Google Drive OCR: OCR Scan, PDF, Image in Google Drive

Jose Henline
June 09, 2023 Preview 37.0K Preview 1
share it facebook share it Twitter

Scanning papers into digital documents plays an essential part to build an environment-friendly workplace. But there arose the issue to deal with scanned documents for editing. Luckily, Google has OCR tool that allows us to OCR scans in Google Drive/Docs. 

In this article, we will reveal all the facts about OCR in Google Drive, and offer the tutorial on how to OCR scan, PDF or image in Google Drive. Also, there are solutions available if Google Drive OCR not working for you.

What is Google OCR/Google Drive OCR/Google Docs OCR?

What is Google OCR? The answer will begin with brief information about what is OCR.

OCR, the short term of Optical Character Recognition, refers to mechanical or electronic conversion of image-based files into machine-encoded text.

Google Drive, is the free cloud storage service offered by Google to store and share photos, videos, files and others in the cloud. It is more like your flash drive or disk to store files, but located in the cloud.

Google Docs, is the online platform in Google Drive helping users to manage files online, users can open, view, edit, share and sync the files in Google Docs. When dealing with scanned PDF or images, Google Docs will perform OCR on the files to make them editable and searchable. 

So, Google OCR, is also called as Google Drive OCR or Google Docs OCR, refers to OCR processed by Google Docs, the web-based office suite program in Google Drive, where Google allows users to store and synch files, helping users convert image-based files to editable formats. 

While, the Google OCR Tesseract, is an open-source OCR engine sponsored by Google, and it is believed that the Google Drive/Docs OCR uses Google Tesseract to offer online OCR services.

Notes: Also, there is Google Cloud Vision OCR, it is API offering pre-trained machine learning models to detect objects, faces, read printed and handwritten text from images, it is for developers. For general users like us, it is easier for us to use Google Drive OCR on our PDFs and images.

Google Drive OCR Review: Facts, Pros, Cons

In the following part, we will have a unbiased review of Google Drive OCR, basing on our studies and tests.

1. Is Google Drive OCR Free/Open Source?

Yes, it is free and open-source.

Unlike other online OCR services, Google Drive OCR provides 100% free services, no matter how many files and how many pages you want to perform OCR in Google Drive, unless you have reach the storage limit of its free Google Drive service, you will need to pay to get more storage space for your scanned files. However, this rarely happens.

Even its API, the Google Tesseract is widely used by software developers as open source to create their owns.

2. What Format Does Google OCR Support?

Input---Scanned PDF, Images (JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP), Handwriting files.

Output---DOCX, ODT, RTF, PDF, TXT, HTML, ePub 

3. How Many Languages Can Google OCR Recognize?

Google Drive OCR supports reading more than 15 language, including English, Chinese, Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Arabic, etc. 

But according to users, the accuracy on different languages differs. If you are doing OCR on a English file with Google OCR, the accuracy is highly guaranteed and there is no need to manually adjust heavily, but if you are working on Chinese or Japanese, the accuracy is relatively lower and you will need to double check the OCR results carefully.

4. Can Google Drive OCR Handwriting Files?

Yes, Google Drive OCR supports handwriting files. However, it seems that improvements on performing OCR in Google Drive are needed.

I uploaded a handwritten file onto Google drive and open with Google Docs, the OCR result is displayed as following:

google ocr handwriting

As you can see, though Google Drive OCR can recognize most of the words, it puts them in the wrong place and there is no formatting retained. To use Google Drive OCR on handwritten files to your benefit, there are some tips:

  • Make the handwritten files flat and clean
  • Make sure the handwritten files are neatly lettered

5. Google Drive OCR Pros and Cons

Google OCR is the safest online free OCR service protecting our files saved in Google account. It allows users to edit the scanned documents after OCR, also exports as different output formats. However, you will notice that it doesn’t do as excellently as other desktop OCR programs on formatting preserving, there are incorrect headline fonts, blank tables, discontinued sentences, big gaps between paragraphs, etc.

google ocr cons

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Google Drive OCR basing on our testing.


  1. Free to use
  2. Safe to use
  3. Export files as several different formats
  4. Allow editing the files after Google Docs OCR
  5. Allow share and sync files easily


  1. Take time to process OCR especially the file is large
  2. Conversion quality is unstable, depending on original file
  3. Manual editing is required because the original image-based file and the editable texts after OCR process are both saved in the Google Docs
  4. Original formatting and layout cannot be kept
  5. No batch OCR

6. Tips for Accurate Google OCR

To yield the best OCR result in Google Drive, Google has givens its users some tips:

  • Save the scans in PDF, JPG, PNG or GIF format
  • Keep the file size smaller than 2MB
  • Make the scanned files in good resolution and quality: sharp and clean
  • Documents should be right-side up in correct orientation
  • Text on the scans should be in common font
  • Start over the OCR processing to check if anything improves

How to Use Google Drive OCR?

