How to Open PDF in Google Docs and Fix Common Issues

Do you want to learn how to open PDF in Google Docs? Google Docs is proven handy when opening and editing your PDF files, especially when you only need to make minor tweaks to your documents. However, some people are unfamiliar with using it as a PDF viewer and editor, as they can also see their files with Google Drive’s built-in viewer.

To open your PDF in Google Docs, you must first upload it to your Google Drive. Once the upload process is done, right-click on it and select “Open with” > “Google Docs” from the list of options that pops out. And that’s it! You’re off to go do your edits!

In this article, we’ll discuss more on how to open PDF in Google Docs, why it’s one of the best tools you can use out there, and how to fix issues that typically occur when using the software for your portable documents.

Why Use Google Docs to Open PDFs

Related: How to Add Grammarly to Google Docs

With the multitude of PDF viewers and related tools on the web, you might be wondering why some people stick with Google Docs. Aside from the fact that it’s free, here are other reasons you’d use it to open your PDFs.

1. An Effective PDF to DOCX Converter

Google Docs automatically converts your PDF files to an editable format, which allows you to make changes inside them. Your document will be saved as a separate DOC file by default, which means your changes will be kept in another copy.

You can also choose to save a local replica of your document in .docx format. Just go to “File” > “Download” > “Microsoft Word” (.docx).

Downloading Google docs as Microsoft Word document

2. Convenient for Quick & Minor Edits

Since users can directly edit their PDFs in Google Docs, they don’t have to trouble themselves to course through the many online tools, especially when they only need to change subtle details.

This way, they don’t need to do the following steps.

  1. Save their file offline
  2. Search the web for a PDF editor
  3. Upload the file to the editing tool
  4. Edit their document
  5. Download the file again to their computer
  6. Upload the file online to their drive a second time around

That was long, right?

While the steps of editing, saving the changes, and re-uploading the document are still important when using Google Docs, that’s effectively three or so steps removed from the process.

3. It’s Accessible

Let’s admit it — the most plausible reason you’d want to use Google Docs is that it’s free and easy to use. You can literally access it on any device as long as you are connected to the internet. And the familiar workspace also makes the task more intuitive for you.

How to Open a PDF in Google Docs

There are a bunch of ways and workarounds that you can practice in opening your PDF in Google Docs. But here’s the most standard way you can do it.

Step 1: Upload your PDF to Google Drive

If you haven’t yet, ensure to upload your file to your Google Drive. However, remember that Google Docs is cloud-based and primarily works online. Therefore, you need to make your PDF online too.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to Google Drive and click “New”
Uploading new file to Google Drive


  1. Click “File upload” to open a system window where you can pick your file
Open a new file on Google Drive


  1. Select your PDF and proceed with the upload process

Alternatively, you can also take advantage of the drag-and-drop feature support of Google Drive.

Step 2: Right-click > “Open with” > “Google Docs”

After the upload process, you should be able to see the document on your drive. Right-click on it to view its context menu. From the list that pops out, select “Open with” > “Google Docs.” Your browser should produce another tab beside your current one for your file.

How to open PDF in Google Docs

Step 3: Start editing your document

Your file is now ready to receive changes. You can start adding your modifications inside the file. Aside from editing, commenting and suggesting are also supported. After you finish, you can either send the document as is, via the “Share” button or download the file as a PDF again.

Download Google Docs as PDF file

How to Open a PDF in Google Docs Without Losing Formatting

Messed-up formatting is one of the inevitable downsides of using Google Docs to open and edit your PDF files. While there should be little to no formatting changes in your document if it mostly consists of text, you should expect tables, images, and other elements to be out of their places.

Unfortunately, there is no built-in feature in Google Docs that will help prevent this issue. Instead, you can use a third-party PDF to DOC converter that you can find on the web. Just ensure to pick one with good reviews that can be accessed securely. But to name a few top rankers, you should consider checking out Small PDF and Adobe Acrobat.

