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Sharing and Publishing to the Web

June 2, 2016

This is part 3 in our series on spreadsheets and data visualization. In this part we’ll cover sharing and publishing to the web from Google Sheets. Be sure to also check out part 1, part 2, part 4, and part 5 of the series.

In part 2 of our series, we talked about the power of Google Sheets. This part will focus on the sharing and publishing features of Google Sheets and how you can share documents with varying levels of access, enable dynamic collaborative editing, and publish the results. It has never been easier get your data into the cloud, collaborate on it with others, and then share or publish it back out to the web.

Sharing to the web with Google Sheets


Coleman talked about his favorite feature, real-time collaboration on Sheets, in part 2. Let’s explore this in detail. As mentioned before, when you click the Share button in Google Docs, you’ll be presented initially to do so via email with options to give people Edit, Comment, or View access. Another approach to sharing is to generate a shareable link, which is convenient for reference from a web page, inclusion in an already-drafted email, or perhaps to send in a tweet. The ability to set an expiration date gives the ability for the access permissions you’ve given a particular user to become void after a certain period. This can be particularly useful for people who use Google Docs to collaborate with others on a short term basis by allowing them to not worry about removing access at a later time. Setting expirations on documents is currently only available if you’re using an account through work, school, or another group however.

Setting expiration

Editing Permissions

Something truly remarkable about Google Docs is the granularity of editing permissions that one can enforce within the documents. Not only can you restrict editing access to sheets on a user-by-user basis, but you can also do so with specific ranges of rows and columns. This sort of functionality can be quite a blessing when you want a column or sheet of data to be left alone, while still allowing others to reference the data while working on the document. If completely restricting the user is too much for your situation, you can instead show a warning to the user if a sheet or range is protected. Your editors will still be able to change the values in the protected range, but they will have to acknowledge they’re editing part of a sheet that shouldn’t be changed accidentally. Locking down certain cells or sheets can be especially important for spreadsheets with lookup tables or conversions, so keep this in mind to make sure your formulas stay intact.

Warning on protected range

Comment Threads

Continuing with the many features of Google Docs that together make it so powerful and dynamic is the ability to comment and chat directly alongside your document. Instead of writing up a separate email thread with a conversation about the document, you can use the Comments button or talk to your team via the Chat functionality. This keeps your communication channel focused in one place and ensures the conversation can be made available to all participants. Collaborators with commenting permissions can ‘file issues’ to be resolved and the history of who resolved it and when is tracked. You can also create links to comments to direct your team quickly to the section you’re talking about.

Adding and resolving comments

Revision History

It’s amazing how much you and your team can get done when working collaboratively on documents but with that, there can also be challenges. A couple questions you may often ask when editing something together are: who did it? and when did they do it? Google Docs delivers the ability to see revision history of documents and restore particular versions of documents. The edits that each user on your team makes are highlighted in a unique color with corresponding timestamps. Only users with Edit permissions will have access to the revision history. Once you’ve identified and are viewing the timestamp you’d like to go back to, to revert to it click restore this revision.

Revision History window


The icing on the cake with Google Docs and specifically Google Sheets is the means to publish and present your information. A host of options are made available, from embedding single charts to sharing entire documents in specific file formats. When you publish to the web from Sheets, your first choice is whether it will be a Link to a standalone page or an Embed as an iframe within some other existing content. Next, you can choose to publish just the charts – with interactivity or as simple images – or also include the original spreadsheet data alongside the derived graphics. Google gives you enough options here to suit your publishing needs in a variety of contexts – granular control down to the sheet level and whether to make the graphic interactive or static.

A published Google Sheets document and charts

This post has covered the sharing and publishing features of Google Sheets and hopefully you’ll utilize these features to keep you and your team working efficiently and dynamically. Working in collaboration with others can greatly increase productivity, but remember to use the proper controls mentioned here to keep the information shared appropriately and the errors down. We hope you enjoy Google Sheets as much as we do and will find a way to leverage its power in your daily workflows.