Original Poster
Bas Braams

Many problems with sharing

There are frequent reports on the forum of trouble with sharing. The reported problems include people being required to sign in when a document or collection is shared public on the web (or anyone with the link in the case of a document), people being required to sign in with their Google account when an item is shared with their non-Google account, shared items not showing up in the file lists of a recipient, items shared with edit permision not being editable, inability to download or to print a shared file, inability to list files that I have shared out, inability to list files that a specific person has shared with me, inability to share with a mailing list, and other error reports that don’t come to mind so quickly. I thought it would be useful to collect here some more detailed descriptions of errors or flaws (however they be seen). I only consider issues for free GMail-based accounts here, as issues with Apps accounts are outside my experience.

[Continued in the replies because of a length limitation.]
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Original Poster
Bas Braams
For most of the experiments to be reported below I’m using Chrome 13.x (up-to-date) on Ubuntu to create the sharing situations and then I try to access the item or items from a Firefox 5.0 window in which I am not logged in to any of my Google accounts. However, I don’t believe that the browser or OS has anything to do with any issue to be discussed here.

Sharing public on the web or anyone with the link.

Create a collection L0 and within it a document doc0. Share L0 public on the web with edit permission, which also causes doc0 to be shared public with edit permission. However, I find that if I access L0 without being signed in (using the link that was provided when the collection was shared) then I only have viewing rights on L0 (clicking on edit / manage collections trigger a sign-in request) and if I open doc0 from within that view of L0 then doc0 can’t be edited.

Create a collection L0 and within it a document doc0 and share L0 public on the web view only. Log out and access the collection using the link that was provided when the collection was shared. One can view the document, but it is not possible to download it or to print it. In special cases these restrictions might be desirable, but I don’t think that it is correct to have this restriction as the universal setting.
Reference: Users who aren't logged in can't print my public documents

Create a collection L0 and within it a document doc0 and share L0 public on the web view only. Delete L0, and one sees the standard message that deleting a collection will also delete files in that collection. The message is false in general and in the present case it is false in an untraceable way: doc0 will be deleted or not deleted depending on whether some anonymous viewer has assigned doc0 to one of his collections. I call it an error that the actions of the anonymous viewer are at all relevant. More examples of this kind in an earlier post.
Reference: Hidden file structures and surprising side-effects.

Create a collection L0 and within it a document doc0 and share L0 public on the web view only. Visit L0 and copy the address as it appears in the browser address bar, then sign out and try to access that address. One is asked to sign in. I call it an error, either of design or of implementation. Note that for documents, the change that was announced on the forum some time ago [Ref] was meant to avoid this unpleasantness.
Reference: Some changes in sharing.

Create a collection L0 and within it a document doc0 and share L0 public on the web view only. Log out and access the collection using the link that one was given when doing the share. Now one can see the collection. At top left there appears a button “view collection”. It is natural to click on that button and one is then taken to a sign-in page. The presence of that button is an error in my opinion (one is already viewing the collection) and the sign-in request represents a second error (the system should allow sign-in on that link, which is actually the one that the owner would find in the browser address bar.)
Reference: Public folders are requiring some people to login to view.

The option to share a collection to anyone with the link has been disabled.
Reference: Help articles › Google Docs Known Issues.

There are perennial problems with people being asked to sign in when they try to access a file that was shared to anyone with the link. It seems to have something to do with the Docs system recognizing that some anonymous person also has a Google account, but I don’t have a completely clear view of the issue.

Private sharing

Create a collection L0 and share it view only to your Alter Ego. Log in as the Alter Ego and visit the collection. Now create a new document inside that collection. This action should not be allowed, but it is allowed; however, one then gets the inappropriate error message “The server is unavailable. Trying to reconnect...”.
Reference: Trying to save a document in a shared collection without edit privileges gives wrong error message.
Reference: Creating a new document in Readonly Collection locks document window.

Create a collection L0 and a document inside it and share it with a mailing list. It may take 12 hours or so for the shared items to show up in the listings of the people on the mailing list; I’ve just reproduced this time lag following earlier reports.
Reference: Sharing with a Google Group seems to be broken at the moment.

Other issues

In the Docs Listing menu there isn’t the option to list specifically the documents that are owned by me and privately shared.

In the Docs Listing menu there is not a general way to list files shared with me by a specific person. The listing option “from:x” would accomplish it, but it requires that one knows the account name of the owner of the files. In the Docs listing one can see only the person’s nickname.
Reference: How do I search for documents shared with a specific ID? I need to remove access and I manage many docs.

There is a strange undocumented, and I think erroneous,history dependence in the behavior of shared items in a Docs listing. If I transfer ownership of an item to an other person and remove the item from my Docs list then under well-defined circumstances it reappears. If an item was shared with me and I remove it from my list then it is properly gone.
Reference: Shared item that cannot be removed from the Docs list.

Just to be sure, I believe that all of the issues described above are issues at this time. There have been other errors with sharing that were recently fixed; most recently (late July through 05 August approximately) a sign-in problem for collections shared public on the web.
Reference: "Public on the Web" Sharing Links Are Requiring Sign In.

Finally I have left aside here all error reports related to sharing in connection with Apps domains. I’ll just point to one long-running conversation, and the reader that has direct experience with Apps can decide what to make of it.
Reference: Google Docs: "Users can share documents outside this domain" option doesn't work.
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