Monday, June 23, 2014

Android Tip 3: Sharing a Folder between multiple users of an Android device

Android has allowed multiple user logins for quite a while now. This is can be very useful for tablets which are shared by family members. Normally Android erects strict Chinese walls between users preventing them from using each others apps and viewing each others files. This is a useful security feature and ensures your kids don't mess up your work spreadsheets when screwing around on the tablet and should also prevent them from buying €1,000 worth of Clash of Candy coins on your account. Sometimes however you really do want to share stuff with other users and this can prove surprisingly difficult. For example on a recent holiday I realised that I wanted to share a folder full of travel documents with my wife. Here are some ways to achieve this.

1. If you have guaranteed internet access  then you can create a shared folder on either Dropbox or Google drive. Either of these has the great advantage of being able to access the files on any device and the great disadvantage of being useless without an internet connection. Neither Dropbox nor Google drive keep offline copies of files on Android. PS in my opinion Google Drive is better for folder sharing than Drop box. It is slightly more fiddly to set up but if gives you more control - you can set up read only sharing for example.

2. If you don't have internet access then things get a lot trickier. You could share a folder in Dropbox and use Folder Downloader for Dropbox to create separate offline copies. this does work but if both users are on the same tablet you are using twice the storage space and the two folders will not remain in sync if anyone makes changes.

3. The holy grail of file sharing is a common folder that both users can access. Android doesn't advertise such a feature but am XDA contributor called BigJArm found one called android/obb. This is a system folder that every user has read write access to. If you stick a folder in there everyone using the device can use it. Here are some quick instructions on how to set this up:

1. WARNING: This is an unsupported, undocumented use of Android so use at your own risk. I have not encountered any issues myself but I recommend making sure that any files you put in here are duplicated somewhere else just in case that directory gets deleted or otherwise rendered inaccessible in any updates to Android. According to this post an OBB is an obscure binary blob, an encrypted package of files that some apps use for storing data.

2. You will need a file manager to do any work on files so grab ES File Explorer from the Google Play Store.

3. Navigate to sdcard/Android/obb.

4. Ignore all the stuff in there and create a new folder using the "+" button at the bottom of the screen. Why not call it "Shared Folder"?

5. Copy or move any  files and folders you want into this new shared folder and every user on the device will have read write access to them.

6. I recommend that each user creates a desktop shortcut to this shared folder using ES File Explorer as explained in this tip: How to put a folder short-cut on your home screen


Note: I don't have a good method of sharing apps between users on the one device even though I know this could be useful. For free apps you may as well just download multiple copies from the store. I do not recommend adding your account to someone else's log in just to share paid apps. This will give that person full access to everything on your account including email, calendar and Google drive. If you are going to do that why bother using a separate log in? One approach that might work to share paid apps like games with family members would be to create a brand new Google account for the family and use it to purchase apps you want to share. You could then add this account login to each family member's login via the Android accounts menu under Settings (edit: but don't because you would be breaking the terms of Google Play - see below) . Android is nice that way,  it allows you to be logged into multiple Google accounts at the same time. Of course this could leave you open to your kids racking up bills on your credit card and it may be contrary to Google's terms of service. I haven't tried it myself so I do not know.

EDIT: I looked for a reference to account sharing in Google's terms of use and it is pretty clear cut in the Google Play terms and conditions:
Sharing. You may not use Products as part of any service for sharing, lending or multi-person use, or for the purpose of any other institution (including, without limitation, libraries), except as specifically permitted and only in the exact manner specified and enabled by Google (for example, through "Social Recommendations").

Note this post is part of a short series of Android tips on working with files and folders. I will be travelling for a while with patchy internet and I needed to get more intimate than usual with the Android file system to make sure I can still access the stuff I need while I am away. I have decided to post the tricks I find for my own future reference and for others who may need to do the same. Separate posts used for each tip to facilitate searching:  Android Tips


24 comments:

Tips On Live said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jackymiky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Very useful. Thank you for compiling this.

Geetha Devi said...

I simply want to say I’m very new to blogs and actually loved you’re blog site. Almost certainly I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely come with great well written articles. Thanks a lot for sharing your blog.
Best Android Training in Velachery | android development course fees in chennai

Saranya N said...

I simply want to say I’m very new to blogs and actually loved you’re blog site. Almost certainly I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely come with great well written articles. Thanks a lot for sharing your blog.
Android Training institute in chennai with placement | Best Android Training in velachery

Anonymous said...

