Folders and Collections

Cloudinary provides two methods for organizing and sharing your assets: folders and collections.

  • Folders are asset containers and are an integral part of the asset path (public ID).
  • Collections are a dynamic way to create conceptual groupings of assets, regardless of their folder structure.

Notes

  • The Collection functionality described here is currently available for BETA testing. Contact support to enable it for your account.
  • You can use folders and collections in any Cloudinary account. However, the sharing and permissions functionality is relevant only for multiple user accounts, which is supported from the Advanced plan and higher.

Comparison chart

A single asset can be in stored in a folder path and can also be included in one or more collections. The table below provides a comparison of the primary differences between these two organization methods.

Folders Collections
Duplication An asset is saved with a specific folder path.

Two identical assets with the same name, but different folder paths are completely different entities with different public IDs.
The same asset can be included in multiple collections.
Structure Multi-level hierarchy Flat
SEO Folder paths are a part of the asset's URL and thus can provide an SEO benefit. Collections are a conceptual, internal grouping and thus have no impact on SEO.
Moving assets between Moving an asset from folder to folder changes its URL and can cause broken links.

For the above reason, when choosing the folder structure for an asset, you should generally consider it a relatively "permanent" placement, and not a method of assigning status or other temporary
You don't have an option to move an asset from one collection to another. You can include an asset in multiple collections, or you can delete from one and add to another. These changes have no impact on the asset URLs
Removing/deleting assets Deleting an asset from a folder deletes the asset from your account and can cause broken links.
(Deleted assets are recoverable if your account has backups enabled)
Removing an asset from the collection just takes it out of that grouping. The asset remains in your account and in its current folder path.
Renaming You cannot rename a folder. Renaming a collection does not impact the assets in it. The collection rename takes effect immediately for everyone who has permissions to view it (refresh may be required).
Creating All users can create folders under any folder where they have Can Contribute or higher permissions. Users with a Media Library user role must be given explicit permissions by the account user administrator to create collections.
Sharing Folders can be shared with either user groups or individual account users at a variety of permission levels.

The permissions control what operations users can perform on the assets in a folder as well as whether users can further share the folders.
Collections can be shared with either user groups or individual account users at a variety of permission levels.

The permissions control who can access, modify which assets are inside, and whether they can further share the collection. They do not impact what operations users can perform on individual assets inside the collection. However, when you share a collection, then those users or group members will be able to view all assets in the collection, even if some or all assets in the collection are in folders that are not shared with that group.

You can additionally share a zipped copy of your collection with external parties via a generated URL link.

Folder management

You can create folders and sub-folders to organize your assets and to control which user groups can access the contents of each folder. When you are in the Folders view (Navigation menu > Folders), the full folder path of the folder you are currently viewing is shown on the top left of the Media Library next to the Folders button.

The cloud icon represents the Home (root) folder of the Media Library.    folder bar

Depending on your user role and/or permissions, you can perform some or all of the folder operations described below:

Browse folders

You can browse through folders in a variety of ways:

  • From the navigation menu navigation menu, click Folders. This brings you to the Home (root) folder. This is useful if you are in another view, such as search results or collections.
  • Expand the Folders pane to view all sub-folders under the currently selected folder in a vertical list.
    folders pane
  • Expand the Folders drop-down, to view all sub-folders of the current folder as small grid icons.
    folders drop-down
    • Single-click a folder in the folders drop-down to view details about the folder.
    • Double-click a folder in the folders drop-down or single click a folder in the Folders pane to view the contents of the folder.

When viewing the assets in a folder, keep in mind the following:

  • When you select to view an individual folder, including the Home (root) folder, only the assets stored directly in that folder are displayed (and not those in sub-folders).
  • You can filter the asset types displayed in a folder by selecting from the Asset type filter list: All, Images, Video & Audio or Others (Raw).
  • Contrary to folder views, search results show results from all folders (unless otherwise specified). If you want to view all assets in all folders in a single view, you can select All in the Asset type list, and then while the Search bar is empty, click the Search button. Or alternatively, select Search all assets from the Navigation menu.

Create folders

You can create folders or subfolders from a variety of locations in the Media Library, including from the Folders pane and when selecting to move assets to a new location.

Delete folders

You can select to delete a folder from the options menu located next to its name in the folder pane. Deleting a folder will delete all the contents of the selected folder including all subfolders.

Move assets between folders

You can select one or multiple assets from a folder or from the search results and move them to an existing or new folder. As mentioned above, the folder structure is part of the asset's delivery URL, so it's important to make sure that the assets you select to move are not currently in production, or that the code for all relevant assets will be updated accordingly. Additionally, keep in mind that moving assets to another folder may impact which user groups will have access permissions for those assets.

Tip
Developers can also perform the above actions programmatically using the Admin API.

Share folders

If you have multiple users in your account, and some of those users have the Media Library User role, you can share folders at various permission levels with users or user groups. For details, see Folder sharing and permissions.

