Dropbox: Folder Settings and Permissions


This document explains how folder settings and permissions function in U-M Dropbox.

Folder Types

You should familiarize yourself with the different types of folders in U-M Dropbox.

Folder Image Description
Dropbox private, unshared folder icon Type: Private folder
Owned by: You
Icon: None
Dropbox shared folder icon Type: Shared folder
Owned by: You or someone at U-M
Icon: People
Dropbox shared, external folder icon Type: External folder
Owned by: Someone outside U-M
Icon: People
Dropbox Team Folder icon Type: Team Folder
Owned by: MCommunity group
Icon: Buildings
Dropbox Team Folder with read-only access icon Type: Team Folder (with read-only access)
Owned by: MCommunity group
Icon: Buildings with a lock

Folder Sharing

Shared links

Shared links provide a useful way to quickly share a file or folder with the appropriate individuals without inviting them directly to the content.

Note: You can't create a shared link to a restricted subfolder in a Team Folder. "Restricted" means that the subfolder has been shared using the Specific people option so that only individuals invited to the subfolder will have access to it.

Access levels

There are four access levels you can assign to a shared link (depending on your access to the file/folder):

  • Anyone with link

The link is viewable by anyone who has access to it. Use caution when choosing this option.

  • Team members

The link is viewable by anyone at the University of Michigan with a U-M Dropbox account. This option will require a user to sign in to a U-M Dropbox account.

Note: When sharing a subfolder in a Team Folder, the shared link permissions will default to "Team members." This default means anyone with the link at the University of Michigan with a U-M Dropbox account can view the file. It does not mean only Team Folder members. If you would like the shared link to apply only for the Team Folder members, select "Only people invited."

  • People with password

The link is viewable by anyone who has the password. When someone opens the link, they'll need the password to see its contents.

  • Only people invited

The link is viewable by only the individuals shared on the folder.

Caution: Do not choose this option if the user you intend to invite does not have a Dropbox account.

Screenshot of the shared link settings dialog box. The drop-down menu beside "Who has access" is opened. "Anyone with link" is selected.

Additional settings

There are three additional settings you can apply to shared links:

For more information on shared links and how to use them, refer to U-M's Share Dropbox Files Using Shared Links and Dropbox's Create and share Dropbox links with view-only access.


Shared folders and Team Folders have very different sharing structures for subfolders within the root-level folder.

Shared folder subfolders

  • You can only share a shared link with Can view access at the subfolder level.
  • You cannot add new collaborators with different permissions at the subfolder level.
  • If you want to share the folder's contents, you will need to give collaborators access at the root level for waterfall permissions to take effect.
  • Use a Team Folder if you want more granularity in granting access at subfolder levels.

Tip: Do not move shared folders into non-shared folders, as this will create issues if you ever intend to share the root/parent folder.

Team Folder subfolders

Subfolders in a Dropbox Team Folder can be shared with users who are not members of the Team Folder, MCommunity groups, and external (non-UM) users.
There are two options available when sharing subfolders in a Team Folder:

  • Members of the Team Folder

All Team Folder members (i.e., the members of the MCommunity group used at the root level) will have access to the subfolder.

  • Specific people

Only the individuals you invite to the subfolder will have access to it.

Important: If you do not invite the Team Folder MCommunity group members to the subfolder, they will not have access to it. Choosing Specific people does not automatically give access to the whole team. If you would like to add the team to the subfolder:

  1. Click Share on the subfolder.
  2. Click Share with members in the gray box.
  3. Click Share to confirm.

Sharing dialog box in Dropbox with a red box around "Share with members"

Team Folders

An MCommunity group manages all Team Folder access and membership at the root/parent level. This means that individuals cannot be the sole root-level managers.

You must be an Owner of the MCommunity group to request to create a Team Folder. Members of an MCommunity group should reach out to their MCommunity group owner to request a Team Folder be created for that group.

Sharing files and subfolders within the Team Folder can be managed using MCommunity groups or individual invitations. Users in the MCommunity group must be listed as members and not just owners of the group to access the content shared with that group in U-M Dropbox.

Important: External users and subgroups within an MCommunity group do not sync with U-M Dropbox. You will need to invite them individually at the file and subfolder level.

When creating and managing a Dropbox Team Folder, there are restrictions on sharing with external users. Since membership of the Team Folder is managed via an MCommunity group, anyone in that MCommunity should have access to all folders/files in the Team Folder (unless there are special restrictions put in place by the owner on specific content). However, any external users you include in the MCommunity group will not have access to the Team Folder in its entirety like U-M users do.

External (non-UM) users cannot be a "member" of the Team Folder at the root/parent level. You can only share files and subfolders within a Team Folder with external users.

Note: By default, syncing Team Folders to your desktop is deactivated in the U-M domain. This helps to protect any sensitive university data from being synced to personal devices. Refer to Team Folders in U-M Dropbox for steps to adjust these settings.

For more information on Dropbox Team Folders, refer to Team Folders in U-M Dropbox.


There are two levels of access you as an owner can grant a collaborator in U-M Dropbox: Can view (viewer) and Can edit (editor). The chart below includes what each role can and can't do with shared folders.

Note: You cannot assign the Can edit permission at the file level in U-M Dropbox. All files are Can view unless Can edit access is given at the folder level in which the file resides. Only Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files and Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets files can be assigned Can edit permissions at the file level.

  Owner Can edit (editor) Can view (viewer)
View folder contents Yes Yes Yes
View the members of the shared folder and their roles Yes Yes Yes
Comment on files in the folder Yes Yes Yes
Edit folder contents Yes Yes No
Invite and remove members Yes Yes No
Change roles of other members Yes Yes No
Cancel invites and re-invite members Yes Yes No
Email members Yes Yes Yes
Make another member the owner Yes No No
Leave the folder Yes Yes Yes
Determine who can be invited to the folder Yes No No
Determine who can manage membership of the folder Yes No No
Move shared folders into Team Folders Yes No No
Unshare the folder Yes No No
Last Updated: 
Tuesday, August 9, 2022