I get this question all the time: people have employees, interns or contractors in the office, share a bunch of possibly sensitive documents, then scramble to unshare everything after the workers are gone. The number of documents is sometimes overwhelming – but fret not, it’s easy to mass-unshare documents if you need to, here’s how.

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Solution: To quickly unshare many Google Docs are once, you need to use Google Drive in which you can search using specific filters, select multiple docs and go Share>Advanced to remove the sharing with a specific person. You can do it in only four steps.

Use Google Drive For Multiple Unshare

The most important thing is to use Google Drive instead of Google Docs. When editing files, the difference isn’t important, but when trying to perform multi-documents operations, it makes a world of difference.

The reason is that Google Docs is a simpler listing interface that gets you quickly to a document. Google Drive is more file-management oriented, and multi-selection is a core feature. This is where most people stumble when trying to act on many files at once. Go to

https://drive.google.com/drive/my-drive

From there, you will see a search bar at the top, which shows “Search Drive” as a default text. Enter that field by clicking on the editing field.

Use filters to select files precisely

Next, you need to list every file that you have shared with a specific person (via their Gmail address or Google account email since it doesn’t have to be a Gmail address). To do that you will have to use simple filters. I’ll give you more options below, but the ones we need now are

  • To:
  • Owner:

The “To:” filter will discard every file that is NOT shared with a specific email address. This should be the email of the person you want to unshare the document with.

The “Owner:” filter will only display files created by a specific person, usually, you. If a multi-person environment, it may not be practical if there are more than a dozen person because anyone could have shared a document with anyone else. This is OPTIONAL.

For more filtering options, you can read this Doc or this shorter one, but you get the idea, by filtering your list of documents, you’re going to have a clearer view and save time.

Step by step instructions to mass-unshare Google Docs files.

Step #1

In the Drive Search box, type

to:intern@gmail.com owner:boss@gmail.com

Obviously, replace intern@gmail.com and boss@gmail.com by the email of the person you want to unshare with (intern), and the document creator’s email (boss). Press Enter to execute the search, and you should see a list of documents that have been shared with that person.

step1-unshare-gdocs-search

Step #2

Select multiple files by pressing CONTROL and using the left mouse button to select files to add, or select one file, then use SHIFT+left mouse button on another file to select a list of files.

step2-unshare-gdocs-multiselect

Here’s a video that shows how to select multiple files in GDrive:

Step #3

Right click on the select file and choose “Share” in the pop—up dialog. Then click on the “Advanced” link.

step3-unshare-gdocs-advanced

Step #4

Pick the person you want to remove from the sharing user list by clicking on the X on the right. Save the changes with the “Save changes” buttons on the lower right. That’s it!

If you perform the same Drive Search, the files should no longer appear, meaning that this person no longer has access to the documents. Bravo, your job is done!

step4-unshare-gdocs-remove-user step4-unshare-gdocs-confirm

Additional Tips

When you select the files, make sure that you only select files that you have administrative control over. If you select files that are owned by someone else, you may not be able to modify the sharing properties.

If you see “Varies” for one of the people you want to unshare the documents with, this is probably what’s happening. You can select files by smaller batches, or use the “Owner:” filter to only select files you have the right to modify.

All of this can be done on the web interface, and does not require installing any applications. I hope that this simple tip saved you a lot of time J — if that’s the case, follow Ubergizmo on Facebook to learn more things!

This question is a popular one in the Google Docs support forums, and to have a good understanding of Sharing in Gdocs, you can also watch this video:

Filed in General. Read more about Google, Google Docs and Productivity.

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