Google’s Stack is a clever, if incomplete, way to digitize and organize documents


Having to cope with paperwork is a actual ache, whether or not it’s hardcopy or digital. Tax documents, explanations of advantages from insurance coverage corporations, buy receipts, prescriptions, payments, vaccination playing cards — the record of each day paperwork goes on and on. And after all, if you instantly want to discover that receipt on your two-year-old laptop computer, it’s nowhere to be discovered.

Google’s newest experimental app, Stack, is meant to assist make that a part of your life simpler. A product of Google’s Area 120 incubator, Stack is designed to be the place the place you possibly can hold PDF copies of all these documents. As talked about in our preliminary article, Stack borrows the expertise underlying Google’s powerful DocAI enterprise tool for doc evaluation so it may possibly organize them into classes — or, in Google-speak, stacks — and enable you to seek for phrases inside the textual content.

I’ve a lot of papers to hold organized. To hold their digital copies saved and accessible, I take advantage of a mixture of Google Drive, Evernote, and a PDF-creating app called Tiny Scanner. It’s not an excellent answer, so when Google got here out with a doc scanning / organizing app, I assumed I’d see what this Stack was all about.

Bring within the Stacks

First, a word: at present, Stack is solely obtainable on Android gadgets and can solely be put in utilizing a private Gmail account, not a Google Workplace (previously referred to as G Suite) account. However, as soon as you put in the app, you possibly can entry documents saved on any of your Google Drive accounts, together with Workspace accounts. This sort of confusion received’t be new to anybody who has to cope with juggling a number of Google accounts.

When you first open Stack, you might be introduced with a sequence of icons representing a number of stacks, together with Bills, Banking, House, IDs, Medical, Receipts, and Starred. If none of these fit your wants, you possibly can click on on an Edit hyperlink on the prime proper, and you might be proven different stacks having to do with taxes, immigration, automobiles, and different classes, which you’ll be able to add to your top-level stacks. You may also create your individual stack by tapping on a plus button.

You organize your documents into stacks.

You can select different stacks, or create your own.

You can choose completely different stacks or create your individual.

At the underside of the primary display are two tabs: “Home” (the preliminary display the place you possibly can see your stacks) and “All documents” (the place you possibly can see and search on all of your saved documents with out the “stack” group).

To begin including documents, you press the plus image on the house display. You are introduced with 3 ways to populate Stack:

  • PDF: pull in an current PDF from any Google Drive account or out of your machine
  • Gallery: discover a lately photographed picture in your machine
  • Camera: use your machine’s digital camera to scan a doc

I’ve acquired a lot of documents sitting in Google Drive, so I assumed I’d begin through the use of the PDF technique to import documents. I used to be disenchanted to discover that I might solely import one doc at a time — which suggests it might take me a very very long time to herald my complete historical past of PDFs.

The Gallery technique was additionally not particularly helpful because it solely gave me entry to about a month and a half of the images on my machine.

You can add an existing PDF or scan one using your phone’s camera.

You can add an current PDF or scan one utilizing your cellphone’s digital camera.

There are basic edit features for the PDF.

There are primary edit options for the PDF.

On the opposite hand, utilizing my cellphone’s digital camera to scan a doc from inside Stack labored properly. The doc is previewed earlier than saving and you possibly can modify the colour, crop it, and rotate it, if essential. You may also add further pages, in an effort to have a doc of a couple of web page.

Whichever way I imported a doc, I used to be impressed with how nicely Stack integrated it. The app creates the identify of the doc from its content material, isolates vital particulars resembling date and quantity of buy, and makes use of the content material to determine which stack it ought to go in. For instance, it appropriately recognized a doc that had details about the CDC’s v-safe app as being from the CDC and positioned it within the Medical stack. And after I photographed a very crumpled retailer receipt, it picked out the retailer’s identify and the quantity of the acquisition with none perceivable problem and put the doc in my Receipts stack.

You don’t have to depend upon the app to determine which stack the doc goes in. You can assign a doc to a stack by going to the “All documents” tab and then deciding on the doc in query; its stacks are listed beneath the picture, and you possibly can add or take away them there. And sure, you possibly can assign a single doc to a couple of stack, if you need — for instance, I put the CDC doc in each my Medical and Starred stacks.

What you possibly can’t do is create sub-stacks (or sub-folders) inside a stack. You can’t tag a doc, both. So, for instance, if you’re gathering a lot of medical documents from completely different medical doctors, you’ve gotten to put all of them within the Medical stack and do a seek for the doc you want or create a separate stack for every physician. Hopefully, as this experimental app is labored on, some further organizational instruments will probably be added.

On the opposite hand, doing a search (by going to “All documents”) will often discover what you want. As could possibly be anticipated from a Google app, the search works very nicely; most of my searches had been profitable find textual content inside the PDF documents.

Stack’s AI pulled out data even from a crumpled receipt.

Stack’s AI pulled out knowledge even from a crumpled receipt.

You can search for content from within the PDF.

You can seek for content material from inside the PDF.

If you go to the Settings web page (which is accessible out of your private icon), you possibly can have the app robotically import any images of documents that you just take along with your machine. You may also robotically save all of your PDFs to your Google Drive (which is a wonderful concept since Stack is experimental and might very simply find yourself within the Google Graveyard). And if you determine Stack isn’t for you, then you possibly can export all current documents to your Drive and delete all of your knowledge from Stack.

Privacy and safety

According to Google’s description of the app, “Stack uses Google’s advanced security and sign-in technology to protect your documents.” You may also require a face or fingerprint lock to entry the app — a good concept if you’re planning to embody any delicate documents.

How a lot that protects your documents from Google itself is, as all the time, up for query. In order to use Stack, you might be agreeing to Google’s Terms of Service (which you’ve in all probability agreed to earlier than anyway, if you’ve gotten a Gmail account) and Privacy Policy (similar). You are additionally requested to enable the app to entry images and media in your machine and to take footage and report video (whereas utilizing the app, solely this time, or deny). Both of those permissions are optionally available, however if Stack can’t entry media or take images, it in all probability received’t be very helpful.

So is Stack a viable choice for these of us who’re attempting to monitor life’s paperwork? As far as I’m involved, it’s not fairly there but — as a result of it’s so early in its growth and as a result of I’ve grow to be a little cynical about Google’s tendency to abandon its experiments, I’m not prepared to belief all my vital papers to Stack. But it has a lot of potential, and I’m going to control it.




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