Manage Drive metadata (beta)

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

With Drive metadata (now in beta), you can add custom categories and properties 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 categories that map to common types of files in your organization. (A category is equivalent to "schema" in common metadata terminology.)

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

For example:

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

Use metadata categories to...

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

    People in your organization can then find content based on categories and properties. 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, Drive Enterprise, 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 properties that have been added to a file by someone else in your organization with a higher edition.

Turn categories 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 Custom Properties.

    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 Metadata Categories privilege.

  4. Turn categories on or off.

    If you choose Turn Categories On, users can:

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

    If you choose Turn Categories Off, categories and properties 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 categories back on.

  5. Click Save.

Choose whether users can create categories

By default, users can create new categories 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 Custom Properties 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 categories 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 custom shared drive properties for all your other organizational units.

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

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

Create categories for your organization

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

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

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

The Visibility setting determines who sees your category:

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

Note: People outside your organization can never see your Drive metadata, even if it has been applied to files that they can edit. External people also can’t use your categories or properties to search for files.

Metadata best practices

Here are some suggestions to optimize your metadata experience:

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

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 categories. All shared drive Managers can select from all published categories, even those made by other Managers.
  • There’s currently a limit of 100 categories per customer. We’ll revisit the limits based on user feedback to find the best compromise between flexibility and usability.
  • You can’t currently rename a category or selection choices once the category is published.
  • You can’t currently share properties between different categories.

FAQ

Can I import categories and properties 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 categories or properties?

Categories always inherit permissions from file permissions.

Do files inherit categories 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 categories or properties 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-categories-feedback@google.com.

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