Folder sharing in shared drives (beta)

Shared drives are a powerful way to empower teams and organizations to store, access, and collaborate on files. Until now, all permissions were set at the shared drive level or the individual file level, and it wasn’t possible to share specific folders within a shared drive.

With this beta, you can share a specific folder with other users, or upgrade member access to provide users with additional permissions on specific folders within shared drives. To learn more about the benefits of shared drives, see What are shared drives?

Apply to join the folder sharing beta

To apply to join the folder sharing beta program, complete this form.

Note that participation is not guaranteed, and you may be asked to join a waitlist.

How to use folder sharing?

There are a number of scenarios when sharing just a folder (and not an entire shared drive) is important, including:

  • For a marketing department, you can have a shared drive accessible by all internal employees, with a specific folder for advertising materials that’s also accessible to an external agency.
  • For a sales department organized by region, you can have a shared drive that enables team managers and directors to see all activity, with regional teams only able to see the information relevant to their specific area of focus in a shared folder.
  • For a shared drive used to prepare for a specific event, you can give all members view access to all files, while providing each specific team with edit access to the documents relevant to their part of the event.

How does the sharing experience work?

Access levels assigned at the shared drive level represent the minimum level of access users will have to all files and folders within that shared drive. This ensures transparency, predictability, and scalability. As a result, the access level of a user for a folder within a shared drive can only ever be greater than the access level of that user for the shared drive itself; it can’t be more restrictive.

For example, a Commenter on a shared drive cannot be just a Viewer of a folder within that shared drive. However, a Viewer on a shared drive can have their access level expanded to Commenter or Contributor for specific files and subfolders within that shared drive. Therefore, if permission on a file or folder is downgraded, the action will take place on one or more parent folders where the permission was inherited from.

Change permission on parent folder

An example of the dialog if access level is reduced for a sub-folder in a shared drive

Who can share folders?

Folders in a shared drive can be shared by managers of that shared drive. Other shared drive access levels (e.g. content manager and commenter) are not eligible to share folders, because they are not allowed to control broad access to content. Folders in shared drives have the same access levels as the shared drives themselves, with the exception of the manager. These access levels include: Content manager (default), Contributor, Commenter, and Viewer. Note that a Contributor on a folder is an Editor on a file in that folder. Learn more about Shared drives access levels.

What happens with file and folder moves

When shared files or folders are moved in, within, or between shared drives, inherited access to content will be updated accordingly, and direct access will be preserved. The same is true when shared files or folders are moved from a shared drive to a user’s My Drive.

For example, imagine a document was originally in the Sales team shared drive. All members of the Sales team have Viewer access to the shared drive and so have Viewer access to the document. Additionally, five individual Sales team members have Editor access to the specific document. If that file was moved out of the Sales team drive, the Sales team would lose their inherited Viewer access, but the five individual users would still have Editor permissions.

As these (shared) folder moves can make broad changes to content access, folders moved into or between shared drives are only allowed for users who are managers on both the original as well as the target location.

Note: We will start to enforce the manager requirement with this beta program, and on September 1, 2020, for all G Suite customers. Going forward, it will no longer be possible for Contributors or Content managers on the target destination to move folders in or between shared drives.

Where do shared folders show up?

Folders shared from shared drives can be accessed in the Shared with me section in Drive. They do not appear in the shared drives hierarchy of the recipient, unless they are a member of the shared drive. Recipients of shared folders get notifications, similar to how they will get an email if a Google Doc is shared with them. Users can also organize shared folders using shortcuts.

Note that shared folders do not automatically appear in Drive File Stream or a shared drive you have access to. To make them appear, you need to create a shortcut to the shared folder in My Drive or the shared drive you have access to. This shortcut will be accessible within Drive File Stream, where you can access the folder or sync the content.


Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?