Get to know G Suite

How to use Google Drive for collaboration

Sharing Google Docs, Sheets and Slides files from G Drive is an easy and effective way to collaborate with others. Here’s how to do it.

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To make edit suggestions

In Google Docs (but not Sheets or Slides), there’s a better, and clearer, way to go over edits made by your collaborators. Ask them to enter their additions under Suggesting mode. This is turned on by clicking the Editing drop-down menu in the upper-right corner and selecting Suggesting.

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When anybody adds text, it will appear in a different color; each collaborator gets their own color text. If they add an image, that image will have a border in their color. And anything they delete will have a strikethrough in their color.

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A note card will appear to the right of the document. This will list the added or deleted text or image, the name of the collaborator who made the change, and the time and day when the change was made. To accept the suggestion, click the check mark on the note card; to reject it, click the x.

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To see your document with or without suggested edits, click Tools > Review suggested edits. A gray box will open toward the upper-right of the screen. To view the document with the suggested edits merged in, click the “Show suggested edits” drop-down and select Preview “Accept all.” To view without the suggested edits, select Preview “Reject all.”

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If you want to accept or reject all suggestions at once without going through them one by one, you can click the Accept All or Reject All buttons in this box.

Whenever your document gets a suggested edit by a collaborator, Google Drive updates a tally that’s set next to its file name as seen on your My Drive page. (If you’re viewing your My Drive page in grid view, this number total appears over the thumbnail of your document.)

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Real-time collaboration

When you and one or more of your collaborators are viewing your document, spreadsheet or presentation at the same time, an icon appears at the upper-right corner for each person who is currently viewing the file. The icon may be a headshot of that person or the first letter of their first name. They will also see your online status as an icon at the upper-right corner of their screen.

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You can chat with one another. Clicking the speech bubble icon (to the right of the icons of your collaborators) will open a chat window along the right side of your screen.

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Whenever you or your collaborators add a comment, text or image, the others will see the comments or changes appear at that moment on the document, spreadsheet or presentation.

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How to share documents in Team Drives

With Drive Enterprise and the Business, Enterprise and Education versions of G Suite, you can create a Team Drive. It works like your personal My Drive: Files can be stored in it, folders can be created, and documents can be shared with other people. But a Team Drive can also be directly accessed and managed by more than one person. It can be useful for storing and sharing files that people collaborating on the same project or working in the same department need to use.

Creating a Team Drive

To create a new Team Drive: On your main Google Drive screen, at the upper-left corner, click “Team Drives.” A window will open prompting you to type in a name for the new Team Drive.

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After you click the Create button, the name of your new Team Drive will appear listed below "Team Drives."

Next, you need to invite other people so that they can access the Team Drive. Click the name of your new Team Drive, and then click “Add Members” at the top of the page.

In the window that opens, type in the names or email addresses of co-workers who you want to have access to your new Team Drive.

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Note that you may need to add co-workers in batches, as you might want to give them different access levels. Below the field where you enter their names, you’ll see a drop-down menu where you can choose one of five access levels: Manager, Content manager, Contributor, Commenter, or Viewer.

There are several differences among these categories — too many to describe in this quick guide — but Google lists them in a handy table. Basically, Managers have full access and are the only people who can add and remove members, change a member's access level, and permanently delete files from a Team Drive. Viewers can only view files and folders, nothing more. And the other roles are in between, with varying degrees of control over files and folders in the drive.

Content manager is the default role assigned when you give people access to a drive, so be sure to change it if you want them to have less control.

Click the Send button, and the co-workers you added will be sent an email with a link that will allow them access to your new Team Drive.

Sharing documents with non-members of a Team Drive

Any member of a Team Drive has access to all the files in it. Sometimes, though, you want to share a document with people outside the team — without giving them access to the whole Team Drive. Sharing a document in a Team Drive is similar to sharing a document in My Drive, but the interface for sharing in a Team Drive looks a little different and has more functions.

Note that you can only share files, not folders, in a Team Drive, and you must have at least Contributor access to a Team Drive to share files from it.

Click the document in your Team Drive that you want to share, then click the Share icon in the toolbar at the top of your Google Drive page. (Or right-click the file in your Team Drive and select "Share" from the pop-up menu.)

To share a document with specific people: Enter names of people in Google Contacts, email addresses, or groups of contacts from Google Groups. By default, people you share with can edit the document you share. If you want, click the down arrow to change their access permissions from Edit to Comment or View. Type a message if you like, click the Send link, and recipients will be sent an email invitation to access the document.

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To share a document with anyone in your organization: In the same Share box as above, click “Who has access” in the lower-left corner. In the box that appears, click the down arrow next to “Link sharing off” and toggle the “Link Sharing” switch on. This creates a link to your document that anyone in your organization can access.

Under this newly generated link, you can click the down arrow next to “People at [Organization Name] with the link can view” to change the access level for this file to “...can edit” or “...can comment.”

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To share a document publicly: Below the sharing link and permissions drop-down is a checkbox marked “Allow external access.” When checked, it lets anyone with the link to your document share it outside of your organization, potentially making it accessible to the public. A safer way to share files outside your organization is to invite specific people, as covered above.

More options: Below the “Allow external access” checkbox is a second checkbox labeled “Findable in search results.” Check this if you want the document to be searchable in Drive.

The lower half of the “Who has access” box lets you change the access level of the document you’re sharing for each member of the Team Drive it’s stored in. You can add more people to share this document with by clicking the “Add people” link in the lower-left corner.

To prevent your document from being copied, downloaded or printed by those without edit access to it, click the three-dot icon at the upper-right corner of the sharing box and check “Restrict download, print & copy actions on this file for commenters & viewers.” Those with edit access can still download, print, and copy the document.

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When you’ve made your sharing choices, click Done in the lower-right corner. Now anyone with whom you’ve shared the document (or who has the sharing link) can view it and, depending on the permissions you've assigned them, can collaborate on it as described in the “How to collaborate on a document” section above.

To stop sharing a document: Return to the “Who has access” box and toggle the “Link Sharing” switch off. The sharing link will be removed.

To stop sharing with individuals, find their names in the lower half of the “Who has access” box, click the down arrow the right of each person you want to stop sharing with and choose Remove.

When you’re finished, click Done in the lower-right corner.

To set all the files in a Team Drive to have the same sharing properties: At the left of your Google Drive page, click the name of the Team Drive that contains the files that you want to set the sharing properties for. Then, at the top and to the right of the Team Drive's name, click the down arrow and then “Team Drive settings.” Set the following three parameters by clicking the “Edit” link to the right of each:

  • Sharing outside [Organization Name]: Control whether people outside your organization can be granted access to files in the drive
  • Sharing with non-members: Control whether people who are not members of the Team Drive can be given access to files in the drive
  • Download, copy, and print: Control whether people with comment or view access to files in the drive can download, copy, or print them
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For more details about working with Team Drives, see Google’s “Get started with Team Drives” page.

Now that you know the ropes of Google Drive and Team Drives, it's time to start collaborating in Drive and its related apps.

This article was originally published in October 2017 and updated in April 2019.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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