There are millions of reasons for having a Google account – but collaborating with Google Docs is pretty high up on the list for me. If you’ve ever wanted to make sure everyone in a group has access to the same information, even as you updated it, then you want to be able to create and share Google docs. Thankfully, the process is really straightforward, whether you already have made the document ahead of time or if you are creating it from scratch using Google docs.
Sign into your Google account
To use Google Docs, you need a Google account. This doesn’t mean that you need a gmail email address – you can actually sign up for a Google account using any email service.
Go to the Google Docs page and sign in or click Create an account now to sign up.
Create your document
You can either create a document using Google docs or upload an existing document.
Creating a document is as simple as using the Create new drop-down menu and selecting the type of document you want. The new document will then open in a different window or tab for you to create it (yes, the new tab thing confused me for a while, but you get used to it!).
Uploading a document is straightforward, too – just use the Upload drop-down menu and select the document! Remember – once you upload it, it won’t stay synced to the document on your computer, so make any further edits on the Google docs version.
Change the privacy options
By default, Google docs keeps your documents private. However, once you’re ready to collaborate, you don’t want to keep your documents private anymore!
Beside the title of your document is a little padlock with a link labeled Private to only me. Once you click it, you will open the Sharing settings dialog.
The dialog box shows that your document is private (the top line) and gives you the option to change it to not be private. Click Change.
Now you can select a number of visibility options. These are all pretty self-explanatory.
Personally, I don’t see the sense of creating a public document, but it’s great if people don’t want to create a website or blog but still want to share some information.
If you know exactly who you are going to be sharing your document with, you can keep it private and invite people individually. And if you are working within a company, you can require individuals to be signed into their corporate account to access the document.
The option I think is best for collaboration is Anyone with the link. This keeps your information private, but allows you to invite a large number of people to give their input, and they can even invite their own contacts.
After you select Anyone with the link, an additional checkbox appears at the bottom of the box asking if you want to share edit access. If you do not check this (the default), then people with the link will be able to see your document but not edit it. However, if you want everyone to give their feedback or make changes on the document, you can select Allow anyone to edit.
After you pick your visibility preferences, click Save.
If you Anyone with the link, your Sharing Settings window will now give you a URL to copy-and-paste into an email or link in a blog post. To remind you what the permissions are, the Permissions section shows that anyone with the URL can view the document. You can even change the permissions after you have generated the link! And if you still want to share the document with specific people, add their email addresses in the Add people section.
Once you have closed the box, your permissions are set (until you change them again).
You can still see the security settings beside the title of your document, and you can click the label to change the permissions (or just to get the link again if you lost it!).
Share your document
Now that you have the link, you can email it, put it in a blog post, send it via IM, or write it on a post-it (though the addresses are usually a little too long to remember). Congratulations! You managed it!
Have you had good experiences collaborating on Google documents? Are there any steps to the process that are harder (or easier) than you thought?