Cool Google Trick – Use Spreadsheet as Virtual Copy Machine!


This week you will learn a simple trick that will allow you to share individual copies of a Google spreadsheet with your students (or others) – a virtual copy machine!

 Important to Know:

  • Students/others must have Google Accounts for this trick to work.
  • Breaking news – this “trick” now works with Google documents, sheets, and slides!

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 The Issue:

The teacher enters information into a spreadsheet and wants each student to have his/her own individual copy..

In the past, you would most likely do one of the following things:

  1. Print the spreadsheet, make copies, and distribute them to students. (This wastes paper and converts the digital document to analog.)
  2. Share the spreadsheet with them and then instruct them to make a copy. (This adds two spreadsheets (the original and the copy) to students’ Google drive area which might be confusing.)
  3. Create a template using the template gallery and then give students access to the template. (This requires several extra steps for the teacher and potentially makes the template public to all.)

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The Solution:

Use the following “trick” to easily share the spreadsheet.

Overview of Trick:

  1. Create a Google Doc, Sheets, or Slides document.
  2. Share the document.
  3. Get the “shareable” link (URL).
  4. Within the link, change the word “edit” to “copy”.
  5. When you share the “new” URL, it “forces” students to make a copy!

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Step-by-Step Instructions:

It looks like a lot of steps, but it is really quite simple!

 Getting Ready

  1. Go to:
  2. Click the red create button and choose “Spreadsheet.”
  3. Add the desired information to the spreadsheet.
  4. Click the “Share” button in the upper right corner of the page.
  5. Choose “Anyone with the link can View.”
  6. Click to get the “Shareable” link.
  7. Copy the provided URL.

Applying the “Trick”

  1. Go to one of these URL-shortening websites:
    or use this cool tool!
  2. Paste the link you copied in step 6 above.
  3. Here’s the trick: within the URL, change the word “edit” to “copy”.
  4. Use the provided buttons to create the shortened URL.
  5. Provide the shortened URL to students.
  6. When students enter the URL, they will see this:
  7. Students click the “Yes, make a copy.” link.
    Note – If students are not logged into their Google accounts, it will require them to log in first.
  8. That’s it!

Try It!:

Click the link below to see an example of this in action:

Remember, this will only work if you have a Google account.

Click here to make a copy of a Google document.


Use the method above to easily give students their own copy of the following:

  • Math problems to solve
  • Questions to answer over science or social studies content
  • Study guides
  • Notes from class
  • Examples of exemplary work
  • Spelling/vocabulary lists
  • Outline of notes (students fill in additional information)
  • A list of web resources
  • A web scavenger hunt
  • Sentences/paragraphs to correct
  • Story starters
  • A pre-formatted journal template
  • An individual grade book template
  • A business letter template
  • A resume template



  1. Kimberly Carter says:

    With the new Google Classroom, there is an option to send a copy to each student. This works for Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. Love Google Classroom!

  2. Alicia Glenn says:

    This process does not work for me. PLEASE help!

    • Hi Alica,

      You’re doing it with a Google sheet, right? The procedure doesn’t work with a document or presentation.

      In doing this in a workshop once with teachers from all different districts, it worked perfectly for most, but it did not work for a few. We were not able to figure out why. Maybe a Google apps setting?

      Anyway – I’m not sure I’m much help, but maybe someone else reading this will have a solution or an explanation. If you figure it out, please let us know.

      – Tammy

      • Yes, I’, using Spreadsheets. I’ve found that it works with older versions of Google Spreadsheets, but not new ones. 🙁

  3. I just discovered your blog via Twitter. Great timing as I used this tip today as a way to share resources with 4th graders for a unit of study. Thanks!

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