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Google Docs Question of the Day- Sharing and Removing Collaborators

Welcome to another school year!  It was an exciting  year as we rolled out Google Apps tools to our agency.  As I reflected on some of the common questions regarding Google Docs, two of the most popular, and what I feel are two of the most important questions:

“When I create a Google Docs is it automatically shared with others?”
“How do I know who I am sharing my documents with?”  Here’s an overview of the sharing settings within Google Docs.

When you create a document in Google Docs, by default that document is private, meaning ONLY you, the owner, has access to the document.  If you want to share the document with others, you can do so by setting differing levels of permissions, and you can change those permissions at ANY point in time.

There are three different sharing settings:

  • Can Edit (Sometimes referred to as a collaborator.  They can make changes to the document and provide others with access to the document.  The only thing that a collaborator cannot do is TRASH the document.  Only the owner can trash the document and if an owner trashes a document, they trash it for everyone).
  • Can Comment (This permission level gives the user rights to view the document AND make comments, but NOT edit the document).
  • Can View (This permission level gives the user rights to only view the document.)

There are multiple ways to change the permissions on documents.  The most common way is to click on Share in the upper right hand corner while the document is open.

Share Button in Google Docs

After you click on this Share button the following screen appears

Sharing Options

From here you have the ability to control who has access to this document. To make a person a collaborator and give them editing rights to the document, click on the text box below Add People.  Add their Google account info (their email address). The document is stil private but only those who have access to the document by logging in with their Google account info, can edit it.

Google also provides you with the option to set an extra level of security.  By default if someone has editing rights to a document, they can also add others to the document.  There may be times, when you want to ensure that a document is not shared with others.

On the Sharing Settings box, below the gray Add people: section, there is a statement:  Editors will be allowed to add people and change permission.  (Change)

When you click on the word Change, you get the option to change the document’s sharing settings so that only you (the owner) can change the permissions.  Click on the button- Only the owner can change the permissions. and click Save (don’t forget the Save).  Now you (the owner) of the document will be the only one that can add others as collaborators or viewers.

You can delegate different levels of permissions.  Not everyone has to have rights to edit, or rights to view.  You can set it so that Dave and Brian have editing rights, but Clair has viewing rights only.


You also have another set of options in regard to visibility if you want to open this document to a wider audience. Click on Change in the top half of the sharing settings box and you will see this new screen appear.

Within this screen you have 5 different visibility options, each option explained below.

1. Private

2. People at AEA 267 (or your domain) with the link

3.  AEA 267 (or your domain)

4.  Anyone with the link

5.  Public on the web.

Private– means that only people who have explicit permissions have access to this document. They can edit or view it based on the permissions given to them.



People at AEA 267 with the link– means that only people with an AEA 267 (or your domain) Google Apps account can edit/view it.  Also if they want to access it, they cannot search for the document in their document search, they must have the link.


AEA 267-  means that only people with an AEA 267 (or your domain) Google Apps account can edit/view it.  They don’t have to have the link to access it, but can find it by using the search tool in their Google Docs.



Anyone with the link- anyone can access the document.  They do not have to have a Google account (any Google account, not just AEA 267 Google account).  They must have the link in order to find it.  They cannot find it on the web by searching using search tools such as Google or Bing.



Public on the web- anyone can access the document.  They do not have to have a Google account.  The document could be found using a Google search.  This setting is rarely used.  It is often used for school handbooks, where a school district wants their handbook public for many to view and they want it indexed in search engines.

It is important to note that it is your responsibility as a professional to ensure that you are protecting the rights of others that we serve.  We should not allow access to information to people who should not have access.  It is always better to err on the side of caution and set the permissions to only those who truly need access to the document.

If you have any questions about the sharing settings or visibility, you can visit the Google Docs Help Center or contact one of the Google trainers.  Kay Schmalen, Brian Unruh, Clair Judas, Dave Schaefer or Jon Kruse.

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