Converting PDFs to editable text with Google Docs
It goes without saying that everyone on Earth is absolutely thrilled with the recent news that the brontosaurus is real again. I’m still waiting to come down off of this paleontological high. But what happens to all of those PDF course materials that professors across the globe have made, referring to apatosauruses and brontosauruses as the same species? Do these otherwise quality educational resources have to be scrapped and replaced with new materials?
Whether the content or your emphasis on certain aspects of it have changed over the years, your old PDF handouts may not reflect what you want them to. The problem with updating this information for your students is that PDF text is difficult and time-consuming to edit without professional software. Are you going to attack your outdated handouts with white-out and a pen, then re-scan into PDF format? Are you going to re-type each page or spend hours copying and pasting from the PDF to a Word document?
Google Drive may have a solution for you. You can store folders and files of all types here and access them from any computer with an internet hook-up. When you load a PDF into your Google Drive account, it is analyzed so that what is actually just an image of text can be turned into the real (though still virtual) thing.
Using Google Drive to open the PDF will create a Google Doc, which is like a stripped down version of Word, in which you can type, perform a search for “Apatosaurus” and replace with “Brontosaurus,” and do the most common edits possible with Word. Or you can download the text document, which automatically converts it into Word for your editing pleasure. When finished editing, both Google Docs and Word allow you to use the “Save as…” options to save the file as a PDF again, for easier online posting and readability.
If you haven’t tried Google Drive, you might start with the first video below for a quick run-through. To see the PDF conversion tutorial, watch the 2nd video: