Google Apps

Quick Tip: Sharing Google Drive documents is now a bit easier

Google is making a change in how documents are shared in Google Drive that should make life easier for just about everyone.

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If you're a Google Apps administrator, you've heard the complaints:

"I can't access the slides," says one outside partner.

"I am not signing up for a Google Account just to view the meeting minutes," says another (emphasis implied by user).

These complaints should go away soon, thanks to a change to sharing settings announced on the Google Apps blog in early October 2013.

The change is subtle, but significant.

The change

Historically, to share a document with specific people, you shared it to their email address. Recipients with a Google Account accessed the file without any issues. Recipients without a Google Account were required to create a Google Account to access the document.

Problems arose for users who would not (or could not) create a Google Account. These users would be unable to access the shared documents. That's when the complaints began.

Savvy administrators suggested a different security setting to solve the problem.

"Just share your document using the 'Anyone with the link' setting," we'd say. That worked, but now anyone who had the link could share the link. It made documents easier to share, but less secure. Use of the "anyone with the link" setting should decrease as a result of Google's changes.

After October 2013, document sharing to specific email addresses works a bit differently. Recipients with a Google Account will still login to access a shared file. That remains the same.

Recipients without a Google Account may now view the document, with no Google Account required. This will make basic document sharing with non-Google Account users much simpler.

Document collaboration still requires a Google Account: a user must login to comment on or make edits to a document. But no Google Account will be required for a user to view a document shared to them at a non-Google Account email address.

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A Google Account is no longer required to view Docs, Slides or Drawings shared to a non-Google Account address.

Interestingly, the new permissions apply to Docs, Slides and Drawings. Changes to sharing of Sheets are notably not mentioned. Sheets may be excluded because they're more likely to contain sensitive financial data, in which case you want to ensure greater security with Google Account authentication. (But that is pure speculation.)

Admins

Google provides the option for Administrators to disable this new sharing behavior. From the new admin console, login as an Administrator to http://admin.google.com/, choose Google Apps, choose Drive, then Sharing Settings. Uncheck the "Allow users to share outside the domain to people who are not using a Google Account" setting. Organizations concerned with maximum security will want to uncheck this setting.

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Administrators may require Google Account authentication for maximum security.

Bottom line

Most Google Apps users and administrators will welcome this change. Sharing Docs, Slides and Drawings to users lacking a Google Account will soon be hassle free. Just one problem remains: now we have to make our shared Docs, Slides and Drawings worth viewing!

About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

7 comments
keshashah
keshashah

Hey, thanks for the post. I had a query ..

In Google drive, if we make a doc with visibility "Anyone with the link" , is the history and recent changes visible to all ?

cutcontrol
cutcontrol

I don't dig. What difference did this make? It is still a link you can share with anyone.

ktiyab
ktiyab

Great tutorial ! Thanks.  An app give a way for users to search other people’s files that have been set to allow for public sharing : http://cloudkite.info

PCF
PCF

Thanks for the article & blog link Andy Wolber.  But I'm either missing something, or this paragraph didn't belong:

" "Just share your document using the 'Anyone with the link' setting," we'd say. That worked, but now anyone who had the link could share the link. It made documents easier to share, but less secure. "

It threw me off because I couldn't find how this new method was more secure, and when I checked the blog you linked it doesn't state this is meant to be more secure, just an easier way (I guess) to use 'anyone can view with link'. :)  Anyone can still forward the email link in the new method to others, who all can still view until the originally intended recipient creates a Google account and 'closes the invite', IF they choose to.  

I just want to put this out there because I kept thinking I missed something in your article when I tried to see where it explains how it's more secure, until I realized it is just that the paragraph implies security that this change doesn't provide. (Google just made the sharing option easier to select for the sender).  

~C-:

allenfalcon
allenfalcon

An important point:  The link is valid for anybody to view the document until the person does login with a Google account.  This is a potential security risk we discuss in our blog


DAS01
DAS01

I am a single Google Drive user, not part of a company system.  There have been reports of non-Google-account-holders being confronted with the sign-in page even if the Share setting is "Anyone with the link".  It also happened to at least one of the persons sharing my document. It was 'fixed' by my changing the setting to "Public on the web", but that is no long-term solution.


There must be a bug.

Is this new setting reported in this article for corporate users only?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Have you been fielding complaints about sharing Google Drive documents from users? Will this change help ease those complaints?

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