10 Tips to Do More With Your PDF Files on Google Drive

Simon Batt Updated 29-08-2019

Google Drive has come a long way from being an online-only, document viewer, and editor. Drive has some native features that make it an excellent PDF tool, but its compatible third-party Drive apps extend its usefulness and functionality.


Let’s take a look at ten fantastic ways you can make Google Drive work for you.

Fortunately, Google Drive comes equipped with some fantastic features to handle PDF management. Before you look for any addons for Google Drive PDF editing, double-check to see if it’s not already a feature.

1. Save to Google Drive From Chrome

Converting a document into a PDF

While Chrome is a fantastic PDF viewer, it can also save PDFs to your Google Drive. You don’t even need to open Drive; the PDF viewer handles everything.

To do this, we need to take a unique path. Open the file in the Google Drive PDF viewer, then look at the top of the page where the additional controls are. If you don’t see the controls, move your mouse to the top of the page.


While you may be tempted to click the download button, don’t; instead, click the Print button. Under the Destination category, select Save to Google Drive. Then, click Print.

Chrome will upload your PDF to your Google Drive. It may take a little while to upload larger files, so don’t try to close out of the prompt if it appears to freeze up. Don’t worry; you won’t print out the document.

2. Search With Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

10 Tips to Do More With Your PDF Files on Google Drive Drive PDF OCR

OCR is a technology that takes text from images and PDFs and converts them into a searchable and editable document.


To use OCR in Google Drive, right-click on a PDF, then Open with > Google Docs. Once you have opened it in Google Docs format, save it again, and you’ll have your searchable doc.

3. Export Any Document to a PDF File

Converting a document into a PDF

If you have a Google Doc which you’d like to convert to PDF, open up the document in Docs. Once it’s open, click File > Download > PDF Document.

4. Scan Documents Into a PDF With the Mobile App

Google Drive's scan option for uploading PDFs


Saving physical information to the cloud is a great benefit of going paperless, especially with Google Drive’s OCR technology. If you need to backup receipts or important documents, you can take a photo of it and automatically convert it into a PDF file.

To get started, download and open the Drive app. Then, tap on the Plus icon that appears above the controls. In the pop-up that appears, tap Scan. Take a photograph of what you want to scan, and Drive will automatically convert it into a PDF file.

After you take the picture, you’ll see some editing options in the top right corner. The plus sign at the lower left allows you to put several photos together and upload as a single PDF. When you’re happy with the image, tap the checkmark in the lower right corner to name, and save the document to Google Drive.

If scanning documents to create digital backups sounds like a fantastic idea, be sure also to check out ZipScan which can scan your documents in seconds.


Download: Google Drive for Android (Free)

5. Annotate PDF Files With Google Drive Comments

Annotating a PDF using Google Drive

Google recently added the ability to highlight PDFs in Google Drive natively. When you’re looking at a PDF in Drive, click the Add a Comment icon at the top left. It looks like a speech bubble with a plus icon in it.

Then, highlight the area where you want to comment. You can drag a highlight box across what you want to annotate, then type a comment in the box that appears.

These comments carry over if you save the PDF file to your desktop, which is excellent for showing other people what you annotated.

6. Add, Delete, and Reorder Pages With DocHub

DocHub's page panel for editing PDFs

If you want to add or remove specific pages in a PDF file, you can do this with DocHub. This addon features many excellent features, but not many extensions allow you to edit the pages directly.

If this sounds interesting to you, go to the DocHub website and sign in with the Google account you want it to access. Once you’ve added DocHub to Google Drive, right-click a PDF file in Google Drive and select Open With > DocHub.

Once the document is open, click the button at the top-left that looks like a 3×3 grid of boxes. This button opens the page manager sidebar. You can drag pages around in this sidebar to manage them, or use the buttons underneath to add and delete files.

7. Fill Out and Sign PDFs With HelloSign or DocuSign

Signing a PDF document

Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer works great for filling out interactive PDFs, but if you have to add checkmarks, signatures or repetitive information, you may want to look at a service such as HelloSign (shown above) or DocuSign.

Both have modern interfaces allowing you to find your way around quickly, and also allow you to draw or import a picture of your signature.

The free accounts are very similar too. If you’re going to be collaborating and sharing a lot of PDFs, you may want to consider a premium account. HelloSign allows you to send three documents every month for free, where DocuSign only lets you send a total of three. Signing (but not sharing) from the services are always free.

