Google Drive (previously known as Google Docs) has been through a number of changes and iterations since it went live in 2012, both to design and functionality, including the launch of two Professional Editions, Drive for Work and Drive for Education, in 2014. Comprising of 3 free web-based programs; Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, these make up Google’s office-suite offering and allow for real-time collaboration and editing with other users that have access to the documents in question. Both desktop and app versions are available, but the app does not allow for download of documents in the same way as desktop; on the app, users can choose to Open files in different programs installed on their devices, and then Save from within those apps. Adobe is one such app, or PDF Reader for Android.
Google reported in October 2014 that there were 240 million monthly active users of Google Drive, so you’d be excused for thinking that pretty much everyone knows how to use the service, but in actuality it seems that whilst a lot of users understand the basics, they’re not aware of all of the functions the service offers. One of those is the functionality to download any documents compatible with Google Drive as a PDF whilst using the service on desktop machines*. Using this feature enables users to download documents straight to their computer in PDF format, giving all of the beneficial properties of a PDF but still allowing the source document to be edited whilst on Google Drive by other users if necessary – so great for times such as when an interim report needs to be generated, but the overall document isn’t complete or will be amended on an ongoing basis.
Download as PDF
To download a document as a PDF is really easy and can be done by anyone, with either a free or professional account. Whichever type of document you are downloading (Doc, Sheet or Slide), it needs to be open in a browser, and of course ensure all edits have been uploaded by Google so it’s the most recent version, especially if more than one person uses it regularly.
Once open, simply navigate to File, Download As and then choose PDF document (.pdf). As you can see, there are also other file type options such as CSV, TSV and ZIP (example below taken from Google Sheets)
*Please note that there are certain file types such as JPG images that can be uploaded to Google Drive but cannot be downloaded as PDFs. This is because they are converted by Google into using the nearest possible file type (a JPG will open using Sheets), but it is not possible to edit them within the Google Drive interface, or download as any file type except the original.