In my PDF documents in Google Drive, I used to be able to select text of a scanned document. I've always scanned at 300dpi. Since at least a year I can't select text in scanned documents anymore in Google Drive's PDF viewer. I've tried selecting text in Google Apps Drive and Gmail Drive. In Chrome and in Firefox. In both recently scanned documents as in documents that I scanned in the past where I know I was able to select text in.

I remember back then when selecting text worked, that I would look at a document and could see by the looks of the mouse pointer that Drive (or Google Docs) was busy/done with text recognition because the mouse pointer would change from a hand to a vertical line (text selector). Now, my mouse pointer is always a vertical line but selecting text just doesn't happen.

OCR does seem to happen by Google Drive somehow, because I can search and find scanned documents by the words in it.

My questions.

  • Is anybody else able to select text this way? How?
  • What is the workaround with the least mouse clicks per scan to select text from it? I'm open to use third party applications. But selecting text after scanning should really be a breeze, because I do it often.
  • Has the text selecting feature been retired from Google Drive? And if so, is there an announcement from Google? Is there an issue that I can star to request the feature again?
  • I suggested you download the PDF export application and then you can write or what not with the files,forms or documents.. Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 23:10

4 Answers 4


If you are not restricted by the filetype, and can generate image files of the Scanned documents, then you should take a look at Project Naptha

It is a Chrome extension that performs an OCR on images, and lets you copy (and even edit) the text. I've tried it on images on my Drive Image Viewer, and it's a breeze. You directly have the pointer change to a cursor when the OCR processing is done, and lets you copy/modify thereafter.

I understand this does not directly answer your question, and I wanted to post this as a comment, and not an answer. However, my rep score (under 50) prohibits me from commenting. So no hate. :)

  • That's actually a really good idea. I came across Naptha before, but didn't link it with my use case. Thanks Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 16:53

How to select text in a scanned document in Google Drive PDF viewer?

You can't. This option is no longer available. However, you may set Google drive to automatically convert your documents to Google formats. Here's how to do this:

Convert documents into Google formats If you want to upload files like Microsoft Word documents, you can change a setting to convert files.

Note: You can only change Google Drive settings from your computer.

Using a computer, go to drive.google.com/drive/settings.

Next to "Convert Uploads," check the box.



"OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology that allows text from images and PDFs to be read and converted into a searchable and editable document. To do this in Google Drive, right click on a PDF, then Open with > Google Docs. Once you have opened it in Google Docs format, save it again and you’ll have your searchable doc."

Extracted from http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/10-tips-pdf-files-google-drive/

  • I am aware of this route. But that's too many clicks per scan just to select a line. I can retype it faster then this route takes. And I end up with a second document that I need to delete afterwards. Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 21:17

There is a key setting that should be set correctly before uploading the pdf to Google Drive. Under "general" in your Google Drive settings, check the box next "Convert uploads: Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format."

  • 1
    I don't see how that's helpful here. The files are already in Google Drive.
    – ale
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 14:09
  • If the key setting is not correct before the file is uploaded, and if the original pdf did not have selectable text, it will not have selectable text after being uploaded to Google Drive. I shared this information here because I just learned this trick today, and it was not easy to find the key to unlocking the power of Google Drive's OCR capabilities. Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 14:13
  • @AlE. - Clarification -- I just retested. The text is only searchable if you open the uploaded pdf with Google Docs. Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 14:20

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