Collection management

If you either have an admin role or you have Owner permissions for a particular collection, you can perform all of the operations described below. If you have lower-level permissions, you may only be able to perform some of these operations:

Create and add assets to collections

To define new collections:

  • From the navigation pane, select Collections, and then click the Add collection button, and enter the name of the new collection.

Or

  • From a folder or from the search results, select one or more assets, click Add to collection from the asset toolbar, and then enter the name of a new collection. This defines a new collection and adds the selected assets to it.

To add assets to existing collections:

From a folder or from the search results, select one or more assets, click Add to collection from the asset toolbar, and then click in the collection name box. This loads the names of all existing collections. Once loaded, you can either scroll to select the collection or type to filter the list.

Notes

  • All users with admin roles can create collections. Users with the Media Library User role must be given permissions to Create Collections by the account user administrator.
  • Depending on your folder permissions, you may also be able to add new assets directly to a currently displayed collection by dragging-and-dropping from your file system to the open collection or by clicking the Upload button. However, keep in mind that in addition to adding the asset to your collection, it will upload the asset to the root folder of your account, which is not a best practice if you have multiple Media Library users in your account.

Rename collections

In the Collections view, single-click an existing collection. This displays the collection details in the Preview pane. (If the Preview pane is closed, click the Show Preview Pane show Preview Pane icon to open it). Edit the collection name in the Preview pane. The name will be updated for all account users who have access to the collection.

Delete collections or remove assets from collections

When you remove assets from a collection or delete an entire collection, the assets still remain in your Media Library, they are just no longer grouped together in that collection. However, there may be users who had access to those assets only via that collection, so removing assets or deleting collections may prevent some users from being able to view those assets.

To delete a collection:

From the Collections view, click the options menu of the Collection and select Delete.

To remove assets from a collection:

Display the contents of the relevant collection, select the assets you want to remove, and click Remove from the assets toolbar.

Share collections

If you have multiple users in your account, and some of those users have the Media Library User role, you can share collections with select user groups or individual account users at various permission levels. You can also generate a public URL link that can enable people without access to your Cloudinary account to download an up-to-date copy of a collection as a zip file. The URL can be generated with or without an expiration date.

For details, see Collection sharing and permissions.

Folder sharing and permissions

Media Library administrators and managers can control access to assets by sharing folders (and thus their contents) with selected users or user groups at varying levels of access permissions, from full management control to view-only access. Conversely, you can prevent access to a folder's contents by not sharing that folder with a specific user or user group at all.

Important
The concept of limiting access to selected folders applies only to account users in the Media Library user role. Users in any other role that has access to the Media Library will always have full access to all folders and assets in the Media Library.

If you are an account admin setting up a new account with multiple users and you want to control which folders various groups of Media Library users can view or access, it's recommended to follow a process similar to the following:

Folder sharing and permissions workflow

If you are sharing folders with user groups, it's recommended to complete the above process before creating new users and adding them to groups. This ensures that the new users will already have access to the relevant folders and assets when they enter the Media Library for the first time.

Folder sharing and permissions video tutorial

This tutorial walks you through the steps described above.

After watching this overview video, continue reading the sections below to learn all of the details and considerations related to folder sharing and permissions.

How to share folders

To share a folder, you must have one of the following account roles:

  • Any of the admin roles
  • A Media Library user role AND with Can Manage permissions on the folder you want to share.

To share a folder, select Share from the options drop-down next to the current folder path at the top of the Media Library folder options drop-down or select it from the (3-dots) options menu available in the Folders drop-down grid or when you mouse-over a sub-folder in the Folders pane. folder options

Folder permission levels

When you select to share a folder, you can set one of the following permission levels (applies to the folder and all its sub-folders): Can view, Can contribute, Can edit, Can Manage.

The table below summarizes the permissions available to each level:

Can View Can Contribute Can Edit Can Manage
View assets
Download assets
Edit transformations 1
(via Edit Transformation page or directly in browser URL)
Search (including Advanced Search) 2
Upload assets
Create sub-folders
Overwrite existing on upload
Edit assets 3
(tags, context, rename, move to another folder)
Moderate assets 4
Delete assets
Delete the folder
Share the folder

1 Editing transformations does not have any impact on the original asset, but any new transformations that are generated are counted in the account's monthly transformations counts.

2 Search results will include only assets where the user has at least Can view permissions

3 Users with Can Contribute permissions can use the Add tags option in the Media Library upload widget while uploading, but cannot add tags to existing assets.

4 Only Media Library users with Can Edit or Can Manage permissions on the Home (root) folder can view the overall Moderation Queue (which can be accessed from the Moderation option in the left navigation menu. Users with Can Edit or Can Manage permissions for specific folders can open one of those folders and apply moderation on selected assets.

