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If you create a Google Doc, click Share and then enter a non-Gmail-address and uncheck "Notify user" (I don't want to share the link using clear text e-mail in this specific case), everything is "fine" (that is, no error messages and the recipient is included in the list of users with access to the document) but then what? I have tried clicking the Copy Link-button and opened the resulting link in a private window (where I am not logged into my own Google account) but just receives an error message that authentication failed. Then I am redirected to login with my Google account.

I was expecting that it should work by the link - that the link contained authentication data (similar to how if often works when you reset your password to different services) - but that seems to not be the case.

How can I share a Google Doc with someone that doesn't have a Google Account and let her/him be editor of the document? If this is impossible with Google Docs, does any other similar service (Apple, Microsoft etc) offer this feature?

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  • I edited my answer to better reflect your comments.
    – Blindspots
    Jul 11, 2023 at 21:59
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    I’m curious why this question was closed as “needs details or clarity” when it has two answers. Doesn’t that imply that it was clear enough to be answered? Jul 12, 2023 at 9:31
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    @galacticninja I have no trouble with re-opening the question, but do not really expect that possible additional answers would help much. It would also be good if the OP (or someone else) first edited the question to provide all pertinent details in the question body. Some of the missing details appear in the title, comments and chat. The answers only address the question in the question body. I also suspect that there are as good or better answers that address essentially the same question elsewhere in the Stack universe. Jul 12, 2023 at 9:43

2 Answers 2

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click Share and then enter a non-Gmail-address and uncheck "Notify user"

When you do that through the File > Share > Share with others dialog box, and the non-Gmail address is not associated with any Google account, this notification will get posted:

You are trying to invite [email protected]. Since there is no Google account associated with this email address, you must check the "Notify people" box to invite this recipient.

In other words, you cannot invite non-Google account holders without sending a notification.

Note that many organizations have Google Workspace domains of their own. You cannot immediately tell from a generic email address whether its holder has a Google account or not. Further, an email address may be associated with a Google account through its recovery address or some such means.

When the user already has a Google account that is associated with the email address you specified, you can share the file with them normally, regardless of whether the email address is a Gmail address or a Google Workspace domain address.

I have tried clicking the Copy Link-button and opened the resulting link in a private window (where I am not logged into my own Google account) but just receives an error message that authentication failed. Then I am redirected to login with my Google account.

Since the sharing mode is Restricted, that is the expected behavior.

How can I share a Google Doc with someone that doesn't have a Google Account and let her/him be editor of the document?

When you use the Restricted sharing mode, those users must have a Google account, or create an account, before they can access the file.

The only way to grant editor rights to non-Google account holders is to share the file as Anyone with the link > Editor. When you do that, you should take care to not share the link publicly.

See Share files from Google Drive and Share & collaborate on a spreadsheet.

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  • "You are trying to invite [email protected]. Since there is no Google account associated with this email address, you must check the "Notify people" box to invite this recipient." I don't get that notification?
    – d-b
    Jul 10, 2023 at 18:13
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    @d-b Chances are that you are not getting the notification because the user already has a Google account. Their email address does not need to be @gmail.com — it can still be associated with a Google account. You cannot immediately tell from a generic email address whether its holder has a Google account or not. Jul 10, 2023 at 22:15
  • @BlindSpots I don't have a Savebutton, only Share. And when I click it after entering my own non-Gmail-address, a progress bar is animated for a few seconds and then I am back at my document. Because I send it to a corporate address.
    – d-b
    Jul 10, 2023 at 22:19
  • If you are testing sharing with your own private account, and that account is associated with your primary account through its recovery address or some such means, I think the expected behavior is that no notification is posted. Jul 12, 2023 at 9:45
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How can I share a Google Doc with someone that doesn't have a Google Account and let her/him be editor of the document?

You can do that by using the option Anyone with the link instead of Restricted. This is an extremely high-risk way to share a document as it only provides "security through obscurity", (the document is only safe if the address is not known).

It is likely that your new editor has a Google account they can use and the safest approach would be to request it. A less safe approach is one where you send a restricted share link to a recipient whose Google account is unknown.

To be Clear

Regardless if a user has a Google account that is known to you or not, you cannot have document permissions that are restricted based on a user's Google account while also allowing document editing without the need for a Google account. The document is either restricted or not.

Restricted Sharing

The "much less safe approach" to restricted sharing is what you were describing in your question and @doubleunary's answer correctly explained restricted sharing to recipients whose Google account is unknown.

Copy link URL is Generic

I have tried clicking the "Copy link" button and opened the resulting link in a private window

Using the URL from the Copy link button is equivalent to copying the document URL from your browser's address bar.

  1. The URL is not unique but simply a generic link to the document with usp=sharing appended.
  2. In the private window if you log in to an account that has the appropriate privileges, you will get access to the document.
  3. If you log in to an account that doesn't have permissions, or don't log in to an account at all, you will not get access to the document.

Notify People Option

The Copy link button always contains a generic link to the document rather than anything specific to a particular account/user. For example, you can share to additional Google accounts at different times and the link always remains the same. It is the same link "you" use to access the document with the addition of usp=sharing at the end.

When you share a Google Doc with someone but can't identify their Google account, you can't uncheck the Notify people option. The exception is when Google associates the recipient with you. [See "Identified Edge Case"]

For this reason, the Copy link button can only be used to access a restricted document by Google accounts listed in 'People with access' (PWA).

Send Link to Unknown Account

When you send out a restricted document's sharing link to a recipient whose Google account is unknown, the link in that email is based on the generic document link with an invite code appended, for example, usp=sharing_eil_m&invite=BLd_65rY&ts=71dbs6f3.

That invite code allows the following:

  1. Anyone with that link can view the document without needing a Google account. This includes the recipient as well as anyone with whom they share it.
  2. Anyone with the link can edit the document if they log into a Google account. This includes the recipient as well as anyone with whom they share it.
  3. If the document is accessed by a Google account, that account is listed in the PWA section of the document. That is in addition to the entry for the recipient whose Google account is unknown.
  4. Removing the entry for the recipient whose Google account is unknown from the PWA section will invalidate the link (becomes a generic document link), but will not affect any Google accounts that already have access, even if that access came as a result of the original link.

Security

Sharing a restricted document with a recipient whose Google account is unknown poses significant security risks. Anyone with the link who has a Google account can edit it. The risk can be either:

  • avoided, by requesting a user's Google account address in advance, or
  • mitigated, by removing that recipient from the PWA section as soon as the intended user has successfully logged in with their Google account.

Identified 'Edge Case'

"when I click it [ Share button ] after entering my own non-Gmail-address, a progress bar is animated for a few seconds and then I am back at my document"

Your comment above describes an unexpected behavior that prompted me to investigate further. You are describing adding a recipient whose Google account is unknown, however instead of being forced to Send a notification email you are able to skip that step by unchecking Notify people and successfully completing the process by clicking Share instead.

I performed additional tests and reproduceD the same behavior when the recipient address is associated with the document owner's account 'in some way'. For example, an address listed on Gmail Settings Accounts and Import page, or an Alternate email for a Google account, etc.

In those cases when Google checks the recipient address it is able to confirm the association and allows skipping the notification.

This kind of (undocumented) behavior is not completely unknown with Google apps. For example, when creating a Gmail Send-as alias using a plus address, Gmail will indicate that it requires email verification, require you to click a button to send the verification, and confirm the email verification has been initiated. However, behind the scenes, Google is able to identify that the email verification is unnecessary, the alias is immediately verified, and the email never arrives.

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