Download: HelloSign (Free with premium options)
Download: DocuSign (Free with premium options)

8. Merge Multiple PDFs With PDF Mergy

Merging two PDFs together with PDF Mergy

If you want to learn how to merge PDF files in Google Drive, PDF Mergy has all the answers. It’s easy to use and provides excellent results.

To combine PDFs in Google Drive, install PDF Mergy. Once installed, select all the PDF files you want to merge. You can select multiple files in Google Drive by holding down the CTRL button and clicking on each.

Once you’ve selected all the files you want to combine, right-click, hover over Open With, and click PDF Mergy. The files will appear on the PDF Mergy website.

Once you’re satisfied with the file selection, click the blue “Merge” button. You’ll be prompted to name and save locally or to Google Drive.

Download: PDF Mergy (Free)

9. Separate Documents Into Pages With Split PDF

Splitting a PDF with Split PDF

If you want to split one PDF into a file per page, try Split PDF. The name gives away its primary function, but it does contain some additional features which make it a useful PDF editing suite.

If you want to split a PDF, do note that Split PDF comes with a few restrictions. You can split documents without an account, or you can create a free account to split more. Free accounts can only split so many documents a day, while premium members can split as much as they like. Premium plans are $2.99 a month, or $47 for two years.

To split a PDF, download and install the extension. Click the extension button on your browser, and you’ll see a PDF upload page.

Select the Drive icon to upload via Drive, and upload your PDF file. Wait for Split PDF to process it. Once done, click the Split button at the bottom right.

Once it’s done splitting, you’ll receive a zipped folder containing every page of the PDF as an individual PDF file.

Download: Split PDF (Free with premium option)

10. Save Storage Space With SmallPDF

The results of a file compression with Compress PDF

Large PDF files can take up a lot of your limited Google Drive space. If you want to make more room on your Drive, SmallPDF can help squash your PDF file sizes down. Of course, there is plenty of fantastic file compression and extraction software The Top 3 File Compression & Extraction Softwares Need to compress a large file? There's no shortage of file compression and archiving apps for Windows. But which file zipper is best for you? Here are our three top picks. Read More available already, but doing it inside of your browser is very convenient.

To use it, download and install the extension. Open the app, then click From Google Drive on the upload screen. Select the PDF you want to compress, then click Select.

SmallPDF will offer you a premium option to compress your PDF to a further degree, but the regular compression works very well. In fact, during testing, SmallPDF squashed an 8MB PDF file into an 800KB one.

Download: PDF Compressor (Free with premium option)

Getting the Most Out of PDFs

Google Drive has fantastic PDF support built into it. Even if you do find something it can’t do, someone has created an addon that handles it. As such, Google Drive is a great way to manage and edit all your PDF files.

If you fancy upgrading your computer’s PDF reader, be sure to try the best PDF readers for Windows The 6 Best PDF Readers for Windows in 2019 The best PDF readers don't cost any money. Read our roundup of feature-rich PDF viewers that out perform even Adobe Reader. Read More .

Related topics: Google Docs, Google Drive, PDF, PDF Editor.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Behealthiers.Com
    March 10, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    You can invite a collaborator into any of your notes, as long as you enable sharing in the settings.

  2. K K V Rayalu
    February 3, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    font is not recogonised
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  3. Anonymous
    September 16, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Nice piece ! I loved the insight , Does someone know if my company would be able to grab a template 2010 Canada IMM 0008 document to fill out ?

  4. Anonymous
    September 1, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Have you ever seen a PDF file that consist of table of content with several items which can go directly to that content by just clicking on that subject.
    How to make such a like this file in PDF?how to make it
    Great thanks

  5. Anonymous
    July 16, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    I'm looking into using a google product to edit/annotate pdf documents in real-time with up to 5 other viewers. Can anybody recommend to right product?

  6. Tijl Jappens
    March 31, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Is there a google drive pdf viewer that can read incripted .mp4 files, or .gif files like files constructed with latex's media9 package or with adobe acrobat pro? This would be useful for giving presentations on other computers that dont have the right flash player version installed etc.

  7. Megan
    March 31, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Hi, I'd like to know how to increase the chances of one of my documents on google drive appearing when someone searches the topic/article on google. I've already changed the setting to make it viewable by public (I think so anyway).

