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How to create PDFs on Android devices using Google Drive

How to create PDFs on Android devices using Google Drive

Illustration: The Verge

It hasn’t always been that simple to create a PDF using your phone. Several years ago, when I started handling my mother’s bills, I realized I needed a quick way to scan her documents while I was at her home. Rather than drag a scanner around, I found a handy Android app called Tiny Scanner that let me turn paper documents into easy-to-store PDFs using my phone’s camera.

Later, Google introduced the beta of its own scanning app called Stack, so I began using that to create many of my PDFs. It offers quick scans and categorization and was just a little more fun to use.

However, as is Google’s wont, that company is now sunsetting Stack and giving some (although not all) of the app’s abilities to create, edit, and store PDFs to Google Drive, the storage service app that comes installed on Android phones. (I suppose I should be grateful that Google has incorporated at least some of Slack’s features into Android’s Drive app, but the handy categorization and other automatically added details are now gone, making it just that much more difficult for me to find that one document I need right now.)

So now, if you want to create a quick PDF using Drive, here’s how it works:

Go to your Google Drive app (if by some weird chance, your phone doesn’t have Drive, look for it in the Play Store).
Lay out your document — on a contrasting surface, if possible; I found it works a lot better that way — and tap the camera icon (right above the +New button).

Screenshot: Google
Auto capture finds the edges of the new PDF.

Screenshot: Google
Once created, the PDF is previewed and can be edited.

The app will now determine the edges of your PDF using a blue outline. It will assume you want to use Auto capture, which lets the app itself figure out the document’s edges and immediately create a draft PDF.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourself person, you can tap on the Manual button just under your image, move your phone around to adjust the outline, and then hit the shutter button — but since you will be able to adjust the cropping on the next page anyway, you might as well let Auto capture do its thing. It’s faster.
If you have already taken a picture of the document, there is also a photo icon to the left of the shutter button that lets you select an image from Photos instead.
Either way, once you’ve got your draft PDF, you will be automatically taken to a page where you can edit it: crop it to adjust the outline, use a filter, clean it up, retake it, or delete it.
The same page lets you create a multi-page document if you need one — just tap on the plus icon just under the image to add the next page.
Happy with your document? Select Done in the top right corner, select where in Google Drive you want to place it, and tap Save.

You can also edit an existing PDF:

Screenshot: Google
To edit an existing PDF, select the edit icon in the bottom right corner.

Screenshot: Google
Existing PDFs have limited editing features.

While in Drive, tap on the PDF file you want to edit.
Look for the edit icon in the lower right corner. Tap on that, and you can write on or highlight the document using variously colored “ink.”
Using the icons on top of the page, you can also add a comment or do a search within the document.
Tap the three dots in the upper right corner, and you can share the document, manage access to it, download it, or perform a number of other editorial tasks.

Of course, this isn’t everything you’d want to do with a PDF file — for example, you might want to remove a page, add text, or password-protect a document. In that case, unfortunately, you will probably have to use Adobe Acrobat or some other for-pay app.

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