Google Files is testing the ability to search inside photos and PDFs

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By Aprilia Reen

Image of the Google “G” logo on a blue, black, and purple background.

Google’s Files app is testing a handy new upgrade that could make finding documents on your phone a lot easier. As first spotted by Android Police, the app’s listing on the Google Play Store says it’s testing a new Smart Search capability you can use to search for images and PDFs based on what’s in them.

With the Smart Search feature turned on, Google says you can search for the text and images inside PDFs. That means if you’re searching for a restaurant menu you know you’ve saved on your phone, you should be able to find it by typing in the restaurant’s name if it’s included in the document. Files is also testing the ability to search for photos based on the objects pictured within them as well as the locations where they were taken. Google Photos has long had this capability, but it’s nice to see it hopefully coming to Files, too.

Google Files currently only lets you search through documents based on their file names, which isn’t particularly useful when the majority of file names on your phone are just a mishmash of random letters and numbers.

It looks like the update isn’t rolled out to everyone, but the folks at Android Police got to try it out themselves and found that they couldn’t search for images based on location just yet, nor could they label and find people within pictures like you can do in Google Photos.

In a support page on Google’s website, the company says Smart Search runs in the background to scan your documents. It notes that “scanning happens on your device” so your information doesn’t leave it. To check if you have the feature, update the Files app and look for Smart Search in the app’s settings. Google notes it may take a “few days” for on-device scanning to be available. If you don’t see it yet, you’ll have to put up with searching through documents by file name just a little longer, but it can’t hurt to keep checking back for updates.

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