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  • Writer's pictureZach

3 Ways to Safeguard Your Google Sheet

If you are building tools for use by an organization or online audience, you need to know how to 1) protect tabs; 2) auto-copy; and 3) prevent downloads and copies


Thanks for the tip, Mr. Meth.

#1 - Protect Tabs

This feature dates way back to ancient times, when people used Excel and dinosaurs roamed the earth. It's an old-y but a good-y. Yes, in Google Sheets you can restrict someone to view- or comment-only access and that safeguards your work from their tomfoolery. But sometimes you need an in-between solution: restrictions with exceptions (or vice versa). To achieve that, I use the "Protect Sheet" function. Here's my process: First, I demarcate the editable fields in light yellow. Then, I right click the tab, and select "Protect sheet". In the panel that appears at the right of the screen, I check the box that reads "Except certain cells" and choose the yellow cells. Lastly, I press "Ok" and then "Set Permissions" and choose the people that will be able to edit the yellow cells. Check out this example. Try to make changes to the tab "Budgeted Expenses". You'll find you can only edit the yellow cells.


#2 - Auto-Copy

Go to a Google Sheet. Copy the URL and replace the last clause (which likely starts with "/edit" or "/view") with "/copy". What that will do is it will turn the link into an "auto-copy" function. When someone clicks that link, they will not access your original version, but rather, a copy will be made just for them. It's sounds kind of niche, but you'd be surprised how often it proves valuable. Think about 2 scenarios: 1) when you want to protect/maintain an original copy (untarnished); and 2) when you don't want to risk viewers seeing each other in the document. Some examples from my world: in Split Expenses blog post, I use "/copy" so that people can access their own version of my template. Similarly, I used "/copy" with a client recently, when I created a calculator tool that their sales team could use with prospects. Totally different example - I recently used "/copy" when sending out a pitch deck to potential investors. Here, I wanted to make sure they they them to see each other poking around in there.


#3 - Prevent Downloads or Copies

... and on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes need to prevent copies (or downloads). I used this function (again) very recently, when I created a contact list for a social organization. For them, safeguarding the material meant maintaining complete control: no additional versions of the list and a single master copy where all changes would be reflected in real-time. Easy solution: 1) click the blue share button in the top right corner; 2) click the settings cog in the share window; 3) uncheck the box that reads "Viewers and commenters can see the option to download, print, and copy".... And that's it! I followed those steps with this example. Try to download it or copy it. I dare you.


Thanks for reading. I appreciate you.

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