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Google Docs adds PDF support

Google Docs adds PDF support

The Google Docs PDF interface is rather austere compared to the Google Books UI, but it's functional.

Late last week Google took the wrapper off its latest addition to the Google Docs web-based office suite: support for the popular Portable Document Format (PDF).

According to a post by Product Manager Jen Mazzon on the Google Docs blog, PDF support represents a “highly requested feature” of the free web-app. The changes made to the service now allow users to upload, preview, and share PDF files via the standard Google Docs interface, as well as copying text into other documents. Editing features aren't yet available, but it's certainly sounding like something the team is planning for the future.

While the support is a welcome addition to the popular suite, it's interesting that the team has chosen to develop a viewer application separate from the one that already exists for Google Books: while the existing PDF viewer allows for the dragging of pages – in a manner similar to Adobe's popular Reader application – and various tweaks to the view style, the new viewer is fixed at a 1024-pixel width – and, somewhat bizarrely, if you do make advantage of the limited zoom available to the new viewer you also zoom in on the non-optional thumbnail bar.

There are certain limitations to the support, too: with editing disabled, there's no support for PDF forms, and you're limited to a total of a hundred PDF files at a maximum 10MB each before the system will prevent you from uploading any more. The fixed width of the viewer also prevents it from working on portable devices like the Apple iPhone, even though other parts of the Google Docs suite – such as Word and Excel file viewing and editing – work fine.

Even with these limitations – and it must be remembered that the service, in common with many Google features people come to rely on day-to-day, is still in beta – it's a useful addition to a powerful web-based package that many are finding removes the need for Microsoft Office on their systems. As the features improve – and hopefully as the service takes on some more of the power of its older book-based brother – it's a move likely to worry Adobe as well as Microsoft.

Any Google Docs users tried the PDF support yet, or isn't it something you'd be interested in? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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