Quick! Someone just shared a Google Doc with your non-Gmail email address. What do you do?

Problem

As Google Docs and Drive have become more and more popular for personal and business use, it’s very common to share Google Drive files with non-Gmail email addresses.

Usually, this results in one of two outcomes.

  1. The recipient attempts to follow the link in his email to the Google Drive item and logs in with his personal Gmail account. He is greeted with this dialog.
    Permission Denied

    Permission Denied

    When he clicks “Request access”, the sender gets an email requesting access for the recipient’s personal Gmail account.
  2. The recipient doesn’t have a Gmail account, so he asks the sender to export the Google Doc to Word or some other format he can read.

Neither of these outcomes are desirable.

The first outcome is not good because it requires the sender to take an extra step for every recipient with whom she has shared the document, and it requires that the recipient share his personal Gmail address with the sender. Often people want to keep their personal and professional accounts separate.

The second outcome is not good because the sender has to change her technological choice arbitrarily. Also, if some recipients are collaborating in Google Docs and others require Word documents, then the sender’s life is getting really complicated.

But, don’t worry! It’s really easy for the recipient to use their non-Gmail account to access the document! But first, we need to make a choice.

The Choice

We need to know which kind of Google user you are. Let’s define some terms. There is a difference between having a Gmail Address and having a Google Account. All Gmail Address are Google Accounts, but not all Google Accounts require Gmail Addresses.

Depending on which situation you are in, you’ll want to use one of two different solutions.

Create a new Google Account

Sign up for a Google Account with your non-Gmail Address. Let’s pretend your non-Gmail Address is me@hotmail.com. This solution works for any type of email address. It could be an email you have through your ISP, work, school, or anywhere you can receive email.

Follow these steps:

  1. Go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUpWithoutGmail
  2. Fill out the form (using me@hotmail.com) and click “Next step”
    Fill the Form

    Fill the Form

  3. Accept the terms and conditions dialog
  4. Verify your email address. This may involve signing into your email account and authorizing the Google Accounts application to know your email address, or it could be as easy as clicking a link in an email Google sends to your account.

That’s it. You now have a Google Account that you can sign in with your non-Gmail email address and the password you set up in step 2. Now, whenever you get a request to collaborate on a Google Doc or Google Drive item at that address, you’ll be able to view it as long as you are logged into that account.

If you already had a Gmail Address or another Google Account, you may be interested to know that you can be signed into both accounts at the same time and switch between them on most Google applications. Learn more about Multiple Google Accounts.

Add an alternate email to your Google Account

If you only want to have one collection of Google Drive items, but you want to be able to receive sharing requests an alternate email address, then this is the Solution for you.

  1. Login to your existing Google Account at https://accounts.google.com
  2. Once logged in visit the Email Settings at https://myaccount.google.com/email
  3. Click “Advanced”
    Click Advanced

    Click Advanced

  4. Click “ADD ALTERNATE EMAIL”
    Add alternate email

    Add alternate email

  5. You may be prompted to sign in again for security
  6. Fill in your non-Gmail address and click “ADD”
    Fill non-Gmail address

    Fill non-Gmail address

  7. You should see a pending verification page like this one
    Pending Verification

    Pending Verification

  8. Go check your non-Gmail email address and click on the verification link titled here.
    Verification Mail

    Verification Mail

  9. You may be prompted to sign in again for security
  10. When you are successful, you’ll see a page similar to step 7, but without the (Pending verification) message.
    Email Verified

    Email Verified

Now, when you sign in on Google, you can use either your Gmail Address or your new non-Gmail Address to login. And, more importantly, you will be able to open Google Docs and Drive files sent to either email address in the same account. Note: This process doesn’t require a separate password to sign in with your non-Gmail Address. Just think of it as another name for the same Google Account.

Summary

Whether you create a separate Google Account, or add an Alternate Email Address to your existing Google Account, you definitely can open Google Docs and Drive items shared with any email address in the world. I hope you’ll share this advice anytime you share a Google Doc with collaborators and they respond by requesting access for a different account.