NOTE: These instructions are outdated as of March 2020. I’m working on an update to this post but, in the meantime, some generous readers in the comments have offered ideas and workarounds!
Google Drive is one of my favorite apps. I use it for storing and organizing all of my files for my personal life and business, sharing them with my collaborators, and accessing them when I’m on the go.
That means I use Google Drive all the time. So, of course I’ve figured out a few sneaky ways to make it work for me.
Two questions I get all the time are:
- How can I copy folders? and
- How do I put a single file in two different folders?
Neither of these features is easy to find, so the people I work with often think it’s simply not possible. But it is! And fortunately, it’s super easy!
In this post, I’ll show you how you can duplicate a Google Drive folder and create a shortcut to a file that’s located in a different folder.
Duplicate a Google Drive Folder
Sometimes, it can be helpful to have two copies of the same folder in your Google Drive. Maybe one contains several template form documents, and you want to share the documents with a client of yours so they can fill out the forms with their own information, but you want to maintain your blank templates. Or perhaps you have multiple Google accounts and you want to copy all of your files to your other account (especially if one account is associated with your college or workplace and you’ll be leaving soon).
But if you’ve ever tried to copy a file in Google Drive, you know the option simply isn’t there. You can right click on a file and choose Make a copy, but that option doesn’t appear for folders. You could copy all of the files individually, but who has time for that?
Third-party services to the rescue! Eric YD and Labnol have created an excellent Copy folder tool that makes it speedy and easy to duplicate folders. Here’s how to use it:
- Go to Labnol’s Copy folder tool website.
- You’ll be prompted to review the permissions you’re giving to the tool. Click Review Permissions, then Allow to allow it to work with your Google Drive account.
- Click Search Your Drive to view a list of folders in your Google Drive. You can also search for it by name or copy and paste the Google Drive URL for the folder.
- Click on the folder you want to copy, then click Select.
- Click Next.
- Optionally, edit the name of your copied folder. Click Next.
- Choose whether to Copy sharing permissions.
- Choose whether to place your copied folder in the same place as the original, at the root of your Google Drive, or somewhere else. Click Next.
- Click Copy folder. The copying process will begin.
In my experience, this process only takes a few seconds, though it can take longer with a very large folder or one with a lot of sharing permissions to copy. You’ll see the new folder appear in your Google Drive when the copying process has completed.
A quick expert tip: if you want to quickly copy all of the files in a Google Drive account using this tool, just put them all in one folder.
Create a File Shortcut in Google Drive
Note: As of March 2019, the steps below don’t work in Team Drives. Bummer!
When you’re meticulous about organizing files in your Google Drive, either because you like to know where everything is or because you use it as a shared file server with your colleagues, sometimes you want one file to be in two different folders.
For example, does the evaluation form for a Google Drive workshop belong in the Google Drive workshop folder or the evaluation folder? Does the reading for week 3 of Introduction to Shakespeare go in the folder for the class or in your Readings folder?
On a computer, you could just create a shortcut to the document and put your shortcut in the second folder. In Google Drive, you can “star” documents to create shortcuts to them in your Starred folder, but you can’t move those shortcuts to other folders.
But you’re not out of luck! Google Drive has a built-in (but hidden) shortcut tool that lets you put the same file in two folders. Any changes you make in one file will appear in the other, because they’re still the same file. It’s like two different doors to the same room.
(If, on the other hand, you want a copy of a file where changes you make to the original file don’t affect the copy, you should right-click on the file and choose Make a copy.)
Here’s how you can create file shortcuts in Google Drive:
- Click on the file you want to create a shortcut for so that it’s highlighted in blue in Google Drive.
- On your keyboard, press Shift+Z. The Add window will open.
Note: Yup, this is a weird keyboard command. It’s not Ctrl+Z, but Shift+Z. Ctrl+Z is undo.
- Navigate to the folder you want to add the file shortcut to. (Or click the New Folder button at the lower right of the window to create a new folder.)
- Click Add.
Your file shortcut will be added to the folder you chose in step 3, and your file will also remain in its original folder.
Do you have other pro-tips for using Google Drive effectively? Share them with us in the comments!