Team Practices Group/Google Drive Management


This page is intended to give an overview of the sharing options for google docs and folders. Google docs have some advantages (compared to drop box and etherpads) as well as some user experience issues.

Note: Google constantly tests new features on google drive users. TPG has attempted to document the most common user interactions to date. However some users may see variations on these features. The best ways to get results from google docs are: patience, and careful observation of dialogs and menus.

Sharing and managing individual documentsEdit

How to share documentsEdit

A document can be shared in several ways:

  1. While in the list of documents in google drive, right click on the document name and click "Share"
  2. While inside the document, click File > Share
  3. While inside the document, click the large blue Share button in the upper right corner.

Each of the paths above lead to a common share dialog. The simplified UI allows the user to add collaborators to the document and select their level of access.

Clicking on the Advanced link opens more options. This is the main way to observe who is allowed to access the document and what level of interaction they have.

advanced sharing dialog for google docs

Click on "Get Shareable Link" gives you a link that is guaranteed to work in emails, chat or other communication. It has some sharing options that may be too broad for some purposes. See the next section for advanced sharing issues.

simple sharing dialog for google docs

How to keep a document restrictedEdit

Google wants to make sharing documents easy. However there are times when google's suggested or default actions accidentally open up a document that needs to stay restricted. Here are some tips to maintain access to your documents.

Tip #1Edit

If you really want to keep a document protected, you must check the main sharing dialog from time to time. You must also monitor the editors. Anyone who has edit privileges can accidentally open up the document to a wider audience. Sometimes you only need certain people to have view or comment access. Consider reviewing these levels of access from time to time.

Tip #2Edit

The "Get sharable Link" options can be very confusing. The default option is to open up view access to anyone with the link. There are more options in the drop down menu but most people overlook them.

Tip #3Edit

When pasting a document link into a gmail email, you may be presented with more sharing options. Recent testing has shown multiple messages and sharing options here. They have not been very consistent or easily reproducible. However, this user flow can be as confusing and as detrimental as the "Get Shareable Link" feature. If you really want to avoid over-sharing your document, "cancel" out of any sharing prompts in email.

Using Google Drive FoldersEdit

Google drive folders are very similar to the folder and file system on a PC. However they can grant varying levels of access to subfolders and documents.

General ManagementEdit

To create a folder:

  • While in google drive, click the "New" button and select the folder option.

Grouping folders and documents:

  • While in google drive, click and drag folders and documents on top of a target folder. This will place them inside the target folder.
  • While inside a document, click File > Move to Folder to move the document to a target folder.

Sharing Folders:

  • While in google drive, right click on a folder and select "Share" from the options. All the document sharing features listed above also apply to folders.

Some advantagesEdit

  • Sharing the top level folder shares all documents and folders below
  • Creating new documents inside a folder automatically shares them with all users for that folder.

Some UX pain pointsEdit

  • When someone shares a folder with you, you need to drag and drop the folder to your own google drive from the "shared with me" section. This will allow you to add some of your own documents to the folder.
  • When moving files or folders, you or another user may need to refresh or wait a few seconds (max 1 minute) before documents show up in the correct location.
  • Bulk movement of documents have the longest lag before they show up properly.
  • Sharing these folders and documents with google accounts outside WMF produces all sorts of access issues. They are too numerous and varied to properly describe. It should be avoided at all costs.

How to keep files and folders restrictedEdit

Folders can help a group of users serve documents to one another in an organized manner and still keep them relatively restricted (if they so choose). Here are several sharing scenarios that have been tested:

  • If a user is listed as "viewer" in the uppermost folder, they will be able to navigate all folders and files and be able to request access to any that are not specifically shared. This is also true for settings like "anyone with the link...".
  • If you add/move a file to a folder, the document will take on the sharing rights of the folder. Once it is moved into the folder, you can still customize the sharing options.
  • If you create a document inside a folder, it will first take on the sharing rights of the folder. You can change the sharing rights at any time.
  • Sub folders will first have the sharing rights of the higher level folders. If a folder is given customized restrictions, it is still navigable to a "viewer" for an upper level folder.
  • Any higher level folder can change sharing rights at any time. If you take a person off the access list while they are navigating a folder or document, they are notified by a modal and forced to refresh. Afterward the folder no longer appears in their lists.