10

TL;DR

I have a very large Google Docs document which can not be exported to PDF*, but I can download it in all the other supported formats, which unfortunately do not fit my needs.

What are the limitations of downloading a Google Docs document as a PDF, why can't I export it into this format? (But why can I download it as a huge, 500 MB sized RTF?)

I didn't find any relevant stuff in the official documentations.

*: all the 4 of us who have access to this document tried with different Google accounts, same results.


In detail

I have a huge Google Docs document (shared with a team) containing 168 pages, multiple images, lots of equations, drawings, tables, etc.
When I want to download the whole document as a PDF (clicking "Download as" > "PDF Document (.pdf)"), the browser (doesn't matter which one of the popular browsers) starts to show the loading icon in the tab header (meaning it is processing the request), but about a minute later, it returns an "500 OK" HTTP Status Code (BTW not the usual "500 Internal Server Error", "500 OK" instead), which means it could not export the document to PDF.

Why? I don't think the reason is a size limit, because I can download the whole document in ALL the other currently supported formats such as .docx, .odt, .rtf, .txt, .html, and for example the downloaded .rtf file is 519 MB. (Really! The .docx format from the same document is only 71.8 MB, and the .odt is 48.7 MB.) BUT when I cut this document down to about 50 pages, I CAN download it as PDF!

What are the limitations for downloading a Google Docs document as PDF?
Why can't I export this document to PDF?



Problematic workarounds

There are some workarounds, although unfortunately they produce other problems:

  • if I split this document into at least 3 parts as separate documents, I CAN download the whole thing as PDF
    • it is obvious that it is a very uncomfortable solution (we want to edit the document as ONE large doc.), and this way all three documents should have separate table of contents part
  • downloading the document in .odt (OpenDocument Text) or HTML format:
    • this is NOT a good solution in my case, because the equations get downloaded as images, and they get messed up if they contain special characters which are NOT part of the equation toolbar (like bowtie symbol (U+22C8) for natural joins in relational algebra) or accented characters (á, é, í, etc.), and get substituted by multiple question marks (?). Here's an example:
      • equation in Google Docs (correct):
        Google Docs equation
      • equation in .odt or HTML format (incorrect and uglier): .odt equation
      • equation in Google Docs:
        equation in Google Docs
      • equation in .odt or HTML format (incorrect and uglier): equation in <code>.odt</code> or HTML format
    • BTW this is exactly how these equations look like when I view the document from a tablet or a mobile phone (buggy appearance)
  • downloading the document in .docx (MS Office) format:
    • in some cases, indentations and spacings get messed up and font types get changed for some reason
    • but without a doubt, this produces the most acceptable result


Here's the output of the browser's developer console when such a request is sent:

developer console when trying to download Google Docs document as PDF

Sorry for being so verbose, I wanted to share all the information I could find out.

  • Google recently added the export as ePUB (see googleappsupdates.blogspot.com/2016/03/…). Please consider to give it a try and share with us what happened. – Rubén Mar 17 '16 at 17:57
  • @Rubén: thank you for letting me know this! I just downloaded the mentioned document in .epub format without a problem, BUT when trying to download the same large document in PDF format, it still leads to an 500 HTTP code error after a long loading time. So it seems like PDF format is the only one which has some sort of restrictions or exporting problems with such a large document. I still don't understand why. I'll try to create a similar document and share it with all of you to be able to show the phenomenon (I wouldn't like to share the original document). – Sk8erPeter Mar 22 '16 at 12:16
  • I don't think that we could do anything to make the Google Docs file converter to be able to convert a large PDF file. Unfortunately the limits regarding file export are not clearly documented, but I think the limitation is related to the execution time. – Rubén Mar 22 '16 at 12:27
  • @Rubén: yes, I think you are right, although the execution time is also very long e.g. in case of exporting the document to an RTF file. This produces a huge document, but it does the job at least. I mainly need the functionality to produce a PDF document to get a complete document which does not have its equations messed up and is in a portable format. – Sk8erPeter Mar 22 '16 at 13:52
  • Did you already tried to print to PDF instead of export? – Rubén Mar 22 '16 at 14:31
5

I just ran head-first into this very same wall. I've basically spent a couple of weeks with Inventor and Google Docs, creating a 292 page, screenshot rich, compendium / tutorial for the CAD class that I'm going to teach this semester. And I can't download it as a pdf. However, I did find another workaround that is not mentioned above:

Open the "Print" dialog. Choose the print to local pdf option. Then section off your document, I did 3 sections: pages 1-100, pages 101-200 and pages 201-292. Worked like a charm, and then I just did a pdf merge afterwards. Incredibly annoying(!) but still quite workable.

