Google Docs: Collaborating and Sharing

Objectives and Overview

This lesson shows how to share Google Documents and provides an overview of the collaboration features.

Lesson Objectives

  • Identify the Google Doc collaboration features and be able to describe how you would use them
  • Identify how to share a Google Document
  • Review document permissions for shared files

Collaborating Through Google Docs

Google Docs is a powerful tool for writing and editing content. It’ll be a productivity and efficiency tool even if you only used it for this purpose. However, tapping into the collaboration features takes Google Docs to the next level. Much like other files and folders in your Google Drive, you’re able to share a Google Doc with anyone across the world. This lets you work together within the same file. The DHF team uses Google Docs daily! We use it to work together to create outlines, write content, and even collaborate on program proposals! Let’s jump in and start exploring.

Sharing a Google Doc

The first step toward collaboration is knowing how to share a Google Doc. Let’s get started!

This gif shows the steps for sharing a Google Doc. The process is similar to how you’ve shared other files in Google Drive, so this may be a review:

Gif showing the steps to share a Google Doc.

To start, click the Share button in the top right corner of the document. This starts the process!

Blank Google Doc with an arrow pointing to the Share button.

After clicking that, the “Share with people and groups” window pops up. Enter the email address of the person you want to share with:

The "Share with people and groups" window with an arrow pointing to where an email address is entered.

You can choose to enter a brief message. This is helpful if you need to give information to the person you’re sharing with. Type your message into the box:

Typing a message into the "Share with people and groups" window.

Before sending, let’s set the permissions. This is something you can change later on, but you should give it some thought. Click on the button that says Editor. This opens up a menu with options:

The "Share with people and groups" window with an arrow pointing to the permissions dropdown.

An Editor can change any text in your document. A Viewer can only look at your doc, and a Commenter can leave comments but can’t directly change the text.

Select the option you want:

The "Share with people and groups" window with a box drawn around the permissions dropdown menu.

Once you’re ready, click the Send button to share your document:

The "Share with people and groups" window with an arrow pointing to the send button.

Changing Document Permissions

Sometimes you may need to change someone’s permissions. You may have accidentally set them as an Editor when you wanted them to only be a Viewer. This happens! Google Docs lets you change this setting even after you’ve shared it. You can also remove someone from the document. Let’s take a look!

This gif shows the steps for removing someone from a file. This is similar to what you’ve done in the Google Drive lesson:

Gif showing the steps for removing someone from the document.

Collaborating In a Single Doc

Let’s take a look at how to work alongside teammates in a single document. If you don’t use this feature during this program, you likely will in other professional or educational roles. This feature may take some getting used to at first, especially if you’re used to the single editor format of something like Microsoft Word. Sometimes there are hiccups such as two people typing on the same line, but the benefits are worth it!

When you’re working with someone in the same Google Doc, you’ll see their profile image appear above the formatting toolbar. If someone doesn’t have their picture set, they’ll be given one by Google! In this example, you can see that there is an additional writer in the doc. Notice that there is a pink cursor showing where they are in the doc:

Google Doc with a box drawn around another collaborator's image.

You can see all of the folks working in the doc by looking at the icons in the top right. Your icon will always be at the far right of the window:

Google Doc with a box drawn around the document collaborators.

Getting used to working in the same document with other folks takes practice!

When working in a document, you may also need to request edit access. This happens if someone didn’t set you as an Editor. If you’re not an Editor, you’ll see a button that says Request edit access. Click this to send a request to the document’s owner:

Google Doc with an arrow pointing to the "Request edit access" button.

Your request will need to be approved. Once it is, refresh your browser and you’ll be able to edit the document!

Your Document Permissions

The previous section showed how to set and change collaborator permissions. You may also need to know how to check your own permissions for the document you’re in. You’ll be able to change your own permissions for any document you create. However, you may be working on documents that other folks share with you.

It’s useful to know how to check your own permissions since they won’t always be the same for every doc. This is part of the Google Doc interface, and you may have already seen it!

Your permission level for any document is shown at the right of the formatting menu. This example shows a document where the permissions are set to “Editing.”

Blank Google Doc with a box drawn around the "Editing" dropdown menu.

In certain documents, you may only have the ability to make suggestions or view a document. This is determined by the document owner. Sometimes, it’s helpful to only allow folks to make suggestions instead of direct edits (especially if you have a lot of people collaborating). If you’re in suggestion mode you won’t be able to directly edit the document text. Instead, you’ll suggest changes that need to be approved. Here’s an example showing the different options in the dropdown:

Blank Google Doc with a box drawn around the permissions dropdown menu, showing the different permissions options.

Requesting Edit Access

There are times when need to edit a document shared with you, but you don’t have access. This is a fairly common situation. You’ll be able to tell that this is happening when you can’t edit the file! Thankfully, Google Docs provides a button to request access from inside the document.

In the upper right corner of the document (to the left of your persona), you’ll see the Request edit access button. Click this to send a request to the document owner.

Google Doc where edit access is needed - an arrow is pointing to the "Request edit access" button.

The owner will need to respond to your request. Once you’ve been given permission, refresh the page in your browser. You’ll now be able to edit the document!