  8. Nick
    March 30, 2015 at 5:42 am

    When I open a pdf with google docs only part of the file is opened. For example, the last time I tried only 13 pages of a 17 page paper opened up. Do you know if there is a size limit involved in the conversion?

  9. Stefan
    March 22, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Google drive does not indexin pdf files any more?

    Do I'm right? I have to convert a pdf to google doc then I can search a fuigure or a text.

    Is there any other option to keep PDF files only on google drive for searching, without converting into googe doc?


  10. Joseph
    March 12, 2015 at 2:28 am

    Hello, Great article! Using google drive via google nexus 5, I cannot navigate a PDF file by entering page number. Before the lollipop update, I could easily search by page number and not tediously scroll up hundreds of pages, like I do now. Does the google doc app have a page number entry when viewing PDF files ? Cause I can't find it and scrolling slows down my phone .

  11. Ron
    March 5, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Couple of ways to scan a file to Google Drive
    I have a little utility scan on my desktop called NAPS2 Scan. Was either cheap or free. Lets me scan either to a pdf file or a jpeg file for instance. and works with my normal printers with scan. I made a folder on my desktop and called it Scans. Save to this folder. On my desktop I also have the Drive icon. I just drag the pdf from the Scans folder over to the Drive icon, and there it is in Drice. Could also open drive and just paste.
    On my ippad I have an app called Scanner Pro - by Readdle. Using the camera Scanner Pro scans the page to a pdf file and does a good job, and then you can save to Google Drive.

  12. Deborah S
    February 25, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Hi there,

    I am looking for an embeddable pdf viewer to work with multiple browsers for my Wix website that has google drive underpinnings for all the data. Google drive used to support pdf viewing via their "google drive" widget. But this method but no longer works (as of sometime in the fall 2014 - they say the API changed (?) - and only "google docs/google sheets" (a.k.a "supported" google drive formats ) are directly viewable.

    Is there an embeddable widget that works for multiple browsers that I could use to make a pdf directly viewable? Any help or pointers would be appreciated. I just may be missing the boat trying to solve this issue.


  13. Ken Yub
    February 17, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I used to be able to convert scanned PDFs to editable text using Google Drive, now Google Drive removed its OCR feature for scanned PDF documents. It can only convert text-based PDFs to editable text. It's so frustrating.

  14. henry
    February 1, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Thanks Aaron, I agree there is a lot of space for them to put this data.

    The "x or x items" appears to only display when you click on the PDF from within Drive. When you get the PDF via direct link that doesn't display. We attach PDF's via Drive from 3rd party apps which is why we use direct links a lot.

    What is even more frustrating, we will save a PDF to a shared folder and click "Email Collaborators..." this generates an email to everyone on the shared folder via Gmail.... the users click on the link from Gmail to view the document (again direct link viewing) and we still have no idea where this document is stored despite that fact that it is already located everyone's "My Drive" - the "x or x items" does not show up either.

  15. henry
    January 28, 2015 at 5:35 am

    One of the most frustrating things about the new Drive PDF viewer is you can't see the file location or move the file location. For example, in a Sheet or Doc you can click the folder icon and navigate to the location in Drive or click Organize to move it to a new location. 6-8 months ago you could do the same with PDFs but not anymore... You can't even see the file location.

    When you are in Drive it is easy enough to click out of the viewer to move the file or see the directory ect but when you click on a direct link to the PDF you can't do that and have no idea where the original PDF is located.

    Happens to us all the time... "Hey Jim take a look at this PDF - John (attached via google drive from a shared folder we both have added to our My Drive and we are collaborating on)

    When you click on the Gmail link I see the PDF but have no idea where it is in My Drive because there is no information about it - If Jim and I have multiple shared folders we work in this is valuable information. Maybe I want to see other files in that folder that contains THIS pdf.... Nope that isn't possible. Instead I have to leave my email, go to Drive search the file name find it in my own. Hopefully there are not similar versions with the same file name or same file name but in different directories...

    I've submitted feature request for this from the 'Feedback' link in the PDF viewer but the feature has yet to come back... Surely I am not the only one that needs this.

    • Aaron Couch
      January 31, 2015 at 4:08 am

      That is a great point, Henry. I never noticed that Google Drive doesn't provide that info. And there is even plenty of space under "Details" – where you think it'd be.

      But what about clicking the "x of x items" button in the lower left corner? That displays other files within that same folder. Does that work for you when viewing a shared doc/folder?

