Google Drive – Sharing files and folders

Life is less lonely if you share stuff.  Well, it’s the same with files and folders on Google Drive! Once you’ve created something often you want to share it with someone, a team, a class or even the whole world, and Google Drive allows you to do just this.

Before looking at how it’s done, let’s look at the options you have.

1) You can keep your files & folders private on your “My Drive”.  Only you can see your file or folder.

Sharing - You

2) You can share with a specific person. Only you and Bob can see the file or folder.  Bob needs to log in to his account to see the file or folder.

Sharing - YouBob

3) You can share with a group of people.  Only they can see the file or folder.  They need to log in to see the file or folder.

Sharing - YouTeam

4) You can share your file or folder by sharing a link with them. They need this link in order to access the file or folder. It’s like giving them a key to be able to open it.

Important: They don’t need to log in to be able to do this. This means you don’t know who has accessed your file, only that they must have done it with your link. Use with caution, as you don’t control who shares that link.

This is useful if you share the link somewhere else, e.g. a website, an email in Outlook, a blog, etc.

Sharing - SharedLink

5) The final option is sharing your file or folder with the whole world.  Anyone can access the file or folder and they don’t need to log in.  Use this option with caution.

Sharing - YouWorld


Apart from giving access to your file, you also have the option of controlling what they can do within that file.  The three main options are:

Can edit – They can edit the file.

Can comment – They can’t edit the file, but can leave comments in it.

Can view – They can’t do either of the above, but can look at it.


So, how do you share a file or folder?

1) Right-click on a file or folder you want to share and this brings up a menu.

Sharing - ShareMenu

2) Click on “Share” to open the “Share with others” dialogue box.

Sharing - ShareBox

3) The quickest way, is to type in the email address of the person you want to share the file with.

Sharing - AddEmail

4) On the right, by default, the person will be able to access the file and be able to edit it. If you want to change this, click on “Can edit” and choose from Can edit, Can comment or Can view.

Sharing - EditCommentView

5) You have the option of sending a message to the person.  Just click in the “Add a note” box.  Then click the blue “Send” button to share the file and also to send the person an email, stating that the file is shared with them.

Sharing - AddNote

6) Back in your “My Drive” you will see that your file now has a shared symbol to the right of the filename.

Sharing - ShareSymbol

The person you shared the file with will receive an email similar to this:

Sharing - EmailReceived

The email will contain a link to the file and the message may have included.


Google gives you further control over who can access your files and also what they can do with it.

1) Following steps 1 & 2 above, open the “share with others” menu.  You will see who the file is already shared with, in this case, ‘Baz Roberts’.

Sharing - WhoSharedWith

2) The extra options are in the “Advanced” menu on the bottom right of the box. It’s called “Advanced” but don’t let that put you off, it’s very simple to use, and really all it means is that it gives you extra options.  This opens the “Sharing settings” box.

Sharing - AdvancedSharingSettings

Under “Who has access”, you can see surprise, surprise, who has access to the file.  At the moment it is shared with specific people and Baz Roberts can edit the file.

3) Click on “Change” and this opens the “Link sharing” menu. Here you can change the access to the file, from specific people, to “Anyone with the link” or “Public on the web”, i.e. anyone on the Internet.  Just click the option you want and click Save.

Sharing - LinkSharing

4) Back in the “Sharing settings” box, we can also change how someone can access the file, by clicking on “Can edit” and choosing either, “Can comment” or “Can view”.  Don’t worry about “Is the owner” for now, this changes the file ownership to that person, giving them control of the file like you have.

Sharing - ChangeSharing

5) At the bottom of the box, you have two further options.

  • Prevent editors from changing access and editing new people.
  • Disable options to download, print and copy for commenters and viewers.

They do exactly what they say and add extra control over how the files are shared and how they are used.

Sharing - FurtherOptions

Click “Save changes”  if you’ve made some, then “Done”.


The final part is, where do files and folders appear that have been shared with you?

Fortunately, Google provides us with a convenient filter that shows you all the files or folders that are shared with you.

1) Back on the main Drive screen, on the left hand side, you’ll see “Shared with me”.  Click on this to show the list of files and folders that have been shared with you.

Sharing - SharedWIthMe

2) It shows you who shared it and when.  Note: by default, the filter is sorted in date order, with the most recent at the top.

Sharing - DocInSWM


The great thing about sharing the files and not emailing them like in the past, is that all the users have access to the latest document and multiple users can open and edit the file at the same time.  Google Drive saves every single change.

My last piece of advice is, that it’s usually better to share folders rather than individual files, as once shared, anything put in the folder will automatically be shared with those the folder is shared with.  Saving you a lot of time and bother.


eBooks now available on Drive, Forms, Sheets, Docs, and Slides:

  • Join the Google Slides Tips Google Space (for now: personal accounts only)

Baz Roberts (Flipboard / Twitter / Google+)


5 thoughts on “Google Drive – Sharing files and folders

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