once again, I had to look for a different option.


I spent quite a while searching the Web, and one name kept popping up: PsUtils. Once I determined that the software already installed on my computer wasn’t going to accomplish what I wanted, I downloaded and installed PsUtils for Windows. To save myself the trouble of having to type out the full paths of the various pieces of software included in that package every time I wanted to use them, I added this to the Path environment variable in Windows:

C:\Program Files (x86)\GnuWin32\bin

I finally had the right tools, but how was I supposed to use them? That required some additional searching and experimentation, but I eventually came up with the following commands to enter at a command prompt:

  • pdf2ps "Source document.pdf" (converts my PDF to a PS file)
  • psbook (reorders the pages in the PS file so that they are in the correct order for booklet printing)
  • pstops "2:0L@1(8.5in,0in)+1L@1(8.5in,5.5in)" (the syntax will make your eyes cross, but this changes page orientation to landscape and arranges two pages on each sheet)
  • ps2pdf (converts the PS file back to PDF format)

I was nearly done at this point, but there was one final hurdle I had to clear. When I tried to print the PDF using Adobe Reader, Reader was extremely slow about sending the first page to my printer, and eventually gave up completely. I then tried opening the PDF in Google Chrome, and it printed the entire file with no complaints. Your mileage may vary, but that’s something to keep in mind.