Using Google Docs to Convert Scans to Text

A free way to convert scanned images to text documents on your Mac is to use Google Drive and Google Docs. With any Google/Gmail account you can upload a PDF or image file to Google Drive, then request to open it in Google Docs. The result will be a OCR (optical character recognition) conversion from image to editable text. Then you can export the text back to your Mac.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Using Google Docs to Convert Scans to Text.

So I'm often asked questions about OCR. Optical Character Recognition. In other words how you take an image or a scan and then convert that to text that you can actually edit in word processor. There are tons of different apps that will do this. But if it's not something that you need to do all the time, then you may not want to add an entire new app or sign up for a new service just to do this. So people are always looking for kind of free ways to do it or ways to do it using things they already have.

There is a way to do this using Goggle Docs and Goggle Drive. Now most of us have Goggle accounts. If you've ever used gmail you've got a Goggle account. So using their free tools is an easy way to be able to scan a document into text and not have to add anything new to your Mac or buy a new App or anything.

So I'm going to go to and of course you sign in with your goggle account there. I'm going to upload a new file. So I'm going to hit New, and do File Upload. Now I've got some files here. This scan.pdf is the one I'm going to use. If I open it up here in Preview and you can see it's an image. It's not individual text there. The image is of some text of a page.

I'm going to select that pdf file, choose it, and it will open up here on Goggle Drive. There's the scanned .pdf. Now I could go and just view it but I'm still just going to be viewing the pdf with the image it. So instead I'm going to Control Click on it and you get some items here. The one item that we're going to use is Open With, Goggle Docs. So Goggle Docs is their suite of apps like a word processor, spreadsheet, etc. If I open this pdf in Goggle Docs what it's going to do since it doesn't edit pdf's, it is going to convert it. It's going to read the characters on the image and convert it to text.

What I'm going to get here is the actual text. There we go. I'm actually in a word processing document now. You can see here this is actual text. I can select the text. Now I can edit it, make changes to it, actually read the text. It's been read by a computer so you should actually look through it and edit it to make sure that everything is correct. I'm sure there are errors in here. But in general it does it and it does it pretty quickly and easily.

So what happens if you don't have a pdf. If instead you have an image. So let's do File Upload. I'll choose this jpeg image. It's the same text there and we're going to do the same thing there. So there's scan.jpeg and I'm going to Control Click, Open With, Goggle Docs and it will read the jpeg image. So the results I got here is actually the jpeg image in an document. But then under it, it converted it to text. So you kind of get both of them.

So how about a multi page pdf. Let's try that. So scan two actually has two pages in it. You can see in a Preview there. So we'll upload that and then we will Control Click, Open With, Goggle Docs. So yes it scanned it all in. It was a little tougher because there are some images there so it didn't quite deal with those images correctly. But it did actually read the text from both pages.

Now at this point if you want to get it out of Goggle Docs and Goggle Drive and just have it on your Mac you can go to File, Download As, and you can download it as a microsoft word document which you can open in Pages. Or you can do Rich Text format. You can open it in Pages, or TextEdit, or just about anything else. Even plain text. So you can get these on your Mac very easily. You can see now it appears on my Downloads folder and there I can open it in TextEdit.

Comments: 4 Responses to “Using Google Docs to Convert Scans to Text”

    2 years ago

    Terrifically helpful.

    Peter Emery
    2 years ago

    Terrifically helpful: previously I used PDF OCR X Community Edition to convert images of words into editable text, but you need to use the $30 Pro version for multi-page PDFs. Not so with the GoogleDrive/Docs method. I’m mentioning the process to as many fellow members of a Mac User Group as I can.

    Margie Laviano
    2 years ago

    This is really cool!

    G. Humphrey
    2 years ago

    Wow. Thank you so much.

Comments Closed.