The Google Files app is getting a powerful search option

Google Files' home screen.
(Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google Files is rolling out with the ability to scan documents and images for text with Smart Search.
  • The feature can also identify locations and objects found in images stored with Google Files. 
  • Google is testing the tool in the Files app now, but it might take a few days for the feature to appear. Some devices also won't be supported immediately. 

Search in the Google Files app is getting a lot more powerful, thanks to the new Smart Search feature and functionality revealed by Google in the app's release notes (via Android Police). The company is testing a feature that can scan the contents of images and documents to help provide search results in Files. Since all of it happens on-device, there aren't the same privacy concerns that might come with cloud storage.

The release notes were shared with version 1.1421.575590873.0 of the Google Files app, which was released on Tuesday. Google says that with advanced Smart Search functionality, the Files app can use text from images and PDFs, locations and objects from images, and artists, albums, and titles from audio and video files.

Even after updating, it will take a few days for on-device scanning to complete, according to a support document for Smart Search. Similarly, after uploading new images and documents, it might take some time for their data to be scanned and used to provide search results. Google also mentions that the new Smart Search features aren't available on some devices yet but doesn't specifically list which devices are supported.

Smart Search toggle in the Files by Google app

(Image credit: Brady Snyder / Android Central)

In the above release notes, Google instructs users to check their Files app settings to see if they have access to the new feature. Users with access will find a Smart Search toggle described as a way to "get better search results with automatic scanning of your on-device file content. We were able to see Smart Search in the Files app on our Pixel Fold, and it's turned on by default. 

Files by Google Smart Search

(Image credit: Brady Snyder / Android Central)

Smart Search worked in our testing for text detection in images and files fairly well. In the screenshot above, we searched the word "you," and got results with nondescript file names. Each image has the word "you" somewhere in it, which was picked up by Smart Search. Since the file names of the examples are numerical, it's clear that they appeared as results of the search purely based on Smart Search text detection.

An object detection search in Google Files.

(Image credit: Brady Snyder / Android Central)

Object detection also worked, and will probably be more useful in detecting objects at the forefront of an image. In our query of "phones," Smart Search returned a result of the word "phone" as text in an image and another result of a picture of a phone. 

However, searching for a location in photos was not functional. It's possible this feature is coming later, or simply isn't available on our device yet. 

Smart Search should make finding important files easier without relying on cloud analysis. This feature uses machine learning to scan your files, but it all happens on-device. If that sounds useful, make sure your Files app is updated and check for Smart Search in your app's settings. 

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.