How to use Google Drive for collaboration

Sharing Google Docs, Sheets and Slides files from G Drive is an easy and effective way to collaborate with others. Here’s how to do it.

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Many people think of Google Drive as a cloud storage and sync service, and it is that — but it also encompasses a suite of online office apps that are comparable with Microsoft Office. Google Docs (the word processor), Google Sheets (the spreadsheet app) and Google Slides (the presentation app) can import, export, or natively edit Microsoft Office files, and you can use them to work together with colleagues on a document, spreadsheet or presentation, in real time if you wish.

With a Google Account, individuals get free use of Docs, Sheets and Slides and up to 15GB of free Google Drive storage. Those who need more storage can upgrade to a Google One plan starting at $2 per month.

Businesses can opt for Drive Enterprise, which also includes Docs, Sheets and Slides as well as business-friendly features including shared drives, enterprise-grade security, and integration with third-party tools like Slack and Salesforce. Drive Enterprise costs $8 per active user per month, plus $.04 per GB used.

Finally, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides are part of the company's G Suite office suite, along with numerous other communications tools including Gmail, Google Calendar, Hangouts Meet, and Hangouts Chat, plus security and administration tools. G Suite plans range from $6/user/month for the Basic plan with 30GB of storage to $25/user/month for the Enterprise plan with unlimited storage and advanced administration, security and e-discovery tools.

The G Suite and Drive Enterprise versions of Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides are mostly identical to their free counterparts but with a few extra features for the business environment. Whichever version you're using, here are the essentials to know in order to effectively use Drive and its related apps to collaborate.

Most of this article is about sharing and collaborating via My Drive, the drive controlled by individual users whether they use Google Drive through a personal Google account, a G Suite account or a Drive Enterprise account. A section at the end covers Team Drives, shared drives that are available only through Drive Enterprise and G Suite Business, Enterprise and Education accounts.

Sharing and access options

Google Drive gives you fine-tuned control over who can see your files and what they can do with them.

Public vs. private sharing

There are two ways you can share a Google Drive document, spreadsheet or presentation with other people. (For simplicity’s sake we’ll just say “document” from now on, but the same steps apply to spreadsheets and presentations.)

Publicly: Anyone can access your document by clicking a link to it. No sign-in is required. You can give out this link to anyone, or publish the link on a website or message board.

Privately: You enter an email address for each collaborator. Google Drive will email each person a link. Only the people who receive the email can click the link to access your document.

To edit or comment on a private document, your collaborators must have a Google ....

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