Saturday, June 16, 2012 — Work Hacks

How to Create Copies of a Google Docs Collection/Folder, Even Ones Just Shared With You

Yesterday after writing a number of documents and grouping them into collections and subcollections, I thought I should make a backup of everything since I’ll be sharing those files with other people. To my surprise, Google Docs simply can’t do that. Even making copies of several documents seemed to be very tedious (imagine a hundred files) considering each had to be individually opened before getting access to the File menu where you’ll find the Make a copy option.

I tried to google on how to create backups of Google Docs files in the cloud and to no avail only found these two Google Product Forums threads being the closest to my query, but both still left unsolved as of this writing. Downloading the whole collection, renaming it, and uploading it back? Maybe the GDocs team already has this functionality set for the next update.

To cut the supposed-to-be short story shorter (I’m sorry you had to read through my harrowing narrative), I realized I’ve installed Google Drive locally on my machine. Then remembering that all my Google Docs files in the cloud have been moved to Drive and that everything would just sync ala Dropbox…Eureka! Come, let’s jump right into the process.

Update: Using the same procedure, you can also create your own copy of any document or folder that you don’t own but were just shared to you as long as you have the “Can Edit” permission to it. Sharing settings though won’t be replicated in any copy that you create.

Google Drive Installation and Signing In

Make sure you already have Google Drive installed locally on your machine. If not, you can download the application installer here. Run the Google Drive app (or maybe it already is and just being snuggy by the notification area on your taskbar), and sign in with your Google account that has the doc collections you want to make copies of.

Signing in to Local Google Drive installation

Setup and Syncing

A setup window should appear and you’ll have the option to set where you want to place your Google Drive folder locally. If you don’t have that too many documents, everything should quickly sync up right after the setup. You’ll know it’s still syncing when you see the icon being shiny (I really don’t know how to exactly describe it – my vocabulary is bad, and I should feel bad). Right-click on it and select Open Google Drive folder. You should see a folder window similar to the one shown below.

Files and subcollections in the local Google Drive folder

Copying and Re-syncing

Now select the collection you wish to backup. Do a copy-and-paste combo within the same window to create a duplicate of the selected collection.

Duplicating a Google Docs collection inside the local Google Drive folder

For a big amount of data, you might have to wait for a few minutes for the re-syncing to finish.

Local Google Drive folder starts syncing with the cloud folder

At times you might encounter an error notification as shown below telling you that some files can’t be synced. I think this happens when the collection you’re trying to duplicate contains documents that you don’t own (just shared with you). I can’t be sure enough but you won’t be experiencing this if you’re copying files that you own yourself.

Error encountered during the syncing process

Local Google Drive folder successfully synced with the cloud folder

When re-syncing’s done, you can then rename your new collection here or just do it in the cloud app. You may go check the new copy of your Google Docs collection in the cloud.

Copied Google Docs collection now accessible in the cloud or web app version

Hurray! Hope this helped you as well. Hey, you might know people who’s been scratching their heads about the same problem too. That’s another way of me saying it would be great if you’d share this with others. Haha. :)

Related Links

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed. I’m also on Twitter and if you feel like asking something. I also secretly want to be your friend.

Want to receive updates like these weekly? Click here to know more.

  • stan

    thank you Bibiano! this is VERY helpful and Google should hire you!!

    • Bibiano Wenceslao

      Thanks for the appreciation, mate! Glad it helped you as well. :)

  • Syd

    Omigosh, this is AWESOME!!! I’ve been waiting for this for TWO YEARS!!!
    You’re a rock star.

    • Bibiano Wenceslao

      Hahaha! Thanks Syd. Oh, thanks for the tweet as well! :D

  • Cris Crissman (@Cris2B)

    Preparing for class with the blind faith that there had to be a way to duplicate the portfolio folder for 20 students. Thanks for coming through big time, Bibiano!

    • Bibiano Wenceslao

      Hey, no probs! Glad it helped you as well, and thanks for the awesome tweet. :)

  • Ray

    Hey thanks for the info. Will work for me at home, however, my work does not allow the Google Drive app to be installed so I am out of luck.

  • Cris

    Thanks! Cited this in a solution to a migration problem mentioned at

    • Bibiano Wenceslao

      Hey, thanks for citing my post Cris. Glad it helped you out. Love your solution to migrating Google Docs/Drive files between free and Google Apps accounts. I’ll add a link to that discussion in this post.

  • Cris

    oh, and apparently Google support in their web forums don’t know this is possible :-)

  • Allen Hancock

    This has helped me quote a bit. thanks!

    -Allen Hancock
    Yes, that Allen

    • Bibiano Wenceslao

      Hey, no probs! Glad to be of help.

  • Sam Romeo

    This does not create a New Copy of the a Google Doc which exists within the folder structure. Once you start updating a google Doc the original Document also changes. This option only works if you are using non google docs.


Hey! Bibiano here. I write about a range of stuff - user experience, social media, web marketing, CRO, customer support, workflows, productivity hacks and life (mostly) - and this blog is a repository of my thoughts on all those.

I'm on also on Twitter and Facebook where I share mostly about the abovementioned topics. Google+ is where I post about web design, artsy stuff, cool/funny/weird things/news/updates and #caturday!

Looking for my work-related posts? Clicky here.


I have a newsletter, but I'm not just hurling everything I write into your inbox (yah, no personal stuff). I pick the good ones as soon as they're published (rants and scrawls stay here), plus relevant tips and materials I got from outside sources.

No ads, no spam. Enter your nickname and email below to get started.