Google Drive OCR: Safely Turn PDF or Image to Text Online

Connie Wisley
time August 05, 2021 Preview 25.4K
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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 OCR allows us to OCR scanned documents in Google Drive/Docs. 

In this article, we will disclose several facts about Google Drive OCR and offer the steps to OCR PDF, image even handwriting files with Google OCR. Also, there are solutions available if Google Drive OCR not working.

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.

How Good is Google’s OCR?

First, 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

As we can see, 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

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 2 tutorials to use OCR both PDF and Image in Google Drive.

#1 Steps to OCR PDF in Google Drive

  1. Login in your Google Account and go to Google Drive.go to google drive
  2. Upload scanned PDF into Google Drive by click New>File Upload.upload scanned pdf to google drive
  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 with google doc to do google ocr
  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 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.export google ocr document

#2 Steps to OCR Image to Text in Google Docs

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:

  • Step 1. Login into your Google Account and go to Google Drive.
  • Step 2. Upload image file to Google Drive by drag and drop.
  • Step 3. Open image with Google Docs.
  • Step 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!

As you may have noticed, the accuracy of Google OCR may vary greatly on different types of scanned documents. Take a comparison between the original file and editable file processed by Google OCR as following:

google ocr comparison

In this above-mentioned case, you will need to manually adjust the OCR errors and format mess in Google Docs. Even, there are situations that Google Drive OCR won’t work. What to do? Here are some tips to try before find an alternative to Google Drive OCR:

  1. Redo the OCR: start over the OCR processing to check if anything improves
  2. Save the file as JPG /PNG/GIF/BMP
  3. Find an alternative to Google Drive OCR

Alternative Google Drive OCR Software

Best Alternative Google OCR Software for Mac

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

How to Use Alternative Google Drive OCR Software for Mac?

  1. Import Scanned PDF for OCR Processing by drag and ocr alternative cisdem 01
  2. Turn OCR button ON, choose page range and file ocr alternative cisdem 02
  3. Optional. OCR mark to improve accuracy.
    For more accurate OCR results, you can click the "Settings" icon, a new interface will appear. All the contents are automatically marked as Texts, Images or Tables in different colors, for the program to recognize each part accurately. First, you need to check all the OCR applied zone are marked properly, if not, manually adjust. For example, if you want to output a part as table, remove the mark box in this zone, click on "Mark Tables" in the OCR applied zone, then drag a mark box to select those contents you want to mark as Tables. You can resize the mark box by dragging its corners. mark ocr
  4. Click Convert to start OCR processing, all the Google OCR problems will be fixed on mac.

Best Alternative Google OCR Software for Windows

If you are a Windows user, Tipard PDF Converter Platinum can be worked as the best Google OCR alternative due to its outstanding OCR performance: accurate OCR results and retention of original file resolution & formatting.

  1. Download and install Tipard PDF Converter Platinum on your Windows PC.
  2. Drag and drop scanned PDF file to the ocr windows 1
  3. Click on Preference icon, enable OCR and choose OCR ocr windows 2
  4. Choose output format and start OCR process.

Best Online Free Alternative to Google Drive OCR

Online2pdf, is an online free OCR service to convert scanned PDF and images into PDF, Docx, ODT, XLSX, PPTX, TXT, RTF, ODS and Image. But it only supports recognizing 6 languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese).

  1. Go to online2pdf.
  2. Click on “Select files” to upload a PDF or image file.
  3. Choose output and file language.
  4. Click “Convert” to start the OCR.online2pdf ocr

Basics to Know about Google Drive/Docs OCR

To well understand how Google Drive OCR helps, here are 6 facts you need to know before using Google OCR.

1. Is Google Drive OCR Free?

Yes, 100% free.

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 Drive OCR Support?

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

In fact, Google Docs supports to upload files in various formats, but its OCR only works when you importing image-based files, such as scanned PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG BMP and handwriting files. As for other image formats, such as TIFF or PSD, Google Docs OCR doesn’t support.

Support Output---Docx, ODT, RTF, PDF, TXT, HTML, ePub 

That’s to say, you can use Google Drive OCR to save an image-based file as these 7 formats. Also, you can copy and paste the texts to a preferred text processor if you want to export as other formats.

3. How Many Languages Can Google Drive OCR Recognize?

Google Drive OCR supports reading more than 100 language. That is to say, only if you live on earch, it is much likely that your files can be recognized by Google OCR.

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 Work on Handwriting Files?

Yes, it is really a good news to know that Google Drive OCR comes to support 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. Can Google Drive OCR Work on A Native PDF?

tips: Native PDF means the PDF contains editable and searchable texts, not just a picture that its texts cannot be selected or searched.

This is quite important, since Google Drive OCR only works when you import an image-based file for conversion. It can just recognize if your files is scanned or a text image.

If you have uploaded a native PDF with some images, Google Docs won't recognize text from those images, it will omit all the images and only texts are displayed in the program:

google ocr not working

So, in case that you want to do OCR an image in a native PDF, you’d better extract the image or save the PDF as image first, then upload for Google Drive OCR.


Google OCR really brings us convenience and benefit to manage scanned document online. Though Google OCR is limited in feature, the free solution it offers to OCR PDF worth everyone’s try. For better or for worse, you still have Google OCR alternatives to OCR your PDFs or handwritten files with expected results.

Connie Wisley
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Connie has been writing for Mac productivity and utility apps since 2009. Each review and solution is based on her practical tests, she is aways energetic and trustworthy in this field.

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