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Third party tool that will convert PDF docs to Google Docs?

Posted on 2014-10-28
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Hello all,

My ultimate goal is to transfer draft documents to Google Docs format in order to allow company-wide collaboration. How I do this isn't as important as the end results. PDF to Google Docs conversion appears to offer best results. Unfortunately, Google imposes severe limitations on this conversion.

I have multiple PDF documents (but they can be published in multiple other formats) that, despite being below Google's stated limitations (https://support.google.com/drive/answer/37603?hl=en#), simply will not convert to a Google Document beyond the first 20 (or less) pages.

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Why not Word to Google Docs?
Because despite having a perfectly formatted Word document (either .doc to docx) the Word to Google Docs conversion results in a very bad translation where paragraphs are converted into low resolution images or the margins push all the content to the extreme right.

Why not HTML?
The worst problem with HTML is that Google Docs will not accept images. So HTML to Google Docs conversion is strictly text.

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Any other ideas?

Is there a 3rd party conversion tool that will convert PDF to .gdocs format available?

Thanks so much,
Shawn
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Question by:sconnell
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Expert Comment

by:Eirman
ID: 40408787
Perhaps a Google Apps Unlimited account will overcome the limitations you are presently running into.
https://support.google.com/a/answer/6034782

This comparison with MS is worth reading
http://googledrive.in30minutes.com/microsoft-office-vs-google-drive-review/
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Author Comment

by:sconnell
ID: 40408818
Thanks Eirman,

No, the conversion problem isn't a limitation of Google Apps for Work vs unlimited. Also, MS Office is not an option. I must make this work inside Google Docs...
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Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 40408966
Because despite having a perfectly formatted Word document (either .doc to docx) the Word to Google Docs conversion results in a very bad translation where paragraphs are converted into low resolution images or the margins push all the content to the extreme right.
This surprises me. Every DOC/DOCX I've uploaded to Gdocs has been fine. I've never seen either conversion of text to images or creation of bad margins. I do File Picker, then Upload, and then drag-and-drop a DOC/DOCX — has always worked fine. How are you doing the upload/conversion?

Btw, I think that conversion from PDF-to-Gdoc is a bad idea. I think you're much better off trying to get the Word-to-Gdoc working well. PDF-to-Gdoc will be similar to PDF-to-Word, which is always an iffy proposition. That said, if you really want to pursue it, I've had good (not perfect) results with this free online tool:
http://www.pdftoword.com/

If you prefer a local install, I've also had good (also not perfect) results with this free tool:
http://www.boxoft.com/pdf-to-word/

You may get better results with non-free products. I've gotten better (but still not perfect) results with Nuance's Power PDF (comes in both Standard and Advanced editions):
http://www.nuance.com/for-business/document-imaging-and-scanning/power-pdf-converter/index.htm

There's a free trial for the Advanced edition (but not Standard) so you can see how well it works for you before buying it:
http://www.nuance.com/for-business/document-imaging-and-scanning/power-pdf-converter/index.htm#resources

The first link in this post is to the (free) Nitro cloud. Nitro is a well-known name in PDF tools and their Nitro Pro (current version is 8) has a PDF to Word feature:
http://www.nitropdf.com/pro/features/convert-export

There's also a free trial for this, but I've never used it, so can't vouch for its performance. However, it uses the same engine as the online tool, which I have used and is very good, so I would expect the same of Nitro Pro.

One more non-free product (but reasonably priced at $39) is CAD-KAS's PDF to Word:
http://www.cadkas.com/downengpdf9.php

I haven't used this product, but I have used their PDF Editor Objects, which is excellent. Based on the quality of PDF Editor Objects, I think that their PDF to Word is worth a try, and there's a free trial:
http://www.cadkas.com/pdf2word!.exe

I've been on previous threads here at EE where other experts have recommended these three (free) online tools:
http://www.convertpdftoword.org
http://www.pdfonline.com/pdf-to-word-converter
http://www.wondershare.net/pdf-converter/pdf-to-word-converter.html

I can't personally vouch for these, but based on the positive comments from other members, I'm passing them along for your consideration.

