You’ve probably come to this page feeling pretty frustrated that you’ve received a link to a Google Sheet, Google Slide or Google Doc in an email or found a link to one of these documents in a website or even one of my tutorials, but you just can’t edit it. You can’t update the text and even half of the menu bar is greyed out!
What’s going on?
It means that you have been given only View permissions to this document.
Generally, it’s because any changes in a Google Workspace Document, (Sheets, Slides, Docs) will be displayed for anyone who has access to the document. So if you add or delete something in a document, then other editors, commentators and people with view-only access will see the change in near real-time.
There are three main reasons why an owner of a document will provide View-only access to users:
1. It might have only been meant for you to read-only.
Maybe you get an email from another department from work with a new policy that they have. You don’t really need to make edits to this. You just need to read it, right?
If you think this might be the case, but you want to be able to access the document in your personal folder, you can go to File > Add a shortcut to Drive. This will save a short cut to the file in your own Google Drive to help you to better organise your documents.
You still won’t be able to edit the document, but you don’t need to.
Also, the owner or the editors of the documents can also make copies of the document after you have made the shortcut if they need to.
2. It might be an example document or template.
In my tutorials, I often provide links to templates or example documents. Here again, I only ever provide view access.
However, you can create your own copy of these documents easily, by going to File > Make a copy. You will then be prompted to move the copy into a desired folder in your Google Drive. Once done, a new window will appear in your browser. You will then have your very own copy of the document that is owned by you. You can now edit it and it will not affect the original document, because they are two separate documents.
3. The owner may have forgot to make you an editor.
Maybe the owner of the document was meant to give you edit permission but may have forgot.
Now before you get too excited, there is one thing you might want to check to save yourself some embarrassment. Go up to the top of your sheet and check to see if you are using the correct account for this sheet. You can do that in the top-right corner of the document and confirm you are using the right avatar.
Perhaps the owner has given you edit permission to the document in another one of your accounts, like a work account.
If you are in the wrong account, simply change to your correct account and check to see if you have edit permission.
If you are in the correct account and you are certain you should have edit permission, then you can select the View Only button and then click Request view access. An email will be sent to the owner and they can decide if you need edit access.
Why so much build-up to this last option? Well, you can imagine that it can be a little frustrating to get a bunch of emails from people who don’t actually need edit access.
Fortunately, there is a workaround to receiving a bunch of emails requesting edit access unnecessarily. Check out the tutorial below:
How to stop getting Google document requests to edit from users outside your organisation from publicly viewable files. (Updated Feb 2022)
Check out the video:
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