How to Share Folders and Collaborate Using Google Drive

Work with others efficiently using the cloud

What to Know

  • Open a Google Drive file. Select Share. Enter email addresses of collaborators.
  • Select Edit and choose View, Comment, or Edit. Select Settings (gear icon) to add restrictions > Done.
  • To share a folder, select the folder > Share > enter email addresses. Assign rules and restrictions.

This article explains how to share folders and collaborate on files using Google Drive.

How to Add Collaborators to a Google Drive Document

Google Drive is great for collaborating with co-workers on a project. It offers fine-tuned control over who can see your files and what they can do with them. With Google Drive, you can add collaborators to either view or edit your documents. Here's how:

  1. Open Google Drive and then open the file you want to share.

  2. Select Share (it's located in the upper-right corner of the document).

    Document in Google Drive with the Share button highlighted
  3. Enter the email addresses of the people you want to add as collaborators.

  4. Select the Edit drop-down arrow and choose whether or not collaborators can edit, comment on, or view the document.

    Sharing options in Google Drive with Viewer, Commenter, and Editor highlighted
  5. Click Settings (gear icon) to add sharing restrictions.

    Google Drive sharing restrictions Settings icon highlighted
  6. Check Editors can change permissions and share to allow your collaborators to share the document with others. Check Viewers and commenters can see the option to download, print, and copy to give viewers and commenters these abilities.

    Google Drive options for editors, viewers, and commenters highlighted
  7. Select Done to close out.

    To keep track of collaborators' edits, highlight a range of text, right-click, and select Show Edits. You'll see a list of editors and their changes, along with time stamps.

How to Share a Folder in Google Drive

Sharing an entire folder with collaborators works similar to sharing a single document. Select the folder you want to share in Google Drive, then open the drop-down menu and select Share, then follow the steps above.

Google Drive folder with Share highlighted

Once you share a folder, every document or file placed in that folder inherits the same sharing privileges. That is some pretty powerful collaboration, but now that Google Docs is also Google Drive, it gets complicated. You see, each file can only exist in one folder, but people sharing editing privileges can move files around.

Files Can Only Exist in One Folder

If you use the Google Drive desktop app, it's tempting to move a shared file into My Drive or another folder, either to organize or to access it on your desktop Google Drive folder. Because a file can exist in only one folder, moving a file out of a shared folder means that you move the file out of everyone else's shared folder. Moving a shared folder into My Drive means you stop sharing it with everyone. 

If you accidentally move a file out of a shared folder, move it back, and all is restored. 

If you or someone you are collaborating with accidentally moves a shared folder into some other folder on My Drive, you get a warning and you get a message telling you what you did and offering you a chance to undo it. If you ignore both warnings, you'll need to share the folder again to restore the settings. If you're working with an organization, make sure everyone knows these rules and that you share documents with people you trust to obey those rules. 

How to Address Unwanted Collaboration Requests

You may also receive collaboration requests from people outside your organization. These unsolicited documents could simply be annoying, but they might also represent a possible attempt to gather sensitive documentation. You shouldn't open any unknown document or file in Google Drive; instead, you can block the person who sent it by right-clicking the file name from the main Drive page and selecting Block [email address]. Then, click Block again in the confirmation window.

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