Before the step-to-step tutorial about Google OCR, you will need to go to Google Sign-up Page to create a Google Account. Once you have become a Google user, let’s get start with the following 3 tutorials to use OCR both PDF and Image in Google Drive.

#1 Steps to OCR Scan in Google Drive

  1. Use the camera on your mobile phone or computer to capture the document and save it in PDF or JPG/PNG/GIF format.
  2. Save the scans on your computer, go to, log in.go to google drive
  3. Upload the scan into Google Drive by click New>File Upload.upload scanned pdf to google drive
  4. Right click on the scan and open with Google with google doc to do google ocr
  5. Google Drive OCR will auto start when Google Docs tries to open the file, once the scan becomes editable, you can edit if in google docs
  6. Go to File>Download as, choose a format to save the file.export google ocr document

#2 Steps to OCR PDF in Google Drive

  1. Login in your Google Account and go to Google Drive.
  2. Upload scanned PDF into Google Drive by click New>File Upload.
  3. Open Scanned PDF with Google Docs.
    Check the uploaded scanned PDF on the right panel, right click on the scanned PDF, open with Google Docs.
  4. Start Google Drive OCR on PDF.
    Wait for the Google OCR to automatically process OCR on scanned PDF, then you will find the scanned PDF become editable in Google Docs.
  5. Edit the file.
    As you may have noticed, Google Docs OCR saves both the original scanned PDF file and newly generated texts, you need to delete the PDF image and edit as needed.
  6. Export as editable format.
    Go to File, Make a copy or Download as other format to save the Google Drive OCR result.

#3 Steps to OCR Image to Text in Google Drive

If you want to turn images into text with Google Drive OCR, the steps will be  quite similar to the above-mentioned steps to OCR PDF. Here we simplify as following steps:

  1. Login into your Google Account and go to Google Drive.
  2. Upload image file to Google Drive by drag and drop.
  3. Open image with Google Docs.
  4. Go to File>Download as>Text, now the image is saved in Text format with Google Docs OCR.

Google Drive OCR Not Working? Try Alternative Software!

To fix all the unsolved issues of Google Drive OCR, Mac and Windows users can have a try on the Cisdem PDF Converter OCR, a dedicated OCR PDF Converter, to export any PDFs as 16 formats accurately. It supports batch OCR and maintain original file format. 

Why Cisdem PDF Converter OCR?

  • OCR scans in PDF and image format
  • Convert scanned PDF and image to searchable PDF
  • Highly accurate OCR and conversion result
  • Support a lot of OCR languages
  • Convert PDF to Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Sheets and so on with formatting
  • Convert Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Sheets and others to PDF
  • Batch conversion

How to Use Alternative Google Drive OCR Software?

  1. Download and install Cisdem PDF Converter OCR.
    Free Download macOS 10.13 or later Free Download Windows 11/10/8/7
  2. Go to the "Converter" interface and import scans by drag and ocr alternative 01
  3. When OCR as PDF format, you can choose the file ocr alternative 02
  4. Choose the output format and customize the page range if needed. Also you can click the gear icon to customize output ocr alternative 03
  5. Click Convert to start OCR processing, all the Google OCR problems will be fixed.


Google OCR really brings us convenience and benefit to manage scanned document online. Though Google Drive OCR is limited in feature, it is still worth a try. For better or for worse, you still have Google OCR alternatives to OCR your scans, PDFs, images or handwritten files with expected results.

Jose Henline
share it facebook share it Twitter

Jose specializes in reviews, how-to guides, top lists, etc. on PDF, data recovery and multi-media. On his spare time, he likes to travel or challenge some extreme sports.

share it facebook share it Twitter
Comments (1) Leave a Reply

Name *

Comment *

  • Doris Downs

    Informative post about Google OCR, thanks for sharing. I use Google Docs often to edit scanned file, it can recognize most contents from a file, but it cannot keep original formatting, anyway, it is free to use.

    0 months ago commonReply

    Name *

    Comment *

Hot Articles

2023 Update: How to Convert Excel to PDF Without Losing Formatting? The Best PDF to Excel Converter Software in 2023 How to Do OneNote OCR on PDF or Picture (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)
Home > Google Drive OCR: OCR Scan, PDF, Image in Google Drive