Recently, there have been changes to how Google Sheets handles access and permissions. While the permission levels remain the same (“Owner”, “Commenter”, “Viewer”, and “Editor”), these levels can now also be applied to specific sheets or cell ranges. In fact, you now have more options regarding what is shared and what permissions users have, which makes it even more important to manage user access and permissions carefully.
In this article, you can learn about the different permission levels available in Google Sheets, how to change existing permissions for a workbook and a sheet, and how to request editing access for a workbook. You can check out the blog to learn more about how to share Google Sheets, how to share only one tab, and how to make Google Sheets editable.
Google Sheets permission levels
There are four permission levels in Google Sheets. While ownership only applies to the whole workbook, you can now assign the other three roles to specific sheets or ranges within the workbook.
By default, Google Sheets assigns ownership to the user that creates the file. The owner has full access to view, edit, and add/remove access to the workbook. As the owner, you have full control of the workbook.
In some cases, you may want to change this. Fortunately, you can now transfer ownership of a workbook to a different user. Check out Step 4 in the section Change Sheets permissions for a workbook
Editors have similar permissions to owners within the workbook: they can add/edit/delete content, add/reply to comments, and even change permissions and share the workbook with others.
If you would like to remove their ability to change permissions and share the workbook, go to “Share” - top-right corner - and click on the setting gear to uncheck that option. You can now add editing permissions to specific sections; in this case, permissions will only apply to those sections.
Commenters can view the workbook and add/reply to comments. This is very useful, for example, if you want to share the workbook to obtain a client’s review or feedback on specific areas. This role allows them to provide feedback while preventing them from directly modifying the contents of the spreadsheet.
However, keep in mind that they will be able to view the entire file. Commenters have the option to download, print, and copy unless you uncheck the “Viewers and commenters can see…” setting.
This is the most basic permission. Viewers can only see the file but cannot edit or comment. As mentioned above, it is now also possible to limit the “Commenter” and “Viewer” roles even further by unchecking the “Viewers and commenters can see…” checkbox in the Share settings.
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How do I change permissions on Google Sheets?
You can change permissions for the spreadsheet by using the built-in “Share” button, placed in the top-right corner. This displays a list of current users followed by a drop-down menu where you can quickly change their permission level. You can also change permissions for specific sheets or cells, by heading over to Data > Protected sheets and ranges.
Changing permissions can be a complex process, so you’ll see the three main ways to achieve this.
Change Sheets permissions for an entire spreadsheet
This method includes changing permissions for the entire spreadsheet, including transferring ownership and adding an expiration date for Comment and View.
- 1. Click on the “Share” button in the top-right corner. You’ll see a pop-up with the users who currently have access to the file.
- 2. To the right of each user, you’ll see a drop-down menu with three options: “Viewer”, “Commenter”, and “Editor”. Click on the one you want to apply.
- 3. As you can see, there are three more options at the bottom, including “Remove access”. You can also provide temporary “Comment” or “View” access, by clicking on “Add expiration”.
- 4. To transfer ownership of the spreadsheet, simply click on “Yes”. However, make sure that this is the option you want – the new owner can remove you after this.
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Change Sheets permissions for specific sheets
- 1. Go to Data > Protected sheets and ranges.
- 2. You will see the sidebar to the right of your spreadsheet, with a list of protected sheets and/or ranges. In the example below, “Sheet1” and “Sheet2” are both protected.
- 3. From the list, click on the sheet you want to change permissions. If you want to be the only editor for this sheet, click on “Change permissions”.
- 4. You will have the option to “Restrict who can edit this range”. Choose “Only you” or “Custom” so you can add specific users other than yourself. If you already have permissions set up on a different sheet, you can select “Copy permissions from another range”.
Request access to edit a Google Sheets file
- 1. Open your Google Sheet and you will see a green “View only” button. This confirms that you don’t have access to edit. Click on it and then “Request edit access”.
- 2. Type in your message and click “Send” to notify the user about your request.
As you have seen, the ability to assign editing permissions is incredibly useful. In a few clicks, you can add editors to your Google Sheets file or even parts of it. Alternatively, you can add commenters to provide feedback without having to worry about them making changes to the file. You can easily revoke these permissions or even set expiration dates for View and Comment.
You now know about the different permission levels in Google Sheets, as well as how to modify them. While the new options offer a lot of flexibility regarding access and permissions, it is also quite easy to become confused and make a mess. If you have a large workbook with multiple sheets and protected ranges, make sure you plan it out logically first.
However, if you work in a large group, you’ll want to keep your main spreadsheet data private, if only to avoid having users accidentally edit the source data. Fortunately, there is a simple way to do this. Using Sheetgo, you can easily share individual tabs from your Google Sheets while keeping the rest completely private. Sheetgo provides you with the flexibility of customized sharing and collaboration while maintaining full control and ensuring users can access the workbook securely and only access the data they should.
If you would like to learn more about the new sharing and editing options in Google Sheets and Excel, check out some of our other articles: