Understanding Visibility and Sharing Options In Google Drive

google_drive_logo_3963One of the most powerful features available with Google Drive is your ability to easily share items with others.  By understanding the different visibility and sharing options available, you can use Google Drive to successfully collaborate with peers, and create an online repository for your students.  The tutorial below allows you to follow along using your Google Drive, learning about these options as you proceed.

  1. Go to your Google Drive.
    1. Note: If you are using the Google Chrome browser, I’d suggest installing the Google Drive app from the Chrome Web Store – it gives you one click access to your drive from the new tab page.
  2. Open any existing item that you’d like to share, or create a new item by clicking the drive_create_button button near the top left of your drive.
  3. To access the sharing options on anything in your drive, click the drive_share_button button near the top right corner while viewing the item.
  4. The “Sharing settings” window will appear.
      1. At the top, you’ll notice “Link to share”.  Every item in your Google Drive has a unique URL.  If you wanted to provide a link directly to this item to a person or group via email, or make a link to this item on your website, this is the URL you should use.
      2. Below “Link to share” is a section titled “Who has access”.  This section will have at minimum two rows.  The first is the row shows the visibility options applied to the item.  By default, all items created in Google Drive (unless created in or uploaded to a folder that applies permissions to its child objects) are private to only the owner.  By clicking “Change…”, you can select from the five available visibility options.

        drive_visibility_options(click to enlarge)

        1. Public on the Web – this is the loosest control regarding visibility.  Anyone will be able to see this item, and anyone will be able to find it using a search.
        2. Anyone with the link – similar to “Public on the web”, anyone on the internet can view the item.  However, they will need to have the link; the item will not show up in a search.
        3. Community High School District 155 (or your organization if you are outside District 155) – this option allows anyone signed into a District 155 account (all students and staff) to search for and view the item.
        4. People at Community High School District 155 with the link (or your organization if you are outside District 155) – similar to the previous option, the viewer must be logged into their District 155 account to view the item.  The item will not show up in searches however, they’ll need to have the link.
        5. Private –  the strictest and default option, this only allows access to the item by the owner, as well as any other person or group explicitly given permission to access it (if any).
      3. For example, if you wanted to use a Google document for your course syllabus, and wanted students and parents to be able to view it by clicking a link on your website, you could set visibility to “Anyone with the link”.   Parents who are outside the organization can view the item by clicking the link you placed on your website, but the document wouldn’t show up in search results for anyone on the internet.
      4. Set the applicable visibility option by clicking the associated radio button, then click the drive_save_button button.
      5. Note: You can return to sharing settings and change visibility options of any item, at any time.

    (click to enlarge)

  5. Once you click Save, you’ll be returned to the Sharing settings window.  Listed below the visibility settings is a line indicating the owner of the item.  This will be “you” for any item you’ve uploaded or created (and haven’t transferred ownership to someone else).
  6. Below the owner (and any other users who currently have a role applied to this item)  is the Add people box.  Click in the text box and start typing a name. This can be a first name, last name, or email address. Google Drive will predict the user or group that you are looking to share with as you type.  Once you see the name of the user or group you’d like to share with, click it, or continue typing until it is the only option in the drop down list.  Hit the enter key on your keyboard to complete the action.
  7. Now that his/her/their name(s) and email(s) are in the text box, click the Can edit link to the right.  This is where you are able to select his/her/their level of access to this item.  Select one of the three options:
    1. Can edit – by selecting this option, the user or group members will have full edit access to the item.  This is useful when collaborating with other users.
    2. Can comment – this option would allow the user or group members to add comments to the item, but not allow him/her/them to edit the item.  This is useful for situations where you want feedback from someone, but don’t want to give them permission to make changes.
    3. Can view –  this option only allows the user to view the item.  This is useful for providing information in one direction.  This is commonly used to provide “handout” type communications to students.
  8. Below the add people box, there is a check box titled “Notify people via email”.  With this box checked, the person or persons you are granting access to your item will receive a short notification email letting them know that you’ve shared the item with them.  You can add a custom message to that email by clicking “Add message”.  If you un-check this box, the item will still show up under “Shared with me” in their drive, they just won’t be notified via email.
  9. At the very bottom of the window, there is a line that states “Editors will be allowed to add people and change the permissions.”  This is the default setting.  Often times when sharing collaborating with others, you don’t want them to be able to  grant other people access to the item.  If you click the Change link to the right of the message, you can change this setting to “Only the owner can change permissions.”  If you enable this option, only you as the owner can  add additional access to the item.
    1. Note: I’d recommend that you change this setting to “Only the owner can change permissions” if you plan on giving others “Can edit” permissions unless you specifically need editors to have the ability to add others to the item.
  10. When you have your sharing settings set the way you want, click the drive_share_and_save_button button to apply the settings.  If you chose the notify people by email option, this will automatically send a notification email to the people or groups that you’ve added.
  11. The names of the people added will now show up in the sharing settings window underneath the owner.
  12. Click drive_done_button to close the sharing window.
  13. Note: At any time you can click the drive_share_button button to view the current sharing settings of any item in your drive.  From this window, you can modify all of the settings you have set previously, change current user permissions, remove a user’s access by clicking the X next to their name, add additional users to the item, and even transfer ownership of the item to another user.

Now that you understand the different sharing and visibility options in Google Drive, you can apply these concepts and start successfully sharing with students, parents, and each other!  If you have any questions about the concepts above, please leave a reply below or contact me directly.