Conversion of Google G Suite Documents to PDF and PDF/A

by Dr. Uwe Wächter

Many of our customers are currently thinking about using Google’s G Suite – in parallel or as a replacement for MS Office 365. In this context, the conversion of G Suite documents into the neutral format PDF and the archive format PDF/A will also have to be reorganized.

 

Storage

G Suite documents are never physically local. They always represent only a visualization of data that is managed in the cloud. Editors only show the operation of editing functions on layout and data in the cloud. However, this enables collaborative working methods to a large extent.

The physical storage (Google Drive) takes place in Google data centers distributed across the globe taking into account the most frequent access. End customers have no control over the true location of storage. It is not possible to purchase the underlying software to run in a private cloud.

API

If you want to automate processes with the G Suite or generally make workflows available, this can be done via API. However, programmatic access to G Suite is very limited in the standard system. Corporate customers will, therefore, operate G Suite in a so-called business plan. Such a plan allows more functions to be available in the program. For automatic processes, e.g., conversion to PDF, a service account is required with which G Suite documents can be accessed outside a specific user context.

Conversion

ECM systems cannot physically manage G Suite documents because they only exist on Google Drive. Therefore, conversion jobs can never transfer files to our Corporate Conversion Server, but only “links” to Google Drive. An essential component of a conversion solution is therefore always remote access to Google Drive, which stores the G Suite documents.

It is also possible to manage non-G Suite files on the Google Drive. The conversion of such files integrated in Google Drive is also supported by us.

PDF/A

Interesting for the generation of standardized formats (PDF/A) is the limitation of G Suite regarding available resources. There is a huge but limited number of fonts that are centrally available but cannot be extended under any circumstances. The same might be true for other resources, such as color models. This avoids some typical problems with PDF/A customization.

G Suite documents know only very limited functions with metadata. You can attach metadata to files like File Properties on MS Windows files. However, there are no field functions in the standard system that visualize such metadata in the actual file. This means that title blocks etc. are not possible.

G Suite does not allow file nesting. Analog constructs such as nested MS Office files, for which we recently implemented a conversion to PDF/A-2, are not available.

SEAL Systems functions for G Suite and Google Drive

  1. Conversion of link referenced G Suite documents to PDF/A and transfer of the generated PDF/A to another application
  2. Add-in for interactive processing of G Suite documents: “Create PDF/A and archive,” “Print locally (SEAL print server),” “Send by email as PDF.”
  3. Loading of MS Office files to Google Drive
  4. Printing from G-Drive

Summary

The functionality described is only a snapshot. The Google Suite is evolving rapidly. Large customers usually have a direct Google contact in the project, so their requirements will flow into the product. This means: it is possible that some of the restrictions described will no longer exist in the near future.

The conversion of cloud-based documents is an opportunity for us because real files will continue to be needed in many processes in the future. Through interface know-how and integration of cloud services into business processes, we can offer our customers real added value.

 

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