Why the Folder Gadget Beats Attachments in Google Sites

There are a number of ways that you can add file attachments to a Google Site. For instance, you can add files to the bottom of a page in the attachments area. You can also add a File Cabinet page. However, my favorite, by far, is the Folder gadget.

The folder gadget lets you display the contents of a Google Drive Folder on a Google Site. You add your folder by editing a page and going to Insert > Drive > Folder. Then you select the folder from your Google Drive that you want to add to your Google Site.

insert folder in google sites

For me, the Folder gadget has a number of advantages over page attachments or a file cabinet page. Here are a few of the important differences:

1. Updates: The problem with attachments and file cabinet pages is that every time you update a document, you need to remove the one you had from a Google Site and upload the latest version. If you use Google Docs, Spreadsheets or Presentations, you can log in to your Drive account, and edit the document. Because the file is in a folder that is embedded on your Google Site, the latest version of the file is automatically pushed to your website. This is great for teachers who update a syllabus or other class documents.

Google Sites folder gadget

2. Thumbnails: In the image above you can see a list of the files that are included in a folder. This is fine, but many Sites users like to take advantage of the thumbnail view. This gives an visual cue to what the document looks like, and can often be faster to locate the file you need. Better still, if you have a folder full of image files, the thumbnail view turns them into a gallery. It is a great way to display student art work. Just name each photo after the student that created the art, and you have a great way to showcase their work. Teacher librarians could use this to display images of book covers and sort their folders by genre or reading levels.

thumbnail view google sites folder

3. Location: File cabinet pages have to be a separate page on your Google Site. Attachments are always added at the bottom of a page. Folder gadgets can be put wherever you want on a page. You can have text above and below it. Simply add it where your cursor is and you will immediately notice the flexibility that you get from using the folder gadget. This makes it look more natural and more aesthetically pleasing.

text around google folder

4. Organization: If you organize your files correctly, you can have as many folder gadgets as you want on one page. This means you could three, four or even five embedded folders on one page if you wanted to. They are also flexible enough that you can adjust their width so that you can have two side by side in a two or three column page layout.

5. Permissions: If you want users to add attachments to your Google Site, they need editing rights to the page that you want attachments added to. This means that, technically, they can modify anything on the page, or worse still, the whole site unless you set up page level permissions. You can limit that with a folder gadget by giving that person rights to the folder in Google Drive, and not your Google Site. This really helps limit accidents and malicious actions on your website.

folder sharing settings

So, if you have not yet tried the folder gadget in your Google Site, give it a try. I think you may just be surprised at how useful it can be.

22 thoughts on “Why the Folder Gadget Beats Attachments in Google Sites”

  1. Great idea! I am still using Weebly to build our technology page at our school, but Sites is looking more and more attractive to me. I have also seen where people share links to several different Drive files, instead of grouping them in a folder and sharing the folder. Thanks for helping us with this tip – time-saving mechanisms like these will help more technologically reluctant teachers embrace change and integrate more effectively in their classrooms.

  2. One downside: the content of a folder gadget is not searchable from the Site search feature. The content of a file cabinet, is.
    If anyone knows of a way to remedy this, it would make my day. 🙂

    1. Agreed. If you have a file heavy site, a file cabinet page is a better way to go. Not seen a way to index that from the search bar on a site yet…but if you find one, let me know! 🙂

    2. Agreed – I’ve been looking for a workaround for this but haven’t found one. Another good feature of the file cabinet is the click and enter a description – but unfortunately the words entered here aren’t searchable either.

  3. I put that Drive Folder on my page but the thing is it’s only visible to Gmail logged in users, and even then only if they have permissions. Anyway to share a folder with “anyone can see” rights?

  4. Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for your great idea. I have done everything you said but the problem I have is that I can only see the ‘open “folder-name” option at the bottom of the box can only be seen by the owner of the site, not by the users. Did I do something wrong? I gave the user permission to edit the folder, and permission to edit the page, but it is not shown if you are not the owner of the site. Without that option shown, nobody can upload a file but the owner of the site.
    It would be great if someone can help me with that.
    Thanks a million!!!


    1. Javier, if you share the folder with people in Google Drive, they will get an email notifying them of that and be able to access it in the Shared With Me, or drag it to My Drive, and they can upload files that way. The folder gadget is not really meant for much more than displaying the contents of a folder. Adding things to a folder is best done in Google Drive itself. Does that help?

      1. Hi again,
        When you are a teacher and want 100 students to do something, this something must be as easy as you can make it. I told them to upload a file in Google Drive itself as you suggest, and I have seen them do things that they wouldn’t have been able to do if I had asked them to do them. So the easier, the better. I have solved the problem with a direc link to the google drive folder within a simple button. I have given permission to access that folder only to the students I want to be using it. It works: each student can access his/her folder, but not the others’.
        Thanks for your answer,


          1. Hi again Jonathan,

            I know Google classroom and it’s great for certain things, although I prefer Moodle because of many different reasons. Anyway, this site I created where I want to use this feature to let students upload files is not a classroom or a group of students together, it’s an international project where each student’s work and results are shown to the “world” through the site. That’s why I wanted to do all this from within the site, and not using any other app. I think it works as I designed it, so if any problem arises, ‘ll try to find other alternatives.
            Thanks again,


  5. Hello!

    I am wondering if you can help me with an issue I am having with embedded Drive folders in a Google Site…

    I have seen some old (2013) tutorials and videos from the release of the embed Drive folders feature that show file descriptions displayed on the Google Site. (An example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V_R42Dc8_o)

    I have embedded Drive folders in one of my sites, and I have included descriptions for files in the “details” section for each file on Google Drive, however, instead of displaying the file descriptions, the website displays the “last modified” information instead. I know the videos I have viewed are old, so maybe the features have changed, but I would really prefer my file descriptions be displayed instead of the “last modified” info. Is this possible? If so, what do I need to do?

  6. Another problem to be aware of is if your doing this in a corporate google site environment, since it uses your user account drive space, if you leave the company and they disable your account, there goes all your google drive attachments that you’ve added as folder gadgets with it.

    Something to be aware of.

    1. Yes. That is something to be aware of. The company could transfer ownership of your files so that they still appeared in the folder, and that would also let others update them as necessary.

  7. Hi Jonathan

    How do I enable people to click on the files in the file cabinet on my google site page and save them directly to Google Drive? I’ve looked at the Java thing and I’m not a techie so it looks all Greek to me. Are there any easier ways to do it?

    Thank you!

    1. I’m not sure there is an easy way to do that or not. Let me look into it. It might depend on the file type. See the example here: https://sites.google.com/site/amslerclassroom/us-gov—handouts

      If you click View on the PDF, it opens the file in a Drive preview window. From here you can click the Drive icon at the top of the screen and add it to your Drive. This is about the only native way to do it that I know of. I haven’t seen the Java thing before, but I’m not sure it would be worth the hassle.

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