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8/31/2011
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Google Sites Adds Page-Level Permissions: First Look

Much-needed security feature gives Google Apps business customers more control. Here's advice on how to use it.

Enable Page-Level Permissions
(click image for larger view)
Enable Page-Level Permissions
Google has added a much-needed security feature to Google Sites for Apps business customers, giving businesses the ability to enable page-level permissions within the service. The new feature will make it easier for admins to control who can find and edit any given Site page without having to alter site-wide permissions.

While relatively few businesses use Google Sites to run their public Web presences, the service has obvious utility in creating intranet pages for internal use within a company. However, until now, Sites has lacked the ability to set page-level permissions, meaning that everyone with permission to view or edit anything on the site would have the power to view or edit everything on the site. It was a less-than-ideal situation for large companies with even remotely complex permissions demands.

With the addition of page-level permissions, admins can now set exactly who can view or edit a single page, and then opt to let the page either inherit or ignore future changes to site-level permissions.

As with most Google Apps features, page-level permissions within Sites is both simple to use and slightly unintuitive to access. To use it, first enable Sites on your Apps account. Then access your Sites URL (sites.google.com, by default). To enable page-level permissions, first go to a page that you would like to edit permissions for, and then click More actions in the upper-right corner, then click Sharing and Permissions. In the blue bar at the top, look for Enable page-level permissions off to the right, and click it. Read the fairly unhelpful Getting Started Guide if you want to, then click Turn on Page-Level Permissions.

Once you've enabled page-level permissions, go to any page you'd like to edit permissions for and then click More actions, Sharing and Permissions. By default, all pages will use the same permissions as the entire site. You can modify this by choosing one of three options:

1. Use the same permissions and members as site.
2. Start with the list below and include any future changes to site.
3. Start with the list below but ignore any future changes to site.

Clicking either of the "Start with the list below..." options and then clicking Save will open up the "Who has access" box for editing, so you can then add or remove specific users as needed.

The addition of page-level permissions is a big improvement for Google Sites, but the feature still needs some tweaks to make it really useful. For starters, it would be nice if you could batch-edit the permissions for a group of pages at once, and it would be nice if admins could access and edit these settings from the main Google Apps management console, rather than having to navigate through Sites as a user to make changes. But overall, bringing page-level permissions to Sites is a good thing, and more than a few intranet administrators will be pleased with the upgrade.

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