How to save iMessage conversations as a PDF

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There are several reasons why someone might want a PDF version of an iMessage history, but making one on your own is not entirely straightforward. Here’s what you need to know.

The Messages app hosts texts from iPhone and Android users via iMessage and SMS, respectively. If a personal or legal issue arises that requires proof from these text chats, users may need more than one screenshot.

Searching for “export iMessage” or “iMessage to PDF” on the web will yield dozens of results that usually tell you that you need to download a third-party tool. Since messages contain incredibly private details, it is crucial to find tools that respect users’ privacy.

Most of the tools we researched for the iPhone seemed to take screenshots or videos of the chat and convert them to PDFs. While this method may work, it may introduce privacy risks when handling such private data.

One foolproof method guarantees users’ privacy, but you need a Mac logged in to your personal iCloud to get it done.

Export iMessage and SMS Chat using a Mac

The Messaging app on Mac can sync calls from your iPhone or iPad. This is enabled as an iMessage feature by default, but users can also sync their SMS history to Mac for easy export.

Before exporting your chat, make sure the Messaging app is set up to sync conversations from your other devices.

Setting up iMessage and SMS synchronization

First, make sure iMessage is turned on in Settings on iPhone or iPad. Just open Settings, scroll down to “Messages”, and check that “iMessage” is turned on.

Sync iMessage and SMS texts to your Mac for easy export

Sync iMessage and SMS texts to your Mac for easy export

Second, make sure iCloud syncing is turned on. At the top of the Settings app: tap your name, tap “iCloud,” tap “View All,” tap “Messages,” and then confirm that “Sync this iPhone” is turned on.

Finally, enable SMS text message forwarding to sync non-iMessage texts to other devices. In Settings, scroll down to “Messages”, tap “Text forwarding”, and then select the devices to which you want to sync text messages.

On a Mac, make sure Messages in iCloud is turned on by opening the Messages app settings. Select “iMessage” from the tab bar and select “Enable notifications in iCloud”.

Export the message chat to PDF and Mail

Once the Mac Messages app is able to sync with your other devices, all that’s left is to export the desired conversation. This works for iMessage and SMS chat, just make sure the chat is fully synced to get started.

  1. Open the conversation in Messages to be exported.
  2. Scroll up to sync more of the chat. Conversations with a long chat history will require a lot of scrolling.
  3. Stop scrolling when you have reached the desired date for the chat to be exported or when the history ends.
  4. Select “File” from the menu bar and then “Print.”
  5. Users can print the document from here.
  6. To ensure that the document is preserved, export to PDF or Mail using the options menu at the bottom.

This is the most secure method of compiling a message history into a PDF or a printed document. There are third-party tools available online, but we encourage users to avoid using them and stick to the official Apple-created method.

Pictures are not included when you use the print option in Messaging. Instead, black boxes are placed where images would be displayed. However, users can download all the pictures from a chat in chronological order from the chat information window.

Get all the pictures from a chat using the info window

Get all the pictures from a chat using the info window

To get the chat pictures, simply select the “i” icon at the top right of the chat window. Scroll down and select the images using the “Shift + Click” method. Once all the images are selected, just drag them into the Finder.

This collection of images and text can be paired with timestamps from the images by using “get info” in the Finder to confirm where they should appear in the chat. While this can be a time consuming way to export a conversation, it is the safest.

Export messages from iPhone, iPad

There are apps that promise to export a Messages conversation to PDF on iPhone or iPad, but we encourage people to use a Mac if possible. If there is no Mac available, look for a screen capture tool like Picsew that does not collect personal data.

The Picsew Stitching app can turn a screenshot into a screenshot

The Picsew Stitching app can turn a screenshot into a screenshot

For example, Picsew can use screenshots to create a PDF. Just start a screenshot from Control Center and scroll up in an iMessage conversation. Make sure the chat has already been scrolled to the oldest date required for printing to prevent sync errors in the video, record and then scroll.

The saved recording can then be opened in Picsew and saved as a single stitched image of the conversation. Use the Save button in the upper right corner to select “Share PDF” to save the PDF to File, Mail or another location.

Picsew is a powerful tool that can be used to quickly create a large PDF image of a Messages chat. This tool is faster than using the Mac method, but it relies on a third-party tool that uses an algorithm to sew images. Although we trust the privacy policy of this app and expect a user’s data to be stored securely and on the device, users will have to make their own decision.

Talk to your lawyer if necessary

For legal issues, make sure the tool you are using is sufficient for a legal burden of proof. Our suggestion to you is, talk to your lawyer about what they and the court expect, and then move on.


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