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How to Share Files in Office 365 Using OneDrive and SharePoint

Apr 23, 2019 | Office 365

With different cloud-storage solutions available within the Office 365 suite, there are various ways individuals and teams can share files both internally and externally. The two cloud-storage options available with Office 365 are OneDrive and SharePoint, and both of these platforms have file sharing capabilities, however its important to understand the difference between the two before diving into how to share files in both of these platforms respectively.

OneDrive is targeted towards individual users who wish to securely store their own personal files in the cloud with the ability to access and edit these files both online and through the file explorer when synced. You do have the ability to share files held in OneDrive with specific individuals, however the platform is not designed with enterprise collaboration in mind.

SharePoint on the other hand is a collaborative cloud-based storage repository, which is targeted towards teams and groups wishing to share and collaborate on files. SharePoint utilises team sites where all members of the team have the ability to access and edit files online from their own device, or through the file explorer when a sync between the two is set up. With the difference between these two repositories in mind, let’s have a look at how to share files in Office 365 within OneDrive and SharePoint respectively.

How to Share Files in Office 365 using OneDrive

Firstly, on the Office 365 Homepage click the OneDrive app.


Navigate to the file you wish to share and click the three dots next to the file name to open up the menu options and then click ‘share’.

In the panel which opens up you can then begin typing in the name or email address of the person/s that you wish to share your document with. Multiple people can be selected to send the link to.

With the process above, the people you select will then receive an email with a link to the document that they will only be able to open in read-only mode without the ability to edit the document. In order to grant editing permissions to the person/s you wish to share your document with there are additional steps that must be undertaken. Firstly, in the panel that is brought up after clicking ‘share’, click the three dots (Ellipses) in the top right-hand corner and in the drop-down menu select ‘Manage Access’. Then click the ‘Grant Access’ button at the top of the window.

Just like when sharing a read-only link, you will then simply enter in the name or email addresses of the person/s you wish to share the document with and enter in a personalised message if desired.

The person/s you have shared your document with will then receive an email notification as illustrated below, with a link that will open up the document with editing capabilities. Please note that with the following example any person with the link will have permission to edit the document, which we do not recommend for security purposes. Instead, best practice is to share a link that will only grant editing permissions to specific individuals, which we will demonstrate later in the article.

From an information management perspective however, we usually do not recommend using OneDrive to share single files with editing access, as it is easy to lose track of which documents have been shared with whom. Instead it is best practice to create a shared folder that has a pre-determined set of permissions for all documents contained within it, which can then be shared. To do this, click ‘new’ in the top left-hand corner of the navigation menu and in the drop-down menu select ‘folder’.

You can then repeat the exact same process that was illustrated before, only this time for the folder. Now anyone this folder is shared with (with editing capabilities), will be able to access and edit any documents that are saved within it. You can then create folder structures with different folders associated with different teams or groups to ensure that the right people have access to the right documents. However, this can lead to very long and complicated folder structures that can create issues with locating files and duplication. This is why we recommend for organisations and teams to share and collaborate on documents using SharePoint, with appropriate metadata attached to documents to make searching and locating files easy.

How to Share Files in Office 365 using SharePoint

With SharePoint, members of the SharePoint team site will automatically have access to view and edit files within that site without any further configuration needed. However, you can still choose to share files with people within your organisation that already have access to the file, which can serve as a reminder, or with people outside of your organisation. To do this open up the SharePoint app and navigate to your chosen file as seen below.

You can then follow the exact same steps illustrated before when sharing a document with OneDrive, in order to share a document with SharePoint. Another useful tip however, is after selecting to share a document you are able to click the dropdown list to modify the type of link you are sharing.

Here you will see a number of options. ‘Anyone with the link’ means that when you share a link with someone it could then be forwarded by that person to someone else who will have the ability to access the document. ‘People in <your organisation>’ means that anyone in your organisation who has access to the link either from being sent by you or forwarded from someone else can access the document. With this setting you can also select the checkbox to allow editing as seen above. ‘People with existing access’ means that only people who already have the permissions to view and edit the document can open the link you shared. And lastly, ‘specific people’ provides access only to the people you specify, which also has the option to select the checkbox to allow editing. If this link is then forwarded to someone who isn’t specified, they will not be able to access the document.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to simply share files in Office 365 using OneDrive or SharePoint, however creating an online workspace that maximises collaboration and productivity requires proper information architecture and management. The Office 365 suite goes beyond just SharePoint and OneDrive by providing a range of tools (many of which you probably haven’t heard of) that when integrated together, can shift the way your organisation works into a more contemporary, compliant and collaborative space. If you need assistance in implementing a SharePoint or OneDrive solution, or more broadly want to determine whether your organisation is managing information correctly, speak to one of our information management specialists.

Liza Tinker

Liza Tinker

Business Consultant

Liza is a SharePoint consultant with over 15 years’ experience in the private and public sector in the use and delivery of SharePoint and other collaboration solutions using Microsoft 365. She is passionate about technology and improving productivity and quality through collaboration and innovation.

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