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Alice Keeler

Essential Google Docs Skill: Sharing the Google Docs Link

It is essential as a Google Workspace Apps user to know how to share Google Docs. You can share explicitly with someone or more generally with anyone with the link can view.
Essential skill share google docs
Essential Google Docs Skill: Sharing the Google Docs Link

By default Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings) are private. If you share the link to a Google document with someone they will not be able to view the document. An essential skill for Google Apps users is sharing the Google Docs link.

Since Google Apps, including Google Docs, live in Google Drive and not on your computer it does not make sense to send an attachment to a Google Doc. Instead, you are sharing the Google Docs link that allows the person access to the document.

Attachments are a copy of a file that are sent to someone else. This is problematic if you have made any edits or updates to the document. Copies do not update. The link to the document ensures that everyone is always on the same page. Version history makes collaboration risk free. Versions are automatically saved. Your document can be reverted back to a previous state at any time.

The Share Button

In the upper right hand corner you will see the share button. By default, the sharing settings are private. Notice the padlock on the Share button indicating that this doc is only visible to you.

Screenshot of the share button in Google Docs. Button shows a padlock icon. Sharing the Google Docs Link
Padlock icon the share button

The link at the top of the document is the link to the document. You can copy this link, however, if the sharing settings are the default private the person who clicks on your link will see an error that the document is not shared.

After clicking on the Share button a pop up window will provide you with sharing choices. Notice the “Copy link” button in the bottom left of the pop up. This will copy the link to the Google Doc to your clipboard. However, if the document sharing permissions are restricted then the document is not accessible by the link.

You have 2 options for sharing the Google Doc. One is to share explicitly with a person(s). The other is to provide general access.

Screenshot of the pop up for sharing a google doc. Box for adding the email address of collaborators. Restricted with drop down arrow for general settings. A button says copy link.

Share with Someone

In the box that says “Add people and groups” enter the email address of the person you want to allow access to the document. You can paste a list of email addresses, separated by a comma. If you have a list of email addresses in a Google Sheets spreadsheet, you can copy this list and paste directly into the box. In this case, commas are not required.

Sharing Access

The default for sharing a document, after entering an email address, is “Editor” access. This allows the collaborator to do everything to the document that you are able to do. However, as the owner, only you can permanently delete the Google Doc.

  1. Email address of collaborator.
  2. Default editor status, select drop down for more options.
  3. Viewer status for this person only.
  4. Commenter status for this person only.
  5. Send an email notifying the person of the document sharing.
  6. Optional personal message to let the person know why you are sharing this document with them.
  7. Send the link to share the document.

Switching from the default of editor status, you can assign viewer access (self explanatory) or commenter access. With commenting access the user can insert comments in the margin but not directly edit the text itself. Commenters can use suggestion mode to edit the document, but the owner would need to approve the edits.

Share with Anyone

Share Google Docs with anyone. If you do not have specific email addresses or you want to share with a general audience you must know how to change the sharing permissions. Instead of typing the email address, find the “General access” section of the sharing dialogue pop up. Defaulted to “Restricted”, click on the tiny arrow.

Screenshot of sharing google docs pop up with arrow in the general access section showing restricted, the domain and anyone with the link

On a personal Gmail account there are only 2 options. On a Google Workspace account, there are 3. The bottom option is “Anyone with the link.” This provides view access to anyone who you share the link with. Workspace users can restrict access to those on the domain.

Screenshot of viewer commenter editor roles

Unlike explicit sharing with an email address, the default for general access is “Viewer.” Change the role by clicking on the tiny arrow. Switch general permissions to “Commenter” or “Editor.”

Chrome Extension: AnyoneCanView

It is several steps to copy the link to allow anyone to view. Failing to change the sharing permissions before sharing a link is frustrating and embarrassing. I created a Chrome extension to help solve this problem. Instead of clicking on the Share button in Docs, Sheets, or Slides, use the AnyoneCanView Chrome extension. Change permissions in a single click! The link is automatically copied to your clipboard.

Restricting Sharing Copies

You can restrict permissions to the document. Click on the cog icon in the upper right of the sharing dialogue pop up. This provides 2 checkbox items. Disable editors from allowing others to share the document. Disable viewers from downloading or printing the document.

screenshot of sharing settings for share google docs

Note that editors can NOT be restricted from copying or printing. Additionally, there is nothing to prevent someone from copying and pasting the content into a new document.

Learn More About Google Docs

Sharing with Google Classroom

Google Classroom automatically solves the sharing problem. Classroom explicitly shares docs with your students when attached to an assignment. Sharing the Google Docs link is easy since you simply need to direct students to their Google Classroom assignment.

If you want parents to be able to view your Google Docs you have change the sharing permissions yourself.

Learn More about Google Classroom from Teacher Tech

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