By this point, it should be obvious that it would be more efficient for you to use an online conversion tool than sticking with Google Docs. Still, if your documents are primarily text-based, this free word processor should be of help.

Common Issues on Opening PDFs in Google Docs & How to Fix Them

Recalling the primary function of Google Docs, you know that it’s meant to handle text-based files and word documents in its own format. Meanwhile, PDF files are mainly for preserving formatting across computers and printing — they’re not meant to be edited directly.

When Google Docs tries to open PDFs, it attempts to convert them into its own operable format. As such, some images might not load properly, the text becomes skewed, and the files might even be stuck in the loading phase. Below are some fixes that you can try.

1. Images Not Loading

While Google Docs supports some image formats like JPG, PNG, BMP, and TIFF, it might not support other high-resolution formats like HEIC. Some images might also be too large for it to handle, which leads to loading errors. Other reasons why they won’t upload successfully include file corruption and connectivity issues.

How to fix: Try to re-insert your photos by clicking “Insert” > “Image” on Google Docs. Pick any suitable source and load it on your computer. However, ensure you use supported image formats to avoid persisting errors.

Insert image in Google Docs

2. Stuck on the Loading Page

If you’re trying to open a large PDF, Google Docs might appear stuck during the loading phase. And while it usually proceeds to your editable document, there should be a problem under the hood when it stays on the same page for too long (approximately ten minutes). Common reasons include unstable internet connection and file corruption.

How to fix: Refresh the page. Alternatively, try to disconnect from and reconnect to your Wi-Fi. If the problem persists, you may want to try a third-party PDF viewer or open it on your browser if supported.

3. Restrictions

Some PDFs might be encrypted and locked with passwords, which is one of the reasons they’re preferred for professional contexts. Unfortunately, these security measures might prevent you from editing its contents using tools like Google Docs.

How to fix: Obtain an unencrypted copy of the document either by disabling it yourself or asking a teammate. Some PDF unlockers also exist online, which you can use to remove these restrictions.

4. Security Concerns

While not necessarily an immediate issue, opening your PDFs in a cloud-based software like Google Docs might actually compromise the security of your confidential data if any. It becomes a matter of concern when you accidentally share the document’s link or someone hacks into your account.

How to prevent: Ensure to use a strong password and limit the number of people who can access your document. You can also revoke someone’s access to your file whenever you like.

Alternative Tools to Use for Opening PDFs

If you can’t open your PDFs on Google Docs or find its features too limited for your needs, you can also try the following tools that Google Drive suggests.

Aside from editing your documents, these two also offer e-signature services. To access them, simply go to Google Drive, right-click on your PDF file, select “Open with,” and choose one of the two options.

Alternative tools for opening PDFs

Extra Tips When Working With PDF in Google Docs

Working with PDF files in Google Docs can be a useful way to collaborate on documents with others, edit content, or simply view PDF files online. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Editing PDF files: Once you’ve opened the PDF in Google Docs, you can edit the text, add or delete images, and reformat the document as needed. However, note that complex formatting elements like tables or columns may not be preserved during the conversion process.
  • Save as PDF: After you’ve made changes to the document, you can save it as a PDF file again by going to “File” and selecting “Download” and then “PDF document (.pdf).” You can choose to overwrite the original file or save a new copy.
  • Collaborate with others: You can invite others to collaborate on your Google Docs PDF document by clicking on the “Share” button in the top right corner of the screen. This allows others to view, edit, or comment on the document, depending on the access level you give them.
  • Use add-ons: As mentioned above, Google Docs has a range of add-ons that can help you work with PDF files. For example, the “DocHub” add-on allows you to sign, annotate, and fill out PDF documents within Google Docs.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to open a PDF in Google Docs makes for quick and easy edits to your documents, which would come in handy when you need to meet nearing deadlines. Although the software might have issues opening large PDFs, it has no problems handling files that mostly consist of text.


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