No matter which way you go, keep in mind that PDF-to-Word conversion is tricky business – maintaining the formatting/layout is tough stuff! I haven't found anything that is perfect, and results vary from one document to the next. This is why I suggest pursuing the Word-to-Gdoc effort, which should have a much better chance of success than PDF-to-Gdoc. Regards, Joe
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Author Comment

by:sconnell
ID: 40409607
Joe Winograd: Thanks so much for your reply (the the great effort you made).

>This surprises me. Every DOC/DOCX I've uploaded to Gdocs has been fine.

I suspect that you have never uploaded a large multi-chapter document with images (and captions), footnotes, etc. Because, in desperation, I have even tried uploading other people's Word docs... all with the same, unusable results.

Here is an example of what I typically see from a native Word document:
Word to GD formatting - unusable messIn the above example, paragraphs are inexplicably turned into images (but clicking Edit brings up Drawing mode and the text is actually intact!).

> I think you're much better off trying to get the Word-to-Gdoc working well.
After a lot of time experimenting... I have determined that PDF to Gdoc is severely limited to 1024000 characters. There isn't a way around this ridiculous and mysterious limitation. This means that I am left with only Word to Gdoc conversion.

Now, the question is... what is the best way to convert a PDF to Word to Gdoc?

I know that Adobe Acrobat's Save As Word (either .doc or docx) doesn't translate successfully into Gdoc.

>I've had good (not perfect) results with this free online tool: http://www.pdftoword.com/
Tried it.... Dismal failure!

>The first link in this post is to the (free) Nitro cloud. Nitro is a well-known name in PDF tools and their Nitro Pro
>(current version is 8) has a PDF to Word feature: http://www.nitropdf.com/pro/features/convert-export

Split my document into the a 5MB part and tested their demo... unfortunately the Gdoc end result was also unusable.

Perhaps I should explain that by "unusable", I do mean results such as the attachment above. I am not seeking perfection... I'd just be happy with even 70% accuracy!

>http://www.cadkas.com/pdf2word!.exe
Wow, that tool was utterly useless. I think it was written 20 years ago and only supports .rtf (that's not Word, exactly). Besides... what is the point of only converting the first page, as a demo. Also pretty dumb. Nevertheless, I tested the one page output (for text mode) and it resulted in a whole bunch of high-bit ASCII characters. :(

>I haven't found anything that is perfect,
Like I said, I would be jumping for joy just to achieve a 70% accurately rendered Gdoc!

>This is why I suggest pursuing the Word-to-Gdoc effort
And this is exactly what I am pursuing with extremely unsatisfactory results (see above).

Here is a side-by-side comparison... and this is one of the better translated pages. :]
One of the better pages.
Thanks again for your efforts.
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Accepted Solution

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Joe Winograd, EE MVE earned 500 total points
ID: 40409709
> I suspect that you have never uploaded a large multi-chapter document with images (and captions), footnotes, etc.

You are correct.

> PDF to Gdoc is severely limited to 1024000 characters

Based on the link in your post, it actually seems worse than that. It's not merely that PDF-to-Gdoc is limited to 1,024,000 characters — if I'm reading it right, all documents are limited to 1,024,000 characters!

> Now, the question is... what is the best way to convert a PDF to Word to Gdoc?

That's not going to help if I'm reading the 1,024,000-char limitation right.

> I know that Adobe Acrobat's Save As Word (either .doc or docx) doesn't translate successfully into Gdoc.

It does for simple docs. I just tested it in Acrobat XI Pro. The DOCX that it created (via a Save As from a PDF) uploaded perfectly to Gdocs. I suspect the issue is that your doc is far from simple.

Sounds as if the real problem here is Gdocs. Does your company-wide collaboration have to take place on that platform?
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LVL 4

Author Comment

by:sconnell
ID: 40413786
Thanks for your effort Joe.

This exercise is futile but I thank you for your time and effort.

I am now going to consider other methods of collaboration.
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Author Closing Comment

by:sconnell
ID: 40413794
It is the right answer, in the sense that what I was trying to accomplish isn't possible with gdocs today.
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Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 40413816
Shawn,
You're very welcome — and thanks to you for the points. I think your decision to consider other methods of collaboration is a wise move. Good luck with the project! Regards, Joe
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