Manage Drive metadata (beta)

This feature is available with G Suite Enterprise, Enterprise for Education, G Suite Essentials, Business, Education, and Nonprofits edition. Compare editions

With Drive metadata (now in beta), you can add custom labels and fields to files and folders in Drive, in a consistent way across your business or school. Users can then search for content using specific terms that are meaningful to your organization.

What is metadata?

Metadata is simply information about your files. In Google Drive, metadata is organized into labels that map to common types of files in your organization. (A label is equivalent to "schema" in common metadata terminology.)

Each label is a set of structured fields that are relevant for a particular category of files.

For example:

  • You might have a label called Contract.
  • The Contract could have fields called Type, Company, Status, and Due Date.
  • You assign each field a data type (number, date, person, text, or selection). If the type is selection, you define the possible values. For example, Contract’s Status field might be a selection of Draft, Awaiting Signature, Rejected, Signed, or Expired.

Use labels to...

  • Categorize common file types for everyone at your organization
    Administrators can create labels that all your users can apply to their files.
     
  • Define and scope relevant labels to team content
    Admins and users (if you allow it) can also create labels to use only with shared drives. Shared drive Managers can select the labels that their shared drive members can choose from.
     
  • Curate and find files faster
    End users can apply labels to the files and folders they can edit. They can also set the field values.

    People in your organization can then find content based on labels and fields. For example, they can use Drive search options to find all contracts awaiting signature and due by Friday.

Sign up for Drive metadata beta

Administrators for G Suite Business, Enterprise, G Suite Essentials, Education, Enterprise for Education, and Nonprofits edition can apply for the metadata beta program.

Note: Users with G Suite Basic edition can view or edit fields that have been added to a file by someone else in your organization with a higher edition.

Turn labels on or off for your organization

  1. Sign in to your Google Admin console.

    Sign in using your administrator account (does not end in @gmail.com).

  2. From the Admin console Home page, go to Appsand thenG Suiteand thenDrive and Docs.
  3. Click Labels.

    Tip: If you want to let certain people manage metadata without any other admin privileges, you can create a custom administrator role for just the Manage Labels privilege.

  4. Turn labels on or off.

    If you choose Turn labels On, users can:

    • Apply labels to, and edit the fields for, files and folders that they can edit.
    • View (but not add or edit) labels applied to files that they can view but not edit.
    • Use Drive search options to find content with specific labels or fields. This finds only files and folders that users can access.

    If you choose Turn labels Off, labels and fields are hidden and can’t be created, updated, applied to files, or used for search. Any existing metadata remains, so you’ll see it again if you turn labels back on.

  5. Click Save.

Choose whether users can create labels

By default, users can create new labels for shared drives.

  1. Sign in to your Google Admin console.

    Sign in using your administrator account (does not end in @gmail.com).

  2. From the Admin console Home page, go to Appsand thenG Suiteand thenDrive and Docs.
  3. Click Labels for shared drives.

  4. If you want to turn on this feature for only some users, on the left, select an organizational unit. Otherwise, it applies to everyone.

    We recommend allowing users to create shared drive labels only if they can create shared drives. So if you prevent users in some organizational units from creating shared drives, we recommend that you allow labels for shared drives for all your other organizational units.

  5. Choose whether users can create new labels for shared drives.
  6. Click Save.

Even if they can’t create new labels, shared drive Managers in your organization can choose which shared drive labels their members can use. This helps them filter the labels that a shared drive member can see. This might be useful, for example, if there are multiple "Project Plan" labels in an organization. The fields of a project plan are likely to be different for engineering, marketing, and training teams.

Create labels for your organization

If you’re an admin with Manage Labels privilege, you can create labels for your entire organization or for shared drives.

Because end users can also create labels for shared drives, you can learn how to create labels in the end user Help Center. Or visit the labels editor at https://drive.google.com/labels to get started.

When you create a label as an admin, you can set Visibility to shared drives or All files and locations. (When users create labels, Visibility is always set to shared drives.)

The Visibility setting determines who sees your label:

  • When a shared drive Manager selects labels for their shared drive, they’ll see all published labels in the organization.
  • When a shared drive member applies labels to files, they’ll see only the shared drives labels that the shared drive Manager created or selected. They’ll also see the labels with All files and locations visibility.
  • When users apply a label to files in My Drive, they’ll see the admin-created labels visible to All files and locations. They won’t see labels with shared drives visibility.

Note: People outside your organization cannot see your Drive metadata, even if it has been applied to files that they can edit. External people also can’t use your labels or fields to search for files.

Metadata best practices

Here are some suggestions to optimize your metadata experience:

  • We recommend creating 4 or fewer fields per label. Metadata is very powerful, but only if it’s widely and consistently used. People are much more likely to apply labels and edit fields if it's quick and easy. 
     
  • Before creating a label, check if there’s already one you can use. The fewer similar labels that users see, the more likely they are to make the best choice.
     
  • Create and select labels for shared drives so team members have a smaller, more useful set of options to choose from. 
     
  • Avoid confidential information in label names and selection options. Published labels are visible and might be used by all admins and shared drive managers in your organization. 
     
  • Before you publish a new label, confirm the type of each field. Once the label is published, field types can’t be changed. You also can’t change whether users can pick multiple values for a selection field. 
     
  • Also be cautious about changing a published label in other ways. Changes affect all the files where the label has already been applied, including some you might not be aware of. For example, files with the label might have new file owners or be located in other shared drives. 

Train your users

See the end user Help to learn:

  • How to create and select labels for shared drives
  • How to apply labels to files and set the fields
  • How to use Drive search options to find content based on labels and fields

Make sure to send the above link to your users. For beta, the end user Help article can’t be found by search or by browsing the Drive user Help Center.

Known issues

  • You can’t currently limit shared drive Manager access to labels. All shared drive Managers can select from all published labels, even those made by other Managers.
  • There’s currently a limit of 100 labels per customer. We’ll revisit the limits based on user feedback to find the best compromise between flexibility and usability.
  • You can’t currently share fields between different labels.

FAQ

Can I import labels and fields from other systems?

Not at this point. We’re working with AppBridge and 3rd-party vendors on migration from other systems.

Can I limit access to certain labels or fields?

Labels always inherit permissions from file permissions.

Do files inherit labels from parent folders?

Not at this time. We’re very interested to hear your feedback if you have use cases that we should consider.

Can I make labels or fields mandatory?

Not at this time. We’re investigating ways to do this without blocking user work flows. Please let us know your needs in this area!

Send us feedback

We value your input, and appreciate your help to make Drive metadata a success! Please send your feedback to drive-labels-feedback@google.com.

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