  16. Chris
    January 25, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    In Google Drive I used to be able to highlight text in PDF documents that originated from an uploaded scan. Since at least a year or so I can't. I've google for this problem, but it appears I'm the only one which probably isn't the case. Hoped finding an answer in this article, but unforunately I haven't.

    • Aaron Couch
      January 28, 2015 at 3:30 am

      Hi Chris,

      Well for one, Notable PDF, which I included, can annotate (including highlighting) PDFs. So that's what you could do.

      Another option might be to convert the PDF to a Google Docs format and highlight the text that way.

      Let me know if this helps!

    • Aaron Couch
      January 28, 2015 at 3:32 am

      Hi Chris,

      Well for one, Notable PDF, which I included, can annotate (including highlighting) PDFs. So that's what you could do.

      Another option might be to convert the PDF to a Google Docs format and highlight the text that way.

      Let me know if this helps!

    • Aaron Couch
      January 28, 2015 at 3:36 am

      Hi Chris,

      Well for one, Notable PDF, which I included, can annotate (including highlighting) PDFs. So that's what you could do.

      Another option might be to convert the PDF to a Google Docs format and highlight the text that way.

      Let me know if this helps!

    • Chris
      January 28, 2015 at 8:28 am

      Thanks Aaron for the tip. Actually I meant selecting text. Not highlighting. Reason that it would be too much of a workaround, because I scan a few letters on a daily basis. What I do is scan it, my scanner auto-uploads to Drive, then I rename it to:
      [company name] - [subject of the letter] - [date]. Now, the subject is what I would select in the scanned letter and paste in the middle part of the name of the document. This has to go without too many clicks, you see?

    • Aaron Couch
      January 31, 2015 at 4:00 am

      I don't have any trouble copying text from a PDF in Google Docs, Chris.

      Have you tried the keyboard shortcut CTRL+C to copy instead of a right click?

      Or are you trying to do something else and I'm not following?

    • Chris
      February 2, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      There's a difference between a scanned filed that became a PDF or a textual PDF. From the latter I can select text too. From the first I can't.

      So, I'm talking about a piece of paper that you scanned and uploaded as a PDF to Google drive. You can select text from those type of PDFs?

  17. Nagabhushanam
    January 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks a ton.... !!!! ....Most useful info....!!!!

    • Aaron Couch
      January 28, 2015 at 3:24 am

      You're very welcome. I thanks for reading – I appreciate it!

  18. Rwood
    January 22, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    I've been using google drive and saving documents as pdf for awhile. Today, I went to the new drive and now when I click on file, save as pdf-nothing happens. No prompt saying it cannot be completed but also, not the typical option to proceed with the save. I've done a lot of google searching to figure it out but everything is outdated. You have the newest info I can find on it. Any ideas? I am not going back and forth between the new and old drive so I don't know why the option is to save as pdf if it will not happen when I make that selection from the dropdown menu. Help!

    • Aaron Couch
      January 28, 2015 at 3:24 am

      Very odd problem and sorry for the late reply!

      Has your problem been resolved? I don't see why it would be different for you than any other Google Drive user.

      Perhaps you might consider clearing your browser cache and logging back into Google to see if that helps at all.

      Keep me posted on what happens and if that helped!

  19. Rodolfo
    January 21, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    The tips didn't work for me. The pdf saved to Gdoc continues to be an image file and cannot be edited.

    • Aaron Couch
      January 21, 2015 at 10:07 pm


      Can you provide more info as to how you're importing the PDF into Google Drive?

  20. Stan Skrabut
    January 20, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Not necessarily a Google tool, but one of my favorite PDF tools is PDFSAM (PDF Split and Merge). It has saved me hours of work.

  21. Abul
    January 20, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Thank U make use of...gr8 info.
    Dumped Adobe Reader

    • Aaron Couch
      January 28, 2015 at 3:30 am

      Good to hear, Abul! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  22. Napier
    January 20, 2015 at 10:27 am

    How about tools to extract data from a PDF file to a .doc file or spreadsheet?

    • Aaron Couch
      January 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      You can convert a PDF to "Google Docs format" which is in a .doc, but I think extracting data from a PDF into a spreadsheet is a whole other level. Not aware of anything like that at this time, but if I do find anything, I'll let you know.

  23. Scarlet
    January 19, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Try to convert PDF to DOC and vise versa.