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This is how you can make Google Drive PDFs load correctly as external URLs in modules

TL;DR – If you can't get Google Drive PDF links to load correctly as embedded PDFs when sharing them as external URLs in modules, change the last word of the public URL from view to preview.

I found that Google Drive hosted PDFs were not loading correctly when I posted public URLs for them as external links in modules.

The result was that students would click on a link for an external link to the Google Drive PDF in a module, and see this:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.23.48 PM.png

The white text at the top of this mysterious gray box links to the PDF, but the PDF does not load as an embedded document in an <iframe> the way it should.

The solution is to an an extra three letters to the url. For example, change this URL...

https://drive.google.com/a/wellesleyps.org/file/d/0BwHMT18TcOPnczg5LWxVNUJWMjQ/view

To this...

https://drive.google.com/a/wellesleyps.org/file/d/0BwHMT18TcOPnczg5LWxVNUJWMjQ/preview

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.24.26 PM.png

Doing this loads the embedded PDF correctly, like so...

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.24.43 PM.png

For whatever reason, this view of Google Drive PDFs loads as an embedded document, but without adding the "pre" to the URL, it creates the blank gray rectangle of mystery.

2 Replies
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Community Coach
Community Coach

clarkem, thanks for sharing this really great resource! You might consider also sharing it with the Instructional Designers​ group. I think they'd really appreciate it as well!

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Community Member

Wow Matthew, thanks for sharing this information! 

To fellow Canvas users:

I want to note that the "preview" url edit will also work for videos in google drive.  If you have videos that you want to play within the Canvas frame, do the same edit as Matthew showed and it'll work!

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