The obb folder is only available to the primary account on my phone (Pixel 2 Xl on Oreo)

Blogger said...

Easily Boost Your ClickBank Banner Commissions And Traffic

Bannerizer made it easy for you to promote ClickBank products by banners, simply go to Bannerizer, and grab the banner codes for your selected ClickBank products or use the Universal ClickBank Banner Rotator to promote all of the available ClickBank products.

Saro said...

Thanks for the informative article. This is one of the best resources I have found in quite some time. Nicely written and great info. I really cannot thank you enough for sharing.

rpa Training in Chennai

rpa Training in bangalore

rpa Training in pune

blueprism Training in Chennai

blueprism Training in bangalore

blueprism Training in pune

rpa online training

digi mark said...

All are saying the same thing repeatedly, but in your blog I had a chance to get some useful and unique information, I love your writing style very much, I would like to suggest your blog in my dude circle, so keep on updates.

automation anywhere training in chennai

automation anywhere training in bangalore

automation anywhere training in pune

automation anywhere online training

blueprism online training

rpa Training in sholinganallur

rpa Training in annanagar

iot-training-in-chennai

blueprism-training-in-pune

automation-anywhere-training-in-pune

sai said...

Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me ! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful
angularjs training in chennai | angularjs2 training in chennai | angularjs4 Training in Chennai | angularjs5 Training in Chennai

john jersy said...

A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog really has all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one.I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. Wishing you the best of luck for all your blogging efforts read this.
Click here:
Microsoft azure training in tambaram
Click here:
Microsoft azure training in chennai

pooja saravanan said...

Thanks for your informative article, Your post helped me to understand the future and career prospects & Keep on updating your blog with such awesome article.

Blueprism training in Chennai

Blueprism training in Bangalore

Blueprism training in Pune

Blueprism online training

Blueprism training in tambaram

nivatha said...

Nice tutorial. Thanks for sharing the valuable information. it’s really helpful. Who want to learn this blog most helpful. Keep sharing on updated tutorials…

Data Science training in marathahalli
Data Science training in btm
Data Science training in rajaji nagar
Data Science training in chennai
Data Science training in kalyan nagar
Data Science training in electronic city
Data Science training in USA
Data science training in pune





simbu said...

Nice tutorial. Thanks for sharing the valuable information. it’s really helpful. Who want to learn this blog most helpful. Keep sharing on updated tutorials…

java training in chennai | java training in bangalore

java online training | java training in pune

java training in chennai | java training in bangalore

johnsy sai said...

The knowledge of technology you have been sharing thorough this post is very much helpful to develop new idea. here by i also want to share this.
Devops Training in Chennai
Devops Training in Bangalore

thulasi ragini said...

I am really very happy to find this particular site. I just wanted to say thank you for this huge read!! I absolutely enjoying every petite bit of it and I have you bookmarked to test out new substance you post.
python training in pune
python online training
python training in OMR

Sheela said...

This is most informative and also this post most user friendly and super navigation to all posts... Thank you so much for giving this information to me.. 
Devops Training in Chennai

Devops Training in Bangalore

Devops Training in pune

shines rose said...

Thanks Admin for sharing such a useful post, I hope it’s useful to many individuals for developing their skill to get good career.
Blueprism training in tambaram

Blueprism training in annanagar

Blueprism training in velachery

amala jst said...

A very nice guide. I will definitely follow these tips. Thank you for sharing such detailed article. I am learning a lot from you.

rpa training in electronic-city | rpa training in btm | rpa training in marathahalli | rpa training in pune

Nila shri said...

Woah this blog is wonderful i like studying your posts. Keep up the great work! You understand, lots of persons are hunting around for this info, you could help them greatly.

Data Science Training in Chennai | Data Science training in anna nagar
Data Science training in chennai | Data science training in Bangalore
Data Science training in marathahalli | Data Science training in btm

Nandini T said...

I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favourites blog site list and will be checking back soon.
java training in tambaram | java training in velachery

java training in omr | oracle training in chennai

Anonymous said...

This is such a great post, and was thinking much the same myself. Another great update.

angularjs-Training in velachery

angularjs Training in bangalore

angularjs Training in bangalore

angularjs Training in btm

angularjs Training in electronic-city

Vikky cmd said...

I am really happy with your blog because your article is very unique and powerful for new reader.
Click here:
selenium training in chennai
selenium training in bangalore
selenium training in Pune
selenium training in pune
Selenium Online Training

http://missdynamicscrm.blogspot.com/2015/06/quick-tip-generic-sql-error-crm-plugin-csharp.html