Folder sharing guidelines and best practices

When planning your folder sharing strategy, consider the following:

  • Sharing rights:
    • Users in the Media Library users role with Can manage permissions for a folder can share that folder and its sub-folders. Users with lower level permissions cannot share a folder.
    • Any user in a role other than Media library user, Reports, or Billing can access, share, and manage all folders and assets in the Media Library.
    • Only a user in one of the above categories can see which user groups a folder is shared with, and how many users are in each of those groups.
  • Sharing with multiple groups: You can share a folder with multiple users and user groups at the same or at different levels.
  • Permissions on subfolders:
    • When you share a folder at a certain level, that permission level cascades down to all subfolders under it.
    • You can increase the permission level for a particular user or group in a sub-folder of a folder they already have access to, but you cannot decrease their permission level.
      For this reason, it's recommended to minimize permissions given to Media Library users at high-level folders, and especially on the Home (root) folder.
    • Best practice: If you are setting up folder permissions for a new account where no assets are yet in production, it's recommended not to store assets directly in the Home folder, and to avoid sharing the Home folder with all or most Media Library users or user groups.
    • If you do not share a folder (nor any parent of that folder) with a particular user or group at all, those users will not be able to see that folder or the contents inside it. Even when performing a search on all folders, the results will only include folders where the user has at least view permissions.
      Similarly, if you don't share any folders with a particular user or user group, then those users will not have access to any assets in the Media Library.
      Exception: If assets from a particular folder are included in a collection, and that collection is shared with a user group or users who otherwise do not have access to that folder, those users will still be able to view and download (but not modify) the assets in that collection.
  • Multiple user groups and permission levels: If a user belongs to multiple groups, and the same folder is shared to each of those groups at different permission levels (which are higher than the permissions they may have received individually), then the highest of those permission levels applies to the user.

Collection sharing and permissions

All users in an admin role as well as those in a Media Library user role with sharing permissions can share collections with other user groups or individual Media Library users at varying levels of access permissions, from full owner control to view-only access.

Users in an admin role can share any collection. For a Media Library user to share a collection, they must both:

  • Be assigned Collection Sharing permissions. This permission is set per user by an account user administrator in the User settings.

  • Be the creator of the collection or have Owner permissions on the collection they want to share.

To share a collection, do one of the following:

  • From the main Collection view, click the (3-dots) options menu of the collection you want to share and select Share.
  • When viewing the contents of a collection, select Share from the options drop-down next to the current collection path displayed at the top left of the Media Library.

When you select to share a collection, a dialog box opens, enabling you to share it with user groups and/or Media library users at selected permission levels, or to generate a public download link for sharing with external parties.

Share Collection dialog box

Collection permission levels

When sharing with user groups, you can set one of the following permission levels: Can view, Can collaborate, Owner.

The table below summarizes the permissions available to each level:

Can view Can collaborate Owner
View assets in the collection1
Download assets in the collection
Add assets to the collection
Remove assets from collection
Delete collection
Share collection or external URL2

1 Anyone with Can view or higher permissions to a collection can view (but not otherwise modify) all assets in that collection, even if they don't have Can view permissions for the folders containing those assets.

2 Even if a collection was shared with a user group or Media Library user at Owner level permissions, the user must also have Share Collections permissions (set by an account user administrator).

Sharing a collection download link with external parties

If you want to share a collection with someone outside your Cloudinary account, you can generate a public download link that will enable external parties to access a copy of your collection in the form of a zip file with static copies of the assets from your collection. You can also optionally set an expiration date for the URL, after which time the link will be invalidated.

The zip file is not generated when you generate the link; it is generated dynamically based on the current state of the collection when someone clicks the link to request the zip file.

To generate a download link for a collection:

  1. Open the share dialog box for a collection.
  2. In the share dialog box, click Create public URL.
  3. If you want to set an expiration date, click URL options and set the date. After this date, the URL will be invalidated, and new zip files of the collection cannot be generated from that URL.
  4. Use the Copy URL button to quickly copy the link. You can also copy the link from the Preview pane when that collection is selected in the main Collections view.

From the URL options, you can also delete (invalidate) an already generated URL or change/remove the expiration date.

Notes and considerations for sharing collection links

  • Because the zip file is dynamically generated from the current state of the collection when someone clicks on the link, the same link can be used over time to retrieve updated versions of the same collection.

  • When a download link expires or you manually delete it using the URL options, the URL can no longer be used to retrieve updated copies of your collection. However, neither of these options can prevent access to the static files inside a zip file that someone has already downloaded.

  • If you set an expiration date for a zip file, the zip file will expire at the end of the specified date according to UTC time.

  • When someone requests a collection URL and a zip file is created, that zip file is stored as a raw file in your Cloudinary account under an automatically generated folder called generatedpubliclinks.

    • If someone requests the URL and a zip file is created, and then you modify the contents of the collection, then the next time the URL is requested, an updated zip file is generated for that request. The updated zip file replaces the existing one in the generatedpubliclinks folder.
    • If you rename the collection after a zip file has already been created, the next time someone uses the generated URL to request the collection again, a different zip file will be created based on the new name of the collection.