2016 update . This still isn't possible in Google Drive, and, judging by the frosty response from Google when asked about it, it seems to be by design. It honestly looks like if you're sharing with friends, family or colleagues who might not have Google accounts, Google wants the user experience to be bad.
If you're the person receiving the shared folder, you're stuck. Google says no.
Since the question is from the point of view of the person creating the shared folder, there are two workarounds I'm aware of:
- Similar to Victor's suggestion: create folders as normal, and also, into your master folder, upload a massive ZIP file containing all the files, so that everyone can browse the files in Drive but non-Google "heretics" can also still download conveniently despite Google's efforts. If bandwidth or file capacity isn't an issue, and if people will be happy with the choice between one-at-a-time downloads or everything-at-once downloads and nothing in between, this might be an acceptable compromise.
- Forget Google Drive and set up a free OneDrive account intsead. This is how I'm solving the problem - it has exactly the feature I wish Google Drive had. Here's a screenshot from a shared folder viewed by someone with no account not logged in who simply followed a link:
Clicking that "Download" button with nothing selected simply downloads everything, as one zip file. Or you can select and download individual folders. Nice!
The only downside I noticed in switching from Google Drive to OneDrive is, OneDrive's web view doesn't (currently) have a handy "Upload folders" option, like Google's. If you're using the web view, you have to create the folders manually, then select all in your folder and upload the contents. It's not too bad though, 5 clicks instead of 1.
There's one other big advantage to OneDrive from a content creator's point of view: you can chose a sort order, including manual sort, and save it to be the folder's default sort order for people viewing it. Viewing users can choose and save a different sort order for themselves, if they want, but you can control the default order.