Google Drive OCR Review, Tutorial and Troubleshooting

Google Drive OCR Review, Tutorial and Troubleshooting

2019-09-12 14:15:00 / Posted by to OCR PDF Follow @ lily jones

This article will talk about what Google Drive OCR is and how to use it. Here’s a common scenario. Someone sends you a PDF from which you want to extract the text, but you don’t feel like typing the text out character by character. In such a case, Google Drive’s OCR feature can be very helpful.

Google Drive OCR review


Standing for optical character recognition, OCR is the mechanical or electronic conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text, according to Wikipedia. Does Google Drive have OCR? What is OCR in Google Drive? These are some of the frequently asked questions regarding Google Drive.

More than just a cloud storage service, Google Drive is integrated with a free, online office suite offered by Google. Google Docs is part of the suite and comes with a free OCR feature. So, yes, Google Drive has OCR. Google Drive OCR is also referred to or known as Google Docs OCR, but it’s not to be mistaken for Google Cloud Vision API OCR or Tesseract OCR.

Supported files

  According to Google According to test
Import formats JPEG, PNG, GIF or PDF (multipage documents) files -
Export formats DOCX, ODT, RTF, PDF, TXT, HTML, EPUB -
Maximum import file size 2 MB or less 10 MB or less

Supported languages

Currently, Google Drive OCR supports 226 languages. It automatically detects the language of the uploaded image or document and provides multilingual spell checkers.

Based on our tests, it can do a pretty decent job of OCRing English, non-English, non-Latin based or even non-alphabetic languages (like Japanese) as long as the font, size, source document quality or scan resolution are OCR-friendly.

OCR Japanese using Google Drive

Handwriting recognition

In addition to supporting typed text, Google Drive can also recognize handwriting in images. It provides a free solution to digitize your handwritten notes, journals, etc. 

The performance and results will vary substantially due to how recognizable the handwritings are. For example, printed handwriting is easy for Google Drive OCR to read while cursive is not. Also, if your notes are written in pen instead of pencil, they will be easier for OCR software to handle.

Below are two examples.

neat handwriting OCR

cursive handwriting OCR result


How good is Google Drive OCR?

- The good

Google Drive (or Google Docs) is good at OCRing typed text content, be it in English or non-English, if the source document is in decent quality and properly scanned. It is also able to also provide satisfying results when it comes to neat, OCR friendly handwritings.

- The not-so-good

Google Drive OCR will retain (or try to retain) some formatting like italics, bold, font type or font size of the original document or handwriting. However, there is a big drawback. It won’t be able to detect tables, lists, columns, footnotes, layout, images, etc. If you try to use it to OCR a PDF with rich formatting, the result will be acceptable. It’s also a bad idea to digitize handwritten notes with drawings using Google Drive OCR.

Some tips to get better results

  • Make sure that your files are supported.
  • Make sure that the text is scanned horizontally. If not, rotate the image or PDF first.
  • The font should be at least 10 pixels high.
  • Use OCR-friendly fonts or typefaces if possible, such as Times New Roman.
  • The clearer the contrasts, the more likely your scanned files will be successfully OCRed.
  • Use neat, easily readable handwriting.

Quick summary of Google Drive OCR


  • Free, handy and easy to use
  • Supports multi-language OCR
  • Supports handwriting recognition
  • Perform OCR on both images and PDFs
  • Provide enough output formats


  • Doesn’t support files larger than 10 MB
  • Can’t open encrypted files
  • Slow when dealing with larger files
  • Can’t detect tables, columns, images and other important elements

Google Drive OCR tutorial

How to use google drive as OCR? To get started, you need to sign up for Google Drive, which is free.

Step 1. Upload your image or scanned PDF document

Go to Upload a file by dragging and dropping. Alternatively, click the New button in the upper left corner and choose File upload.

Step 2. Start OCRing

Once your file is fully uploaded, it will appear in the Quick Access section. Right-click/control-click its thumbnail. Google Docs. As Google Docs opens a supported image or PDF, it will automatically perform OCR.

open with Google Docs

Step 3. Check result and edit if needed

When Google Docs finishes the OCR, the file will become ready for editing and exporting. With an image file, the original image will also appear in the editing window, above the line, as shown in the screenshot. The OCRed text is beneath the line. After finishing editing, you can choose to delete the original image. The OCRed text and editing will be automatically saved and synced, and you can also access the content easily on Android, iPhone, etc.

OCR image to text using Google Drive OCR

Pro Tip: To export the file to a desired format, from the menu bar, click File > Download and choose the file type you need.

Google Docs export formats

Troubleshooting: What if Google Drive OCR is not working

Scenario 1

First of all, do make sure that the file you’ve uploaded is supported. For example, Google Drive does allow you to upload an image or PDF larger than 10 MB, however, Google Docs won’t open or OCR it.

Scenario 2

Google Drive OCR could stop working, which is rare though. Here is a possible scenario: You upload a supported file to Google Drive and there is no opening with Google Docs option.

  • Fix 1. Refresh
  • Fix 2. Delete the file, sign out Google Drive, sign in to the service again and re-upload the file.

If the issue persists, it could be a bug. If so, the issue will be gone after Google implements a fix.

Scenario 3

If your PDF has a rich formatting, Google Drive won’t work well in your situation. Most of the formatting will be lost.

If that is the case, the best solution is to use professional OCR software like Enolsoft PDF Converter with OCR for Mac.

Enolsoft PDF Converter with OCR benefits users in the following ways.

Step 1. Download and install PDF Converter with OCR for Mac. Open this professional alternative to Google Drive OCR. Drag one or multiple images or scanned PDFs into the app.

add files

Step 2. Make sure the OCR button is on. Select page range and OCR recognition language if needed. You can apply the same export format to all files. Or you can select the needed format for individual file.

OCR settings

Step 3. Click the Convert button.

Pro Tip: Before you click the Convert button, this alternative to OCR in Google Drive allows you to adjust and customize OCR recognition. As you can notice, the OCR feature will automatically detect and mark text, images and tables. To get more satisfying results, you can choose to delete, re-identify or adjust areas. At the top of the window are a set of tools you can use. To adjust area borders, just select the area and drag the corners.

adjust OCR recognition

For Windows users, OmniPage can be a great alternative.

  • Provide a wide variety of output formats
  • OCR scanned documents and images to any common format
  • Enable batch processing
  • Recognize more than 120 languages
  • Provide decent result with improved OCR accuracy
  • Highly compatible with scanners from desktop ones to mobile ones

In the case of Google Drive OCR not working, if you don’t feel like downloading any software, you can choose to use web-based OCR services. Many are free to use. is one of them. This free service allows you to do optical character recognition online.

  • Supported import formats: PDF, JPG, BMP, TIFF and GIF
  • Supported export formats: Microsoft Word (.docx), Microsoft Excel (.xlsx) and plain text (.txt)
  • Languages: 46 languages including English, Japanese, Greek, etc.
  • Maximum file size: 15 MB


Thanks to Google Drive OCR (or Google Docs OCR), it’s possible to convert PDF and image files to text for free with super ease. When it comes to files with high image quality and simple formatting, such a free service is enough in most cases. One of the great things is its excellent handwriting recognition ability. For better results and more advanced needs, professional OCR software can be a better choice.