Google Drive has come a long way from being an online-only, document viewer and editor. From managing your files to collaborating on Docs, Drive is a full-functioning office suite. What many people don’t realize is its capability to do far more than only view PDFs.
Drive has some native features that already make it a great PDF tool, but the compatible third-party Drive apps extend its usefulness and functionality. Let’s take a look at ten fantastic ways you can ditch Adobe Acrobat Reader and make Google Drive work for you even better.
Save To Google Drive From Chrome
Google Chrome is an awesome PDF viewer, and Mihir showed us how Chrome’s built-in viewer can do far more than read PDFs, one of which was saving web pages to your computer as PDFs. What you may not know, however, is if you’re logged into Chrome, you can also save to Google Drive.
Click the Printer on the bottom right corner, then instead of printing, click the Change button. Scroll down past Local Destinations to the Google Cloud Print section, where you’ll see Save to Google Drive.
Search Text From PDFs (OCR)
OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology that allows text from images and PDFs to be read and converted into a searchable and editable document. To do this 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.
Export Any Doc To PDF
If you have a doc other than a PDF, which you’d like to convert to PDF, the process is simple. On the opened doc, click File > Download as > PDF Document.
TIP: Sync the file immediately into Google Drive by saving it in the local Google Drive folder. Now you won’t even have to manually upload the file back into Google Drive.
Scan To PDF With The Mobile App
Saving receipts, hand-written notes and other information to the cloud is a convenience of going paperless, especially with Google Drive’s OCR technology. To get started just click the “camera icon” labeled Scan.
The Document Scanner for Google Drive (Android only) is really quite impressive. It automatically detects the edges of the paper and modifies the image to a high contrast to bring out the text. After the picture is taken, you’ll see some editing options in the top right corner. The plus sign “+” in the lower left allows you to put several photos together and upload as a single PDF. Once you’re done, click the “check mark” in the lower right corner and move on to naming and saving the file to a folder in Google Drive.
Google Drive Add-ons
Annotate Files With Notable PDF
Notable PDF is a browser extension and app that turns Chrome into the ultimate PDF reader. With options to highlight, strikethrough, underline, and add comments and text, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more intuitive and comprehensive add-on for Google Drive.
The Premium plan runs for $12/year giving you the ability to work offline, sign PDFs, and split and merge them, among other features. But don’t worry – if you want to sign, split and merge PDFs, and aren’t opposed to using additional extensions, I’ve got some great recommendations.
Fill Out & Sign PDFs
Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer works great for filling out interactive PDFs, but if you have to add check marks, signatures or repetitive information, you may want to look at a service such as HelloSign (shown above) or DocuSign (shown below).
Both have modern interfaces allowing you to find your way around easily, though I will say that HelloSign is much easier in this area. DocuSign and HelloSign 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 3 documents every month for free, where DocuSign allows you to send only three total. Signing (but not sharing) from the services is always free.
Honorable Mention: RightSignature has pretty good reviews and seems to do well too. Two negatives are the slightly dated interface and ease of navigation around the app. However, it is still a great tool worth mentioning.
Fax PDFs with HelloFax
HelloFax — from the same makers as HelloSign — is a service that allows you to send and receive faxes, without a fax machine. It is free, though it has limitations: faxing docs up to 5/month, no ability to email to fax, receive faxes or fax to multiple recipients. If you want any of these things, the cheapest plan is $9.99/mo. However, for sending the occasional fax, it is great.
Merge Multiple PDFs
PDF Mergy is my tool of choice when merging PDFs. It’s simple and it works. If the PDFs are in the same location on Google Drive, select them, right click, hover over “Open with” and click “PDF Mergy”. The files will automatically be imported into the PDF Mergy website. You can also easily move them about, drag and drop more files or select files from Google Drive.
Once you’re satisfied, click the blue “Merge” button. You’ll be prompted to name and save locally or to Google Drive.
Another PDF merging tool is called PDFMerge!, however in addition to its busy interface, it doesn’t integrate very well into Google Drive. Though it will show up in the right click menu upon selecting multiple files, it didn’t readily import them when I clicked it, leaving me slightly confused. Does it still work? Yes, but PDF Mergy beats it with its simplicity.
Use PDFSplit! To Split PDFs
Now that I have just bashed PDFMerge!, I’m going to turn back around and recommend one of its sister tools, PDFSplit! The interface has the same not-so-pretty interface as PDFMerge! and others in the lineup, but the essentials are there and that’s all you can ask. With the PDF open in Google Drive, click “Open with” in the top bar and select PDFSplit!
Once at the PDFSplit! page, you’ll see the file is already there and can enter in which pages you want split from the PDF. You do this several times by clicking the red “+ More” button. Check any of the additional options and click “Split!”
Protect Your PDFs
PDFProtect! allows you to password protect and set restrictions to a PDF. The encryption was so good, that PDFUnlock! couldn’t even crack it… thus I left that tool out of the write-up. PDFProtect! seems to be the only Google Drive add-on with the capability to password protect and encrypt PDFs.
What Google Drive PDF Tools Do You Love?
Google Drive is a powerful tool, part of which is due to its ability to work with third-party software to extend functionality. There are likely some tools I missed, and others I purposely left out because they didn’t perform well. But I’m curious to hear your creative ways of using Google Drive and the tools that accompany your strategies. Which Google Drive PDF tools do you love? Share in the comments below.