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

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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.

Native Features

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.

1.1 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.

1.2 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.

2.1 Search text from PDFs

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.

3.1 Export doc to pdf

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

4.1 scan to PDF (cropped)

Saving receipts, hand-written notes and other information Scan & Manage Your Receipts, Save Space, Paper & Time Scan & Manage Your Receipts, Save Space, Paper & Time Paper receipts are easily lost and hard to find when you need them most. Thankfully, going digital solves both of these problems. Read More to the cloud is a convenience of going paperless 6 Tips To Help You Go Paperless On Android 6 Tips To Help You Go Paperless On Android Your Android phone can help you go paperless, replacing all those pieces of paper with a single device in your pocket and some cloud storage. Read More , especially with Google Drive’s OCR technology. To get started just click the “camera icon” labeled Scan.

4.2 Scan to PDF

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.

4.3 Scan to pdf (cropped)

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.

5.2 Annotate

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

6.1 Sign PDF - Hellosign

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.

6.2 Sign PDF - Docusign

6.3 Sign PDF - Docusign - Home

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.

7 Hellofax

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.

8.1 PDF Mergy right click

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

8.2 PDF Mergy

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!

9.1 PDF Split - Google Drive

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!”

9.2 pdfsplit

Protect Your PDFs

10 PDFProtect

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 7 Really Simple Tips To Manage Your Files And Folders On Google Drive 7 Really Simple Tips To Manage Your Files And Folders On Google Drive There’s a lot you can do with 15GB of free storage. Ultimately, managing it well means knowing how to handle the files and folders you will keep on Google Drive. These tips help. Read More , part of which is due to its ability to work with third-party software to extend functionality 5 Google Drive Add-ons You Need to Use 5 Google Drive Add-ons You Need to Use Google Docs and Google Spreadsheet are both amazing free services, but when you include some of the add-ons listed here, it can breathe new life into these tools. Read More . There are likely some tools I missed 7 Free Online PDF Tools That Could Save You A Lot Of Work 7 Free Online PDF Tools That Could Save You A Lot Of Work The Web is full of awesome little tools that can help you alter PDF files without breaking a sweat. Let's look at lesser known PDF tasks that may come in handy for you. Read More , 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.

Explore more about: Google Drive, PDF, PDF Editor.

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

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  2. Anonymous
    October 13, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    FYI: Another useful app for PDF annotation & collaboration is Xodo (https://xodo.com).

    Its free and without ads!

  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 http://pdfdoc.com to convert PDF to DOC and vise versa.