Chrome can soon convert PDFs into text it can read aloud

People with limited vision will have an easier time with web documents.

Photo by Rubaitul Azad on Unsplash

Google will soon make it easier to interact with PDFs if you have low vision. The company is adding OCR (optical character recognition) technology to Chrome that can convert PDFs to text that makes them more accessible, particularly if you want a screen reader to read them aloud. The tool will also provide image descriptions.

The feature will be available in the "coming months," Google says. The company also plans to expand the functionality beyond Chrome later this year, although it hasn't said which platforms might receive the upgrade. We've asked Google for more details and will let you know if we hear back.

Google Chrome PDF to text feature

The introduction comes as part of a broader education push that includes app licensing for school Chromebooks and free access to Adobe Express in the US. Administrators will also have tighter control over what students and faculty can access on their Chromebooks — they can ban students from copying and pasting text from certain websites, such as generative AI tools that could help them cheat on tests. Users, meanwhile, will have an easier time turning off their camera or microphone regardless of where they are in Chrome OS.

The read-aloud PDF feature is mainly intended for classrooms, where students with vision issues will have an easier time reading scanned class material or necessary research articles. However, this will also make the internet more accessible for the public at large. It's not uncommon for websites to put terms of service or other important information into PDFs. The upgrade puts that info within reach of more people.