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How Do I.... (a Practical Guide to Administration tasks)

Understand file and folder behaviour in Google Drive?

Understand how files and folders behave in Google Drive?

To get the best results out of Google Drive you cannot try to make Google Drive and its applications work in the same way as Windows file manager and Microsoft Office. The model for them both is very different and files exist differently in each:

Behaviour of files and folders in Google Drive - Part 1

Files in GoogleGoogle Drive icon

  • A document is a link to a file so it can appear in more than one folder.
  • If you have a document but it does not exist in a folder, it can still be found in search results.

Files in Microsoft

  • Documents exist in one location, (although you can have aliases or shortcuts in Microsoft these are not the same as the document itself).
  • If a document does not exist in a folder it has either been deleted (or it has been hidden from view).

Shared Spaces

Image of a crowded train carriage  

When you are working in a shared folders on Google Drive remember it is a shared space and so what you do in there will affect the other users of that space.

If you have Edit permissions to a file in a shared space, even if you are not the owner, you could still move that file out of the shared folder. As a result of this action your colleagues could lose access to that file. Thankfully when sharing permissions on a file are changed like this a pop up warning - Some people may lose access will appear:

Some people may lose access

Pop up Message - transfer ownership

The owner of a folder in a shared space can delete a folder without also deleting the files it contains, if the files are owned by someone else then they will fall into the void. Even though the file owner will be able to find them if they run a search on the files you should always think of how your actions may affect other peoples work in shared spaces.


OwnershipGoogle Drive icon

In Microsoft if you have access to a file and are able to delete it, then it will be gone, whereas in Google, only the owner of the file can delete it:

Ownership is important in My Drive in the following ways

  • Every file or folder must have an owner and it is limited to one owner only.
  • Owners can modify permissions.
  • A Google Groups cannot be the owner of a file or folder.
  • Only the owner can permanently delete a file. If a file has been shared with you and it appears in your Drive view, and you remove it, it will only remove it from your Drive view, it does not delete it. However If the file is in a shared folder and you delete it, this action will remove it for others too. You will not get a pop up warning box, which is the same for Microsoft files, although you have a few moments to undo the action
  • Owners can restrict other people who have edit permissions from changing the sharing permissions.
  • When your account is suspended resources owned by you will cease to be available. Ownership of shared documents needs to be transferred.
  • Only the owner can change ownership of the file. if you choose to do this the Transferring ownership pop up message will appear, to give you the chance to reconsider the action.

Transfer ownership

The difference between working with Native Google files and Microsoft files in Google

Google Drive is both a file storage system and a collection of generic applications e.g. Sheets, Docs. It is important to realise that Google Drive works very well for native Google Drive documentation i.e. Google Docs, Sheets or Slides etc. These documents are designed to include collaborative features and so are very useful for project collaboration.

Microsoft Office files e.g Excel, Word and PowerPoint can be uploaded to Drive but they are designed to be edited in the corresponding Office applications on a local or network drive, not on an internet location. Office documents will open in a browser preview but are not editable. However, you can get limited editing of Office documents in the Chrome browser if the Google Extension "Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides" is added.

For further explanation see: Drive behaviours and working practices