How to Share Folders and Collaborate Using Google Drive

Work with others efficiently using the cloud

Mobile application of cloud storage
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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. Collaborators can suggest edits, write comments, and a lot more.

How to Add Collaborators to a Google Drive Document

With Google Drive, you can add collaborators to either view or edit your documents. Here's how:

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

  2. Select the blue Share button in the top-right of the document.

    Screenshot of a document in Google Drive
  3. Type in the email addresses of the people you want to add as collaborators.

  4. Use the drop-down menu to choose whether or not collaborators can edit, comment on, or view the document.

    Screenshot of Google Drive sharing options
  5. Optionally, you can select the Advanced link and choose to prevent editors from changing access and adding new people or disable printing/downloading options.

    Screenshot of Google Drive advanced sharing options
  6. Select Done to close the window.

How to Share a Folder in Google Drive

Sharing an entire folder with collaborators works similarly to sharing a single document. Just select the folder you want to share in Google Drive, then open the drop-down menu and select Share. Follow steps 2-6 above.

Screenshot depicting how to share a folder in Google Drive

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're using Google Drive's desktop app, it's very, very tempting to move a shared file into My Drive or into some other folder, either to organize or to have ready access to it on your desktop Google Drive folder. Avoid this temptation! Because a file can exist in only one folder, moving a file out of a shared folder means you move the file out of everyone else's shared folder, too. Moving a shared folder into My Drive means you stop sharing it with everyone, too. 

What happens if you accidentally move a file out of a shared folder? Move it back, and all is restored. 

What happens if you or someone you are collaborating with accidentally drags and drops a shared folder into some other folder on My Drive? Well, the first thing that happens is that you get a warning. Don't ignore it. The second thing that happens is 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 beforehand and make sure you're sharing documents with people you trust to obey them.