google docs pdf.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

We knew it was coming, but it’s not even close to everything we were hoping it would be. Google announced just a short while ago that Google Docs users could begin uploading, storing, and reading PDF’s on their Google account. It’s nothing fancy, and for the most part it does the basic things you would expect from an online PDF viewer. Plus you can search and collaborate on PDF’s just like with any other document in Google Docs.

Before you get all excited and start giggling like a little girl, let me point out some of the things I’ve already noticed that Google’s PDF viewer won’t do:

  • PDF’s that are protected cannot be searched and cannot have the text highlighted.
  • As long as the PDF isn’t protected you can search for text when when viewing the document, but the content of the PDF’s will not be included in the results shown using the search box on the document management screen (a.k.a. the Google Docs homepage).
  • Thumbnail sidebar can’t be collapsed, which is especially painful for anyone with a small screen.
  • Going from one page to another (mostly using the thumbnails navigator) can be annoying since the first thing you see is a very low-quality rendering of the page, and it’s blurry beyond belief. It can take a second or two for it to render the page, and your eyes might bug out of your head if you see this enough.
  • Copying and pasting quality is okay, but the desktop PDF viewers work a lot better when it comes to preserving the text layout.
  • No annotation features (adding comments, etc…). I wasn’t really expecting this, but it would have been a nice touch.

You can upload a PDF to your account by going to the Google Docs homepage, and selecting the Upload option. If you’re uploading a PDF from your computer it can be up to 10MB in size, but if you’re providing a URL to an online PDF it can only be 2MB.

The best thing that I can see coming from this is Gmail integration. For some attachments in Gmail, such as Word documents, Google gives users the option to open them in Google Docs rather than downloading them to their computer. Google has always offered a “View as HTML” option for PDF’s that are attached to an email, but they don’t display images which makes reading most PDF’s difficult. An option to open a PDF in the Google Docs viewer would definitely work a lot better assuming that they accept files larger than 2MB for that.

Google Docs Blog
Thanks to CoryC & Radu for the tips!