Google Docs for Android Turns Photos into Editable Documents

Google Docs for Android is a new native application that lets users turn pictures with text into editable documents. The app provides better search and filtering and other usability perks.

Google April 27 released a native Google Docs application for Android with a nifty feature that lets users turn photos with text into documents that may be edited from smartphones.

Google Docs app for Android, intended for download from the Android Market by folks with English phones running Android 2.1 and later, lets users tap a button to create a new document from photo or select the camera icon from the widget.

The document will appear in the documents list after the phone user snaps the picture. Google said users may also convert existing photos from their Android phone by sharing them with the Google Docs app.

This feature leverages Google's wealth of optical character recognition (OCR) technology fomented by the Google Books group.

The Docs team began using OCR in Docs last June to let users import scanned documents. Users can convert text from PDF or JPEG, GIF and PNG image files to Google Docs, which extracts text and formatting from the scans for users to edit.

Reuben Kan, a Google software engineer, warned that while OCR does a decent job capturing unformatted text in English, it won't recognize handwriting or some fonts. This remains a work in progress for Google.

Google Docs for Android also now improves on the app's ability to search and filter for content across any Google account, then jump straight into editing docs using the online mobile editors. Users may also share items from within the app with contacts on their phone.

The refreshed Docs app will also now let users upload content from their phone and open documents directly from Gmail, a huge boost for users who live in their Gmail Android app.

Finally, users may add a widget to their phone home screen to jump to starred documents, take a photo to upload or create a new document.

The Docs for Android upgrade comes several months after Google began allowing users to edit Google Docs from Apple iOS and Google Android devices. This was a boon for enterprise workers who need to work on documents from the road.