Confession time. This week’s Tech 911 is a little a head-scratcher, due to the fact that the large world of PDFs is complicated, at best, and usually more frustrating than anything else. There are a load of various apps you can find that let you open, modify, and mess around with PDFs A few of them are complimentary and meh, a few of them are totally free and awesome, and a lot of cost anything from a moderate to an outrageous amount of money.
Our question-submitter this week isn’t having trouble viewing or opening PDFs. That part’s easy. Even exploring the text of the PDFs he produces isn’t too hard, thanks to optical character recognition (OCR). I’ll let Robert explain the challenge he’s having:
” I read your recent Lifehacker article on developing searchable PDFs. I discovered Google Drive scanned and OCR ‘d files to be adequate for all my needs, conserve one.
Google Drive has a good function where you can highlight locations of a scanned document, and include a comment or note. This appears on the scanned document as a semi-transparent box and the comment text shows up on the screen when looking at it. Nevertheless browsing Google Drive does not appear to discover any text that remains in the comments, only the OCR text is searchable. Having this function would make Google Drive Scanned Files a total option for me.
Do you understand of any way to do what I’ve described or am I missing out on something?”
So, I tried doing precisely that. I developed a PDF on Google Drive by busting out my Android gadget, taking a photo of a document, and sending it up to the cloud– so Google can OCR it and make its contents searchable. That part’s fantastic. Worked like a charm.
I then highlighted some text and included different comments. Searching for those, as Robert noted, does definitely nothing. Google, for whatever reason, does not determine them– although it seems like it would be an insignificant thing to include (either as part of the default search, or as a separate “look for …” option you can select).
My next idea was to convert the PDF to a Google Doc (by right-clicking it and opening it with Google Docs), but even remarks left on text within that weren’t searchable either. Hrmph.
I had actually read someplace that you might browse for annotations you’ve made on PDFs you have actually opened within Dropbox. I attempted that, but no effect; and Dropbox, regrettably, only supports OCR on its organisation strategies, which is less attractive than Google. I likewise tried OneDrive, but you can’t annotate PDFs on the web-based version of the tool, only the service’s apps. That’s less beneficial, even if remarks are searchable (which I question they are).
I know that Adobe Acrobat permits you to browse through PDF remarks via its “Advanced Browse” function, and the exact same ought to be true in the totally free Adobe Reader app. That’s not a cloud service, alas. Nor will Adobe’s Document Cloud won’t explore your remarks. (And Adobe Reader does not included OCR.)
What’s left? Crawling through the mountain of desktop PDF apps in the hopes that a person can do both OCR and annotation searches. And even then, that’s not really the solution you were likely searching for: something in the cloud that lets you comment, and search for comments, without paying anything.
If you’re on macOS or iOS, PDF Expert 6 should permit you to browse through annotations you make (within those apps, I believe), and you can sync your PDFs to other cloud services– to conserve the annotations. The apps aren’t complimentary, however they come with totally free trials, so you can at least see if they works for your requirements. I have actually been utilizing PDF Expert for many years, and I enjoy it.
Also, the Windows PDF app Xodo(free!) is another fantastic choice for developing and browsing for annotations– in case you don’t want to go down the Adobe route, that is.
Those are all my ideas, however. I’ll end this column by asking the higher Lifehacker community: Do you have any excellent ideas? What cloud apps do you utilize to manage PDFs? Let me understand in the comments, and ideally we can find the ideal service for Robert’s search-driven dilemma. Create a terrific idea, and I’ll call it out (and you!) in next week’s column.
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