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.

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.


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.)


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.


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!