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Google Drive is a free online service where you can store and access your files from anywhere in the cloud. One of the most widely used Google Apps is Google Sheets, which represent the go-to spreadsheet tools for users who need a free and easy way to collaborate online.

As soon as you create a Google account, you’ll have access to the wide range of tools in Google Sheets for real-time collaboration, file sharing, and editing for multiple users. What’s more, learning how to create and share your Google Sheets is a quick and easy task.

In this article, you’ll learn how to share files in Google Sheets with specific users as well as via a link. You’ll then learn how to collaborate on Google Sheets by applying useful tips and tricks that’ll noticeably increase your productivity level.

How to share files in Google Sheets?

Although sharing a file from your Google Drive is easy, you can manage how to share the file. For example, you can set Google Sheets permissions to only allow for only viewing or make the spreadsheet editable by multiple users. In case you don't want to share the whole spreadsheet, Google Sheets allows you to share only one tab. Let’s see two basic ways to share files in Google Sheets.

How To Share Only One Tab in Google Sheets
How To Share Only One Tab in Google Sheets

When sharing a Google Sheets spreadsheet Google usually tries to share the entire document. Here’s how to share only one tab instead.

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How to share a file with specific users?

If you want to share a file with a specific group of users, you need to make sure that they have a Google account, so they can view and edit the file. However, note that as soon as you create your Google Sheets within a shared folder, this file will also be shared with the same group of people, unless you modify it. This is how you can share a file with specific users.

  1. 1. Go to your Google Drive and right-click on the file you would like to share. Alternatively, you can open your Google Sheets and click on the “Share” button available to the far right.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Share button
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Share button
  1. 2. In the “Share” window, you’ll find a list of users that already have access. Click on the user you’d like to share the file with.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Click on user
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Click on user
  1. 3. Click on the permissions drop-down menu, to the right of the email address.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Modify permissions
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Modify permissions
  1. 4. Select the new permission you’d like to grant the user by clicking on “Viewer”, “Commenter”, or “Editor”.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Select new permission
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Select new permission
  1. 5. Optionally, you can include a message that will appear to the user in the email body.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Type in message
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Type in message
  1. 6. Once you’ve entered your message, you can click “Send” to share the file via email or click on “Copy link” to share the file using another communication channel (for example, Slack).
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Copy link or Send
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Copy link or Send

Note that if you share by copying the link, the permissions will remain the same. Unless you make the file public, the link will only work with users who have access right to the spreadsheet.

In case you want to share your Google Sheets with a larger group or outside your organization, collaborators won’t need a Google account to access it. This is especially useful if the spreadsheet is too large to send over email or if you prefer to communicate with your team using alternative communication tools. This is how you can share a file with a link.

  1. 1. Repeat steps 1-2 from the previous section.
  2. 2. In the “Share” window, under “General access” click on “Copy link” or the name of your organization to make the link public.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Copy link or make public
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Copy link or make public
  1. 3. To make the link public and share it with users outside your organization, select “Anyone with the link”.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Anyone with the link
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Anyone with the link
  1. 4. Click on the permissions drop-down menu to the right, and select the type of permissions you’d like to grant other users.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Change permissions
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Change permissions
  1. 5. Click on “Copy link” and “Done” to share the file.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Copy link and done
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Copy link and done

Although you can grant any of the three main permissions for a public link, it’s not recommended to select “Editor” as you risk losing data.

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The Ultimate Guide to Google Sheets Collaboration

How to collaborate on Google Sheets?

Google Sheets is currently the preferred spreadsheet collaboration tool. You only need a Google account to use it, and it’s super user-friendly. Here are the three main ways to use Google Sheets for collaboration.

See who’s working

One of the great things about Google Sheets is that you can collaborate in real-time. This means being able to see who’s working on the data at the same time as you are. This is how you can check who else is working on your Google Sheets.

  1. 1. Open your Google Sheets and check in the upper-right corner. If another user is currently working on the file, you’ll be able to see a circular icon that represents the avatar of other users.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Circular icon avatar
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Circular icon avatar
  1. 2. The cells are highlighted in the color corresponding to the circular icon of the avatar, and the name of the user making edits will appear above the cell.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Copy link and done 2
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Copy link and done

Note that the circular icon will show the first letter of the user’s name by default unless they have included a profile picture.

Open a chat

If you want to communicate directly with the user in real-time, you can open a chat.

  1. 1. You should be able to see another circular icon next to the user’s avatar.
  2. 2. Click on it to open the chat.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Open chat
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Open chat

It’s that easy!

Create and review comments

If you're using Google Sheets to collaborate, you can provide feedback by adding a comment. This is how you can create and review comments in Google Sheets.

  1. 1. Select the area you want to leave a comment or feedback on and click on the comment icon to the far right, between the hyperlink and graph icons.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Add comment
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Add comment
  1. 2. Type in your comment directly or add a “@” to enter the user you’d like to assign the comment to. This way, they will be notified via email. To add the comment, click on the button “Comment”.
Google Sheets Collaboration How To Tips Tricks Comment button to send
Google Sheets Collaboration: How-To, Tips & Tricks - Comment button to send

Another great collaboration feature is Google Sheets Notifications. This is the best way to stay up to date with any changes made to your spreadsheet, as you can customize notifications to receive an email as soon as someone changes your data or submits a form.

How to use Layer for Google Sheets collaboration?

Layer adds productivity features to your Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, request input, and accept or reject changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data.

Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access to relevant stakeholders on a tab or cell level.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, and easily track changes.
  • Collaborate: Define, assign, and automate tasks and set deadlines.

Sign up for early access and start automating your Google Sheets workflows with Layer!

Conclusion

Is Google Sheets collaborative? Hopefully, you’re able to fully answer this yourself. You should now know how to share files in Google Sheets with specific users via email and via a link, as well as enjoy the full potential of collaboration tools following the tips and tricks outlined above.

If you are a Microsoft user, Excel offers advanced co-authoring and collaboration features. Similar to Google Sheets, learning how to share an Excel file is a straightforward and easy process. When sharing an Excel file online, you’ll need access to a local network as you could risk losing important changes or updates to your data.

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Jul 20 2022, Updated Jul 18 2022