How to get notified when collaborators edit, comment or assign tasks in Google Workspace apps


Configure notifications in Google Docs, Sheets, Slides or Drawings so you don’t have to constantly check for collaborator changes.

Drawings of Google Workspace logos with text saying Edit notifications and Comment notifications.
Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

When you collaborate with a colleague in real-time in Google Workspace apps, you have a few different ways to point out changes. In Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings, the system displays the current position of each collaborator’s cursor, which helps indicate where an item is selected or being edited.

Additionally, all of these apps also let you start a document-related chat with collaborators to discuss changes. In Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, you might start a Google Meet session and video-conference with your team as you work together in your document.

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But when people edit documents at different times, it may be more difficult to identify changes. While you always may select File | Version history to access and compare the current file version to earlier edits, it can take time to review the changes. You also have to remember to access the document and open it, which may be a challenge for a busy person.

Fortunately, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings all offer notifications. All four of these editors can be configured to notify you whenever a colleague adds a comment. Two of the applications, Google Docs and Google Sheets, let you choose to be notified whenever any edit is made. The steps below cover how to configure notifications for each of these four applications on the web with Chrome.

How to manage notifications in Google Docs

In a Google Doc, you have two ways to access Notification settings. Either access the Tools | Notifications settings from the standard menu system, or select the comment icon in the upper right (to the left of the Share button) and then choose the bell icon. Both paths let you select notification settings for Comments and Edits, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

You may choose to be notified of all edits, comments and tasks in Google Docs.
You may choose to be notified of all edits, comments and tasks in Google Docs.

Choose from one of three Comment notification options:

  • All comments and tasks, which ensures you’ll be notified of every comment or assigned task in a document,
  • Comments and tasks for you, which will only notify you when people specifically mention or assign a task to you, or
  • None, which turns off comment notifications, but still indicates comment activity when you access the document.

Choose from one of two Edit notification options:

  • Added or removed content, to be notified whenever a collaborator changes the document, or
  • None, to turn off notifications of edits.

Historically, when a collaborator made a change, you might not necessarily know. Now, if you select both the All Comments And Tasks option and Added Or Removed Content option, you’ll be notified whenever people comment, assign tasks, and add or remove document content. Alternatively, if you’ve completed your work on a document, you may set both options to None to turn off all notifications.

How to manage notifications in Google Sheets

Google Sheets, similarly, offers different paths to manage notifications: Tools | Notification settings | Edit notifications; Tools | Notification settings | Comment notifications; or via the comment icon (upper right) and then the bell icon.

The three Comment notification options (Figure B, lower right) in Sheets include:

  • All comments, which notifies you of every comment,
  • Comments for you, which notifies you only when people specifically mention you, or
  • None, to turn off notifications.

Figure B

In Google Sheets, you not only control comment notification options, but also may control edit alert frequency.
In Google Sheets, you not only control comment notification options, but also may control edit alert frequency.

The Edit notification options let you adjust when and how often you are notified, as shown in Figure B, upper right. Since a Google Sheet often receives information from Google Forms, you may be notified either when any change is made to a Sheet or when a user submits a form. Additionally, you may choose whether you receive these notifications immediately or combined into a daily digest.

Figure C

Google Slides, shown here, and Google Drawings offer a similar set of comment notification options.
Google Slides, shown here, and Google Drawings offer a similar set of comment notification options.

How to manage notifications in Google Slides or Google Drawings

Google Slides and Google Drawings each offer two ways to access notifications: Tools | Notification settings or by selecting the comment icon followed by the bell icon (as shown below in Figure D). The comment notification options in both of these apps (as shown above in Figure C) correspond to those available in Sheets:

  • All comments, which notifies you of every comment,
  • Comments for you, which notifies you only when people specifically mention you, or
  • None, to turn off notifications.

Unlike Docs and Sheets, neither Slides nor Drawings offer edit notification controls. This means that a collaborator will need to either comment or mention a person to trigger a notification in Slides or Drawings.

Figure D

In Google Docs, Sheets, Slides or Drawings, you also may access Notification settings by selecting the comment icon (upper right), then the bell, as shown here in Google Drawings.
In Google Docs, Sheets, Slides or Drawings, you also may access Notification settings by selecting the comment icon (upper right), then the bell, as shown here in Google Drawings.

What’s your experience with notifications?

Prudent configuration of comment and edit notifications can make collaboration much easier: You can do whatever work you need to on a document, then configure notifications, and wait to be notified when other people comment or edit. You don’t need to constantly check for changes.

How do you use comment and edit notifications in Google Docs and Sheets? Have you found this feature useful? When you collaborate in Google Slides or Drawings are the comment notifications sufficient? Mention or message me on Twitter (@awolber) to let me know how comment or edit notifications in these editors work for you and your collaborators.





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