Who’s Connected to My Google Doc?

One of the best features of G Suite is how simple it is to share documents. There are many reasons to share a document. For example, you might want to allow others to collaborate on it. Or you might just want to give read access to allow others to view a document.

An example would be sharing a class syllabus with your students or information with parents.

You can also control how users access your document.

  • You can make them log in with their school credentials to access the document
  • Allow users to access the document anonymously just by clicking on a link. 

When users are connected to a document a profile image will show up in the top right corner for each user. But what do those images mean? Glad you asked.

Look at the image above. I created a Google Doc and shared it so that anyone with the link to the document can open it whether or not they sign into a Google account or not. 7 users currently have the document open.

  • 4 users are not signed into a Google account
  • 3 users are signed into a Google account
  • 2 users have viewed the document within the last 10 minutes and still have it open
  • 5 users have the document open, but haven’t viewed the document within the last 10 minutes

Who is Viewing My Google Doc?

How do I know this? Let’s start with the users that are not signed into a G Suite Google account.

Anonymous User Profiles

This is also known as viewing the document anonymously. Google gives these users an profile image of a random animal.

If you rest your mouse on their profile image, their names will show up as something like “anonymous rabbit.”

These users could be signed into a Google account, but their account is not in the same domain as me.

Known User Profiles

Next let’s look at the users who aren’t anonymous.

These are users who are signed into a Google account in the same domain as I am. The guy in red is me. Or rather a Bitmoji of me. The red color is randomly assigned.

I think the image is a close enough resemblance that someone could pick me out of a crowd. In truth, the image is missing a few grey hairs.

The user next to me is another G Suite user. I credit the user for uploading an image, but I’ll admit I don’t like it.

Personally, I think that profile images should either be a picture of the user or some close representation like a Bitmoji. The paper and pencil doesn’t help me identify the user.

This is just my personal opinion, I’m sure others see it differently. You can rest your mouse on the users profile picture to see their name.

What about the user with just a “G”? Unfortunately, that user has yet to upload a profile image. Therefore Google is automatically using the first letter of their first name.

The profile image has no effect on how the account works, but the lack of one does lessen the user’s coolness factor.

Actively Connected User Profiles

So how do I know that 5 users have the file open, but haven’t been active in it for at least 10 minutes? Again let’s go to the profile images.

If you look closely you can see that the profile pictures with the arrows are faded out a bit. I didn’t find this specifically documented, but in my tests, If I had the file open in one tab, but was looking a different tab, after 10 minutes of not visiting the document’s tab, the user’s profile image dimmed.

Knowing who is currently active in the document can be very helpful. For example maybe I open the document and see profile image of Barry Goldberg (not dimmed) and I remember that I needed to ask Barry a question about paragraph 3 which outlines the JTP bylaws.

I could quickly start a chat within the document with Barry and anyone else who currently has the document opened.

View All Connected Users

One other thing to note is you will only see up to seven connected users’ profile pictures at the top of the document. If more than 7 are connected you will also see a drop down arrow.

When you click on it you will see all of the connected users. It will also show those who are idle (away from document for more than 10 minutes.)

This information is true in other Google apps including Slides and Sheets.

Activity Dashboard

Google has now released the Activity Dashboard for for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It allows you to see when users last accessed a file. Check out Google Activity Dashboard: See The View History Of Your Shared Google Docs, Sheets & Slides to learn more.

Dave Carty

K12 district technology administrator, Google domain admin, Certified Google Trainer.

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