How to Edit PDF in Google Docs without Losing Formatting: Step-by-Step Guide

Rosa Reyes
time September 08, 2022 Preview 3.9K
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Provided by Google within its Google Drive service, Google Docs is a great word processor, allowing online creation and editing of files and real-time collaboration of multiple users. But can we edit PDF in Google Docs? Is it also possible to edit a scanned PDF in it? How can we edit PDF in Google Docs? What are some tips for it? Find out here.

Can We Edit A PDF document in Google Docs?


Google Docs supports a number of file types and formats, but PDF is not one of them. The good news is you can still edit PDF in Google Docs. Thanks to its OCR function, you can also edit a scanned document in this web app. To get started, upload a PDF to Google Drive and then open it with Google Docs, which will automatically convert PDF to Word. Now you are able to edit the content and then download it as PDF or other formats you may need. You can’t edit PDF directly in Google Docs. So, the more accurate answer to this question is yes and no.

Google Docs is not designed for PDF editing after all, so you may be wondering if it’s a decent PDF editor. Just read on, please.

Instructions: How to Edit PDF in Google Docs

Here we will first walk you through how to edit PDF in Google Docs.

  • Step 1. How do I import a PDF to Google Docs? It’s simple. Go to Sign in using your Google account.
  • Step 2. Click the folder icon. Select Upload and select a PDF from your computer. You can also import file by dragging and dropping.import PDF to Google Docs for editing
  • Step 3. The file will be uploaded to Google Drive. Click Open with and select Google PDF with Google Docs
  • Step 4. Google Docs will convert PDF to Word and open the file. You can edit the content as you like. For example, add or delete text, insert image or table, change font, adjust layout, edited PDF from Google Docs

  • Step 5. When the editing is done, click File > Download as > PDF Document (.pdf).

On Android devices, iPhone and iPad

You can follow the steps above if you want to edit PDF in Google Docs on your PC or Mac. As for mobile devices such as iPhone, there are mobile apps. Although you are able to import and view PDF on on your phone by changing mobile browser to desktop mode, you are not allowed to edit the file this way. Google will ask you to download the mobile app. This is the only way to edit PDF in Google Docs/Drive on Android and iOS devices.

Pros and Cons of Editing A PDF in Google Docs


  1. Free and easy to use
  2. Cross-platform, available as web-based app and mobile app
  3. Convert PDF to Word for you to edit
  4. Provide a bunch of editing features
  5. Allow you to download the edited content as PDF
  6. Can also deal with scanned or image-based PDFs


  1. Can’t open password-protected PDF files even if you know the password
  2. Can’t perform editing on the original PDF
  3. The original formatting and images won’t be retained.
  4. May fail when handling large-sized scanned PDFs

When you edit PDF in Google Docs, you can expect different performance and result with different types of PDF files. It performs best with PDFs, including the scanned or image-based ones, that only contain text content. The simpler the PDF, the less trouble Google Docs will have converting it properly. This online word processor doesn’t have problem keeping font colors and styles such as bold, but it does a terrible job of retaining images, tables, lists, etc.

Below is an example. The source PDF is image-based and contains only text. Google Docs successfully recognizes the text and converts it with high accuracy.

sample scanned PDF

Fig.1 – the source PDF

after conversion to Word

Fig.2 – converted and ready to be edited in Google Docs

A guide (posted in 2017) to Google Docs points out that the maximum size for PDF is 2 MB. Well, this is not true anymore in 2019. In our test, Google Docs had no problem dealing with a 20 MB native PDF and a 5.8 MB scanned PDF, but it failed with a larger scanned document which was 15.9 MB in size.

Google Docs’ performance varies when it edits PDF documents, which has something to do with the source documents. Here are a few things you can follow to get the best editing results.

  • The font size in your PDF should be at least in 7.5pt to get high accuracy.
  • The orientation of the characters in the document also matters. Make sure the pages are right side up.
  • If the PDF pages look dark or blurry, the result won’t be so good. You can try to improve by increasing contrast or reducing pixel noise.
  • Turn to professional software for help if the PDF has complicated formatting, scanned and big in size, or you are after high quality editing, among other situations.

How to Edit A PDF in Google Docs without Losing Formatting

Now that we know editing PDFs in Google Docs will lose the original formatting, then how can we edit a PDF document without losing formatting? Here are 2 solutions.

#1 Cisdem PDF Converter OCR

If you have tried to edit PDF in Google Docs online but are not satisfied with the result, Cisdem PDF Converter OCR can be a better choice. It is designed to make your PDF editable in Word, Text, PowerPoint, Pages, Keynote or other formats, so you can load the files to different apps without formatting issue and further edit the file.


  1. Make any PDF into instantly editable Word, Excel, PowerPoint, text, etc.
  2. Cheap and easy to use
  3. Powerful with OCR function and various supported formats
  4. Keep the original formatting, layout, font, hyperlinks, etc.
  5. Create PDF from World, PowerPoint, images, etc.
  6. Also provide features like image OCR, PDF combining & splitting, etc.

Here is how to edit a PDF in Google Docs without losing formatting:

  1. To get started, download and install Cisdem PDF Converter OCR on your computer. Drag a PDF into this app.
    Free Download   Free Download
  2. Choose DOCX as the output format.edit pdf in google docs 02
  3. Click the settings button to choose a priority: text or layout. If you want to maintain the original layout, check before Text layout priority.make PDF editable
  4. Click Convert to export PDF as Google Docs Docx format.
  5. Now you are able to perform editing Google Docs and won’t lose formatting.

#2 Adobe Acrobat

Developed by Adobe, Acrobat comes in two editions: Standard (Windows only) and Pro (Windows & Mac). Both editions offer PDF editing features, with the latter being more powerful and expensive.

Unlike Google Docs, Acrobat is a paid app and is costly. But it is far more powerful when it comes to PDF editing and other PDF related tasks. You can’t edit PDF in Google Docs offline, but this solution can work perfectly without Internet connection. With this tool, there is no need to edit a PDF document in Google Docs that lead to formatting issue.


  1. Allow you to edit text and images in PDF
  2. Transform PDF to editable Word, Excel, etc.
  3. Also transform PDF to image
  4. Offer other features such as PDF creating, merging, splitting, signing, etc.


  1. Expensive

Here is how to edit a PDF without losing quality in Adobe:

  1. Download and install Adobe Acrobat on your Mac or Windows PC.
  2. Open PDF in Adobe Acrobat.
  3. Go to Tools>Edit PDF, select the texts you want to edit.edit pdf in adobe
  4. Click Save button to keep the changes.


If you want to edit PDF for free, Google Docs can be one of the best choices as it’s easy and reliable to use. But when you edit PDF in Google Docs, you can only get decent results with certain types of PDFs such as PDFs that only contain text or the ones with very simple formatting. If your work involves PDF editing and manipulation, you can consider professional paid software such as Cisdem PDF Converter OCR or Acrobat. Most PDF editing software tools come with versatile features and can also help with other PDF tasks.

Rosa Reyes
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Rosa has worked in Mac software industry for more than eight years. She believes that the purpose of software is to make life better and work more productively. In addition to writing, Rosa is also an avid runner.

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