What Is Google Stack?

Google Stack is a document scanning and filing app. It digitally photographs and stores receipts, bills, and other papers as PDFs, organizing them into different categories. Free to download, it is available exclusively for Android phones and tablets in the U.S.

Key Takeaways

  • Google Stack is a document digitizing and filing app, launched by Google in March 2021.
  • The app is free, but available exclusively for Android users.
  • Google Stack uses artificial intelligence to scan and store papers as PDFs, organizing them into customizable categories.
  • Users can search their stacked docs in various ways: by a store name, a bill’s due date, or a sum of money.
  • Copies of Google Stack documents can also be stored on a user’s Google Drive.

How Google Stack Works

Launched on March 30, 2021, Google Stack was created by Area 120, the in-house incubator of Google, owned by Alphabet Inc. (GOOG and GOOGL).

The team leader for Stack was Christopher Pedregal, creator of Socratic, an education app Google acquired in 2018.

To use Stack—once it’s downloaded from the Google Play store—you begin by photographing a document. The app will scan it, title it for you, and suggest the right category, or “stack” (get the name now?), for you to store it in, based on details within the doc. You can also import and scan existing PDFs or photos of documents already on your Android smartphone.

The stacks have names, such as Bills, Receipts, Banking, House, IDs, Vehicles, Insurance, Legal, Medical, Tax, and Travel. If you don’t like the preset suggestions, you can change the filename, slot the doc into another stack, or create a category of your own. You can put a PDF into more than one stack, and you can edit a file’s appearance (crop, color) as well—though the app automatically does a lot of digital enhancement. One professional app reviewer was particularly impressed by Stack’s ability to gather info from and categorize a highly crumpled receipt.

Google Stack Strong Points

Scanning apps have been around for a while. The biggest deal with Stack’s is its organizing function—the way it “reads” a document and files it.

Stack makes extensive use of Google’s DocAI tool, a Cloud-based technology for document analysis.

This ability to analyze and zero in on key data also allows you to search for your stacked docs in various ways: by a store name, a bill’s due date, a sum of money. The app also enables full-text searches within a doc.

Another of Stack’s selling points is its ability to sync with Google Drive; you can opt to automatically save a copy of your stacked documents there, for access on a desktop or laptop. That way your scans will always be available, should you ever decide to stop using Stack—or should Google discontinue it, as some cynics say it will.

Reactions to Google Stack

Stack receives largely favorable reviews on Google Play Store. As of Aug. 31, 2021, the app has a 4.6-star rating (out of five) from 2,977 reviewers. “Simple, easy to use and intuitive” and “the naming and the categories are awesome!” are typical kudos. Complaints have centered on crashes/upload delays and difficulty in moving PDFs between stacks or re-sorting them within stacks.

Some responders have expressed big data concerns, given Stack’s affiliation with the Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite) family. One CNET comment reads: “And what will Google do with all of your important scanned documents? Don’t be surprised if you receive oddly coincidental advertising after using this app.”

100,000+

The number of Stack installs, as of Aug. 31, 2021

Google Stack Competitors

Document scanning and digitizing services are not brand new: CamScanner, one of the oldest, dates back to 2011. Some of the leading mobile apps that Google Stack is competing with include:

  • Microsoft Office Lens for iPhone and Android, which lets you save to OneNote or OneDrive
  • Tiny Scanner, with versions for iOS and Android devices
  • Adobe Scan for iOs and Android, which can upload PDFs or JPEGs to Adobe Document Cloud
  • CamScanner APK, for iPhone and Android, which also stores docs as PDF or JPEG files

Is Google Stack Safe?

Stack uses Google’s advanced security and sign-in technology to protect documents. For extra safeguarding, you can require a scan of your face or fingerprint every time you unlock the app.

How Do I Use Google Stacks?

First, you sign in to the Google Stack app, using your Google account. Then tap on the + button in the bottom-right corner of the screen. You can scan and import items in three ways: the PDF option for already-digitized files, the Gallery option if it’s a photo, or the Camera option to create a digitized version of an actual document. Using Camera is akin to taking any smartphone pic: Place the paper on a well-lit, even surface, hold the phone steady, and tap the Scan button. The app automatically crops and sharpens the image.

Where Are Google Stack Documents Stored?

Google Stack documents are stored in the app itself, organized into different categories (the “stacks”). You can also opt to have copies of the docs saved to your Google Drive.