Sharing and simultaneous collaboration is a huge benefit to using Google drive—but what if you have to share a Google Doc file (such as a word-processing document) with a user who doesn’t actually have a Google account?
There are two ways to handle the situation:
1. Email the file to the user as an attachment.
With your Google document open in Google Drive, click File, and choose Email as attachment.
You’ll be brought to a dialog screen where you choose a file format and type in the recipient’s email address. Your file will be sent via email as an attachment in the format you choose. You can choose to send the file as HTML, PDF, Rich Text, or Microsoft Word.
The benefit to this method is that it’s fast and easy to get your content to the people who need to see it. The downside is that it means there are two distinct versions of your document floating around—and you cannot collaborate with the recipient online.
2. Allow anyone with a link to edit your document.
Here’s a vastly underutilized feature of Google Docs: People don’t actually need a Google account to view a file created with Google Docs—or even to edit it.
It’s all about setting the visibility options of your document. You can set the visibility so that anyone who has a direct link can either view or edit your document.
To change the settings, open your document and click Share on the top right. Under the section titled “Specific people can access,” click Change.
In the Sharing Settings dialog, choose Anyone with the link. Then at the bottom of the dialog, under access, click Can view and, if necessary, change it to Can edit. Make sure you click the greenSave button when you’re done.
You’re almost done! Clicking the Save button will return you to the Share dialog where you can send the link to people who need to edit your Google doc. These people do not need to sign in to be able to edit your document.
When you look at the revision history for your document, people who have edited it without signing in are titled anonymous, and can choose an avatar to differentiate themselves if multiple anonymous users are working on the document at the same time.
The benefit of this method is that people who do not have a Google account can edit the document without having to log in.
The downside (and cautionary statement!) is that if this link gets into the wrong hands, your document can be viewed AND edited without a username to be held accountable for the changes. If you’ve sent the link to multiple people, you also can’t be sure which user made which change.
However, at any time, you can go back into the sharing settings and revoke access by choosing Specific people in the sharing settings dialog.