Original Poster
Hans U. F. Kleiminger

Problem in pdf-viewer with color images

When I upload a pdf-fil containing images in color to Google Drive, it seems that the viewer compress the file (converting it to google-document type) and most of the colors disappear.
Any one know why this problem occurs? It seems that Google has done something new  to compress files automatic within the last few months ?

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All Replies (18)
Eric Terpstra
Eric Terpstra
I am also experiencing this problem.  It's almost like all the green and blue information is removed from the images.  See http://www.guyfrog.org/2013-newsletter/ for an example.  You can download the PDF to see how it should be.
Upendra Deodhar
Upendra Deodhar
I too am facing the same problem, first I thought it was the pdf file itself, so created from another source / method but still the red channel from the image in the pdf is missing.
The problem however seems to be appearing only with the online rendering, when the file is saved and viewed locally, to a different location, the image is intact.
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
Just noticed it myself. Totally crappy rendering of color in the Docs+Drive pdf previewer for an image (pdf file uploaded to Google Drive on the web) that renders fine when it is directly displayed from the pdf source on the PC. I recommend to the Docs+Drive team to acquire a suitable set of test images and deal with the issue. If correct rendering depends on certain properties of the local set-up (monitor or printer properties) then that should be documented somewhere. At this moment I am on a standard Windows 7 environment and am using Chrome to access my Drive space.
Original Poster
Hans U. F. Kleiminger
Thank you for your answers, that shows, that I am not the only one, who has noticed the color problems. 
I wrote about the problem concerning the missing colors in pdf-files in Google Drive more than a month ago, but it seems very difficult to contact Google ? No direct support exist concerning Google Drive / Documents if you look at their Support Page ? Today I even tried to write about the problem via an e-mail address on Googles own support site (suppo...@google.com) for danish speaking users, but the answer was, that Google does not read the mail at all - so then why have an e-mail on a support-site if you don't want to answer ? - This is not a polite way to treat customers !

Bas Braams have you heard anything new about the problem from the Docs+Drive team ? 
As it is so difficult via Googles own pages to contact anybody within the firm, I now consider to go and visit their office in Aarhus, where I live.
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
Let me record on 2013-11-30 that there has been no change in the bad rendering of color in the Docs+Drive pdf previewer that was reported here on 2013-05-21. (I haven't looked for earlier reports; it may be a much older issue.)

I have created an example Docs text document that contains three well known images: Peppers, Barbara and Mandrill; in each case as a 512*512 jpg file. I exported it to pdf and also to docx (MS Word) format and placed those pdf and docx files on Google Drive space and also on Dropbox space. The files are all shared to anyone with the link. Here are the links.

GDocsImagesColor (Google Docs text file including 3 jpg images):

GDocsImagesColor.pdf (pdf version of same) on Google Drive:

GDocsImagesColor.pdf on Dropbox:

GDocsImagesColor.docx (MS Word version of same) on Google Drive:

GDocsImagesColor.docx on Dropbox:

I believe that if the Docs text document GDocsImagesColor is opened the normal way (as a Docs text document) then the color displays fine. If the pdf or the docx file is opened from its Dropbox location then the color also displays fine. (I have tried it using the Chrome and the Firefox browser.) However, if the pdf or the docx file is opened from its Drive location then the Google Docs pdf viewer handles it and the color is very poor. I think that it gets reduced from 24 bits to 8 bits, or something like that.

The Google Docs+Drive technical team and their management appear to be not very serious about looking after the quality of their product. I think that the Docs text editor (and Spreadsheets) projects will be abandoned [1], although I may have misunderestimated the timescale for that to happen.

[1] (2013-04-14) Prediction: Docs text editor and spreadsheets to be frozen and abandoned in favor of Quickoffice and other products
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
Here is a Spreadsheets (GSheets) example that may be used (today, 2013-11-30 anyway) to show the crappy rendering of color in the Google Docs+Drive pdf viewer. The original sheet is here on Docs+Drive:


Here is the pdf version (obtained by Download as pdf) on Docs+Drive:

Here is the same pdf file on Dropbox:

If one views the original spreadsheet through the Docs+Drive spreadsheets interface then colors are fine. If one views the pdf file on Docs+Drive (using Chrome or Firefox; don't know about IE) then the Google Drive pdf viewer handles it and colors are very bad. If one views the pdf file on Dropbox, using either Chrome or Firefox, then the colors are fine again.

Things may change, and at some point a reader may wonder what is so bad. Therefore I include snapshots of Barbara and of the Mandrill (in color) as they appear on my screen through the Docs+Drive viewer on 2013-11-30 (using Crome on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, everything up-to-date) and also through the built-in pdf viewer in the Firefox browser. These snapshots do not have the resolution of the original, but they do preserve the essence of the color rendering.
Montessori East
Montessori East
I'm having this same issue.
Hi.  I have not been able to use the workaround suggested by Silvana.  The changing of the URL gives me a 404 error.  This is nuts!  It used to work fine.  
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
<<I have not been able to use the workaround suggested by Silvana.>> Let's start with a reference to that workaround: it was presented to us by Maria Silvana in the conversation [1] and she also described it on a personal site [2]. The technique as I understand it (see the same conversation [1]) is this.

