How to move a Google document that has been saved in someone else's folder

Click here for this post in a Google Doc.

(Many thanks to Scott Monahan for helping me with this.)

I own a Google document that someone put into a locked Google folder. When I say “locked”, I mean that the owner of the folder has shared it with other people but has given the folder the “View” sharing option (not “Edit”.) When this happens, you will notice that you can no longer move around freely YOUR OWN DOCUMENT on your Google Drive. You will get this message:
Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 1.50.11 AM.png

This is very disconcerting at first but I understand the logic of Google in setting it up this way. It prevents someone from creating a shared folder, and someone else inadvertently moving documents out of it.

Of course, you can always make another copy of the document for your own Drive and not worry about it being stuck in someone else’s folder. However, if you have shared this document with other people previously or have put it online in other places, it means that the link will go to the older document and not your newer copy with updates.

So now, while you cannot move the document around freely in your Drive any more, you can still add it to other folders in your Drive:

1. Open the document, then click on the folder icon at the top to the right of the title:
Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 1.57.25 AM.png

2. This will show the folders that the document is currently in:

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 1.58.24 AM.png

(This is also how you can see who owns the folder that it is locked into. Click on the folder that you don’t recognize to see who owns it)

3. Click on “Organize”.

4. On a Mac, click, hold down your “Command” key and click on the folder(s) you want to add the document to (not sure which key it is on other devices, please advise if you know!)

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 2.00.41 AM.png

5. Click “Move”.

6. Once the file is in one of your folders, you can easily move it to other folders, by going to the folder it is in, then right clicking on the document and clicking on "Move to". Or, you can add it to other folders by clicking on the document within a folder, then hit Shift + z, then click on "Add". Incidentally, this is the only way to add the same document to multiple folders. You cannot do it directly from your Drive. (See Alice Keeler's blogpost about this.)


  1. For the "Old Drive", instead of holding the [Command] button down, you use the [CTRL] button on Windows and Chromebooks. The old Google Drive interface was definitely a lot simpler for this task.

  2. This method of moving files to multiple folders only works for native Google files, not say PDFs etc. Also it only let's you move a single file or folder at once.

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