Site icon Jenna Sargent Barron

Editing Google Docs vs PDFs

When I first started tech editing I decided I would only accept PDFs. It’s what was taught in the tech editing course I took so I just went with it.

But then someone sent me a Google Doc and I realized I actually liked editing in it, too.

What file type you like to edit can be a big debate among tech editors. Whenever preferred editing software comes up, everyone tends to get very opinionated. I tend to like both, and think there are upsides and downsides to both.

So today, I will break down the differences between editing in Google Docs vs PDFs from a tech editor’s perspective. Of course, it’s always best to ask your editor what they prefer and follow their process, but if they don’t have an opinion, this might help you choose.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a collaborative cloud-based word processor. If you’ve never used it, think Microsoft Word (on Windows) or Pages (on Mac), but instead of being an app on your computer, you access it from your web browser.

This makes it a great tool for editing because changes are made live. As soon as I make an edit, the designer instantly gets notified and can even jump in at the same time. On Microsoft Word I would have to save the file and email it before the designer could view changes.

When editing in Google Docs, I make use of the “Suggestions” mode and Comments. Suggestions allows me to replace or correct text, add new text, or fix incorrect numbers. It adds a line through what I want to replace and then my suggestion shows up in green, with a comment box in the pane to the right.


PDFs are pretty straightforward. When a designer sends me a PDF, it’s often a final laid out version of the pattern. I can’t edit the text itself, but I can highlight text, underline it, add comment boxes, or write on the pattern itself.

What I like about editing in Google Docs

What I don’t like about editing in Google Docs

What I like about editing PDFs

What I don’t like about editing PDFs

Google Docs vs PDFs: The Winner?

It really comes down to personal preference. I know tech editors who swear by PDFs, and some who only edit in something like Google Docs.

I think overall, for the designer, the total editing time is lower when I’m using Google Docs, which means a smaller invoice at the end. It’s so much faster to make edits, and I don’t have to spend so much time looking for what has changed from the previous version.

However, it takes more round of edits when going through Google Docs. With PDFs I can usually finish up a pattern in two or three rounds of editing. This can make the total editing timeline shorter.

I hope this was helpful! If you’re a designer, head down to the comments below to tell me how you prefer to share your patterns. And tech editors, what file type do you prefer editing? Let me know!

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