The Difference Between Visibility and Sharing in Google Drive

We've all seen the share controls for a Google Drive file, but most of us only look toward the bottom half.  We are, most of us, familiar with the "Invite people" window and we know what the difference between Can Edit, Can Comment, and Can View are.


Google Drive Sharing Controls

Rarely, however, do we look at that top half, Next to the word "Private" and click "change" to see what that button does.  That opens up what are called the Visibility Settings and it designates how people can access your file.  Visibility changes can make your document more widely accessible through link sharing or search.

Within a GAFE domain, there are five visibility options.
Visibility Choices
The choice that is on by default is "Private" or "Specified People" (blue).  This used to be known only as "Private".  What this means is that only people you have specifically made collaborators on the file can get to it in any way.

Public Visibility

The choices at the top of the setting (red) are related to each other and both allow a broader array of people on the internet to find your file.  They are pretty straightforward.  It is important to note that these settings eliminate the need for a Google account login to access them.

Public on the web: 
This is pretty much what it sounds like.  It is accessible to anyone on the web and it is indexed for search by search engines like Google and Yahoo.
Anyone with the link:
This is still on the web, but is NOT indexed for search.  You can think of this as an unlisted phone number--anyone can call it, but only if they already know it, because they just can't look it up.

Why would I use these?
It should go without saying that neither of these would be used for anything sensitive or having any kind of confidentiality.  
Public is a great setting if you are trying to get the word out on a document or file very easily and quickly, for example, anything we wanted to share with parents or the community at large, we would want to change the visibility to "Public".
Anyone with the link is a good setting if you want to give easy access to information to a bunch of people (like parents, or students) and want to allow them to share with others they know might be interest that you don't know. You'd use this instead of "Public" if you still wanted to keep it out of search engines for whatever reason.



In-District Visibility

The Choices in the middle (green box in the second picture) are very similar to the red choices, but confined to within the GAFE domain, or in our case, confined to within the school district. 

Fairfield-Suisun School District:
This is conceptually similar "Public on the web", but requires an FSUSD login to be able to access it.  Additionally, it is not indexed for search by big search engines, but it will be indexed by Google Drive search and may be opened by anyone in the district (or the organization that runs the GAFE domain you are in).
People at Fairfield-Suisun School District with the link:
Again, this similar to "Anyone with the link". but also requires an FSUSD login. Docs set to this option are accessible to anyone inside the district who has the URL of the file.

Why would I use these? 
These settings allow us to easily and quickly share within our organization on a large scale, but also allow those with whom we work to share to others that we may not know first hand, but who can benefit from access to the document or folder.  The "People at FSUSD with the link" especially makes it easy to copy and paste the file’s link into chat, email and calendar invites for quick access and feedback.

One Last Thing

By default, the visibility settings allow "Can View" privileges, but they can be changed to allow for editing or commenting.

Choosing any of these settings gives Can View privileges by default, but this can be changed.