The pdf file on the Docs+Drive cloud must be shared "public on the web", not just to anyone with the link. Then one starts with the link given in the browser share dialog and one modifies it as follows: replace the header "https://drive.google.com/file/d/" by "https://googledrive.com/host/" and strip away the trailing "/edit?usp=sharing". The original and the modified link of an example that I displayed under [1] are as follows.

GDocsImagesGrayscaleColorComposite.pdf on Docs+Drive, original link from the share dialog:

GDocsImagesGrayscaleColorComposite.pdf on Docs+Drive, link modified following Maria Silvana:

Follow the first link and one sees the image through the Docs+Drive pdf viewer. Follow the second link and one sees the image through the browser built-in pdf viewer.

I just looked at that file again today through the two links and the behaviour is the same as back in December 2013. If the first link is followed then the Docs+Drive pdf viewer is used and the result is awful. If the second link is followed then the standard built-in browser pdf viewer is used and the result is fine. Therefore, the workaround provided by Maria Silvana still works for me. Maybe the issue is that really the file must be shared public on the web.

[1] (2013-12-16) Re: Bad images display in pdf files and doxs.

[2] Come fare a..‎ > Google Drive, visualizzare correttamente pdf e docx
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
Let's record that also today, approaching 1 year since the original posting here, the Google Docs+Drive pdf viewer mangles colors. As becomes clear when one does some tests, the viewer uses 5 bits to encode each pixel and no dithering. If the image is recognized as color then the 5 bits encode 32 colors, if it is recognized as grayscale then they encode 32 grays, and if it is diagnosed as a mix of color and grayscale then they encode 16 colors and 16 grays. (Standard these days is 24-bit RGB which gives 16777216 colors.)

As described under [14] the viewer maltreats colors in Word (*.docx) files the same way as colors in pdf files; 5 bits are used. As described under [15] Tiff (*.tif) files are maltreated in a very special way: 5 bits are used and then the resulting binary number is inverted (left-to-right vs right-to-left) in the interpretation. That way a smooth gradation of color or grayscale gets coarsened first and then replaced by an oscillating pattern and the image becomes completely unrecognizable. On the other hand, the Docs+Drive viewer seems to handle stand-alone *.png or *.jpg images fine; it is only when such an image is inserted into a pdf or Word file that the colors get mangled.

It is worth noting that Upload is *not* the cause of the problem; if one uploads a pdf file to Drive and one downloads it back to the PC (without conversion, of course) then one recovers the original file.

Let me add a demonstration, drawn from [10], of the poor color rendering in the Docs+Drive viewer. Consider these 2 files: one pdf and one Word (*.docx). The pdf file is on my Dropbox space and for the Word file I use a web link.

GDocsImagesGrayscaleColorComposite.pdf on the Dropbox cloud:

[Word] Carolee Schneemann

The first file is just one composite color/grayscale image and the second file is text that includes some images. Here is a copy of that composite image from the pdf file and a copy of the first image in that Word file as they display on any browser that I have tried: Chrome, IE9 and Firefox. The browser built-in pdf viewer is used.

Here are the same two files stored on my Docs+Drive filespace and shared to anyone with the link.

GDocsImagesGrayscaleColorComposite.pdf on the Docs+Drive cloud, original link from the share dialog:

[Word] Carolee Schneemann

The reader can follow the link and if things are as they are today and have been since May 2013 then the images will appear approximately like so.

A careful study of this and other examples confirms that color images are rendered using 32 colors, grayscale images are rendered using 32 grays, and if the image is diagnosed to be a mix of color and grayscale then 16 colors and 16 grays are used.

[1] (2013-05-21) Problem in pdf-viewer with color images

[2] (2013-05-22) Google Docs Viewer mangling colours on images

[3] (2013-05-27) Pdf quality in drive preview

[4] (2013-06-02) How to get color back in googledoc viewer ?

[5] (2013-07-11) .pdf views in distorted indexed color

[6] (2013-10-15) horrible pdf image resolution - color blends striate

[7] (2013-11-17) Google Drive PDF viewer is so bad in displaying color

[8] (2013-11-24) Bad images display in pdf files and doxs

[9] (2013-12-19) google drive color quality

[10] (2014-01-22) I uploaded a colour PDF to google drive to share it, and the colours look all weird

[11] (2014-02-02) Color distorted in pages with pictures uploaded to DOCUMENTS

[12] (2014-03-01) Why is Google Drive PDF color-rendering so bad?

[13] (2014-03-22) BUG: pdf files not displayed properly in Google Drive when editing. Images horribly posterized

[14] (2014-01-17) Google drive and google docs and Word documents

[15] (2014-01-26) Google Drive inverting color on picture previews
Bas Braams
Bas Braams
Today it appears that the problem with low-res (5-bit) rendition of color in pdf files by the Docs+Drive viewer has been fixed also for embedded pdf files [1] (pdf files viewed through a link of the form https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=[...]&embedded=true). The examples posted here by DougJoseph on 2014-10-26 and by Angryangryhippo on 2014-11-03 are now displayed with proper resolution of color.

I think that it would have been proper for the Docs+Drive team to acknowledge this error, which has been around since sometime in the first half of 2013, and to announce the fix.

[1] Google Docs Viewer
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