3

Short answer

There is not an official published limit about exporting Google Documents to PDF.

Explanation

At this time there isn't an official document regarding the limits of the conversion of a Google Document to PDF, but there are several reports regarding this in the official Google Docs Help Forum.

Note: Google Documents limit is 1.02 million of characters. Text files to be converted to Google Document format should not exceed 50MB.

To tell Google that you would like that they add a feature or that they have something to document or to fix on their side, open the related document and submit your feedback through Help > Report a problem.

Workarounds

As the OP already mentioned splitting the document in three parts works in the case exposed, but this isn't deterministic, so in other cases the number of parts could be different, by other side, the size of the parts, in terms of pages, could not be the same for each part as it's very likely that it will dependent on the content.

More alternatives

Export the document to another format and use a third party PDF conversion software to convert the resulting file. Each file format have their own caveats, as was exposed by the OP, RTF file format results in big files, DOCX requires fixings, HTML and ODT files formats doesn't convert equations correctly.

Use the browser Print > Save as PDF

Sobre browsers, like Chrome have built-in "PDF printer". Apparently this use a different a algorithm and different resources.

Try disabling Hardware acceleration

There are some reports that disabling the browser Hardware Acceleration feature solves this kind of problems.

References

  • To be honest, you basically just summarized what I already wrote down and what I (!) experienced, and added two not-too-useful links, so I can't find any helpful information added. Sorry, but I can't accept this as an answer. – Sk8erPeter Mar 28 '16 at 22:32
  • Actually, to do a summary, was one of the purpose of the above answer. As you can notice, I mentioned a couple of times that the following statement was mentioned by the OP. It worth to say that you said that you didn't find any official documentation about the limits on converting Google Doc to a PDF. You didn't found it because there isn't any. Maybe you want that I or someone else say something different but at this time, that it's not possible, I think. – Rubén Mar 29 '16 at 0:06
  • I would like to know some information about the whys or possible convenient, really working and efficient workarounds - splitting the document into 3 isn't convenient; exporting to any other format still isn't a solution, because equations get messed up in some formats, so simply converting those to PDF doesn't work either. If someone would like to find a summary, there is my question, which is already very verbose and contains all the known information so far. I think it unfortunately contains more useful information than your answer. :) (Did you just want to collect some more points? :) ) – Sk8erPeter Mar 29 '16 at 18:57
  • For example, as a possible workaround, one can write a Google Apps Script, which collects all the information and creates another document in Google Drive in a custom format. I started to write one which exports the document in Markdown format, but it still contains some errors. I'll share later what I have so far, maybe someone will be able to help me write a useful script to solve the problem. – Sk8erPeter Mar 29 '16 at 19:00
  • BTW I don't think Stack Exchange is based on writing a summary of all the information the OP has shared as an answer... – Sk8erPeter Mar 29 '16 at 19:02
1

For me downloading as PDF seems to be an issue with Chrome. I tried Edge instead and it worked.

  • Hi roy, please elaborate a bit more on your answer, regards the topics in the question. Check out how-to-answer – arieljannai May 21 '18 at 15:35
0

Easy if you have a local copy of MS Word. Download as .docx, open in Word and save as PDF.

0

I have consistently had this issue for over a year. Any Google Doc I have that is over about 10 pages won't download as a PDF within Chrome, no matter what I do.

Solution: use Firefox to download the PDF.

If I open the same Google Doc in Firefox and request the PDF, it works consistently with no issue. It takes a few seconds to generate, but I have never had a problem getting the PDF.

(And hey, maybe it will also work in Edge, Safari, Netscape, AOL Browser, Internet Explorer 1, 2, 3?)

I do find it funny that Google Docs doesn't work well with Google Chrome. :-)

0

Someone else mentioned this already, but I got it to work as follows:

Open the document an load all pages. Ctrl + P (or press print it the browser) Select instead of 'print as pdf' 'save as pdf' wait for your browser to create it and press save.......

-2

I had the very same problem having written a novel (371 pages - oof I know) and it wouldn't come out as a pdf for me, HOWEVER... there is one simple way to overcome this. Simply just press ctrl+p (to print, I know, but keep reading) and, instead of printing it, simply just press 'save as pdf' in the top left corner of the popup screen - I'm sorry if this doesn't work for you, but it worked like a charm for me!

-3

Head to File>Print>Open PDF In Preview and then just save it out onto your Desktop from Preview.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.