Understanding Drive Shortcuts

Recently Google announced a feature designed to increase the security of files that live in multiple locations.  Previously, users could press Shift+Z with a file selected in the Google Drive interface, and the users could add the file to a new folder within their MyDrive.  The file would then inherit all the sharing settings from the new parent.  Let’s dig into this new security feature and see how it will change the way we will be managing files from here on and what it means for collaboration.

The replacement for this behavior is the creation of a new file type within Google drive: Shortcuts.  This is also being reflected in the ‘organize’ option within Docs, Sheets, and Slides – adding a Shortcut rather than adding the file itself.

At first glance, there isn’t a whole lot different between Shortcuts and the old method of adding a file to a new parent.  Both work as a method of organization to sort files in more than one location.  Both let other people have access to a file without moving it out of the original file’s parent folder. But that’s where the similarities end.

One major improvement Shortcuts brings is that they are able to be added into Shared Drives.  The Shift+Z method did not allow this, graying out the Shared drive destination when trying to add a file to a new location.  If you tried to move a file that was in multiple locations to a Shared Drive, it would pull the file out of all it’s parent folders to place it into the Shared Drive.

‘Add to Drive’ compared to ‘Add Shortcut’ interface. ‘Add to Drive’ has “Shared drives” disabled as an option.

When a Shortcut is added to a new location however, it does not inherit the sharing settings of the folder.  This is a significant design change from the original method of multiple parent folders.  As previously mentioned, adding a file into an additional location resulted in users being able to access the file with whatever permissions they had for that folder.  Now, with Shortcuts, the file is visible but if the original file cannot be viewed by an individual, they are presented with a “Request Access” button.  

If access is granted, it changes the permission on the original file.  Additionally, if users use the “Share” interface on a shortcut, they are actually changing the permissions on the original file; The Access Control List of the Shortcut is actually the Access Control List of the original file.

Drive Shortcuts provide a way of organizing files and access permissions in an interesting new way.  The idea of a “single parent file system” is something that is very familiar to traditional file systems, and should help with accidental oversharing due to excessive folder permissions.  Drive Shortcuts are now widely available, while the old method of Adding additional parents will no longer be available at the end of Sept 2020. Eventually, all files with multiple parents will be migrated to Shortcuts.

  • Stephen Gale
    Technical Support Analyst

  • About the Author:

    Stephen lives in Utah and enjoys the puzzle of investigating users’ problems and finding potential solutions. A recovering / reformed Gamer, Stephen throws himself into his passion for staying on top of all things Chrome OS and Chromebook related.  Prior to joining Amplified IT, Stephen served as a Network Admin in a Therapeutic Boarding School and an IT director, where he implemented G Suite for Education. Stephen has studied computer science and security at Weber State University, Western Governors University. A self-anointed honor, Stephen likes Chromebooks more than almost anyone else in the world.