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

Related Links

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. 🙂 Also, feel free let me know your thoughts about this piece in the comments.

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Bibiano Wenceslao

Father of one. Works from home. Interested about UX, social media, web trends, customer service, workflow automation, technology and life.

16 thoughts on “How to Create Copies of a Google Docs Collection/Folder, Even Ones Just Shared With You”

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

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