Thursday, December 17, 2015

Google Gifts: PDF Options in Google Drive

During the weekdays of December, we're sharing one tool per day.  We're calling it our Google Gifts series.  Some of these come directly from Google, and others are tools that enhance Google Apps or Chrome.  Today, we're sharing PDF options inside of Google Drive.

One of the most common file types in terms of web access is the PDF.  The benefit of the PDF is that it isn't easy to modify.  The downside of the PDF is that it isn't easy to modify. :-) However, if you have some PDFs that you want to use with students, you do have some options.  Be careful, though, as many PDFs are bound by copyright and can't be modified or shared.  Check the copyright before working with or sharing PDFs.

Why would I use it?  What does it do?
Depending on how the PDF was created, Google Drive provides some ways to work with PDFs.  Here are some ideas for using PDFs within Google Drive.
  1. Upload & store PDFs in GoogleDrive so you can share them.  Like any other file in Google Drive, you can use the "Share" icon or button to provide access to someone else.  This doesn't mean that the PDF is collaborative like native Google files, but they are accessible.
  2. Embed a PDF in a website or Learning Management System (LMS).  When you use the "pop-out" icon in Preview mode, you'll see the option to "embed."  This will give you the code you need to embed the PDF somewhere else.  If you've got a sharable article that you want students to refer to when responding to several questions, embedding the PDF can be a handy way to provide them with the text.  The directions below are about embedding into Schoology, but you can paste the code anywhere that accepts HMTL:
  3. Convert a PDF in Google Docs so that you can make changes.  There are software programs that may provide this functionality (like Adobe Acrobat Pro), but if you upload a PDF into Google Drive, you can choose "open with" and select Google Docs from the list.  It will extract the text for you and will also give you a picture of the original page(s) so that you can reformat, if necessary.  Caveat: depending on the complexity of the file, it may take quite a bit of editing.  This is especially true with mathematical formulas, images, and tables.
  4. Use a Chrome extension like Kami (formally known as Notable PDF) to annotate a PDF. If you want to highlight text, add sticky notes, and edit, you can use the free extension to work with a PDF. One of the coolest things about Kami is that you can collaborate with others on an article (and those annotating don't necessarily need a login to interact with the file). Not only can you open PDFs stored in Google Drive, but you can save them back to Google Drive.
  5. Use the "download as" option for Google files to save them as PDFs.  You can also use the print dialog inside of Chrome to save something as a PDF (and save to Google Drive).
Where can I learn more?
If you need information on Kami, you can check their website to learn more.  In addition, you can find more information about the extension in the Chrome webstore.  


  1. I use and edit PDF files a lot. I use Kami and a couple other tools. Check out - a numbter of editing tools - add text, white out text, delete pages, and more. Another site I use a lot is - compress large pdf files, merge pdf documents, convert images to pdf and pdf to images, and more.

    1. Hi, Greg - Our focus for the blog was specifically targeting ways to use PDFs inside of Google Drive, but thanks for sharing those additional tools.