SharePoint is a central place, much like an intranet, where you can store files and access information for your department and other departments. Some companies run SharePoint on-premises and many others have migrated to SharePoint Online. In one of my previous articles, I briefly touched on SyncVault, where you can collaborate and work together with others on spreadsheets and other work documents. Today, I want to talk about co-authoring Office 365 documents in SharePoint. Document co-authoring is enabled by default in SharePoint Online, so there is no configuration needed from your end.
What exactly is co-authoring?
Co-authoring means that multiple people can work on a document at any given time. This means that changes happen in real-time when you work together on a document. You also have the ability to go back to previous versions, just like I explained in one of my SharePoint posts. How many times have you worked on something and thought you saved it only to realize the work didn’t actually save? Autosave can be switched on with a switch at the top of a document and will save the changes you make to the document automatically.
Another thing to note is that if you have no access to the Internet, you can work on a file offline. Once you have connectivity, all the changes will sync, and the document will be updated. Remember that people cannot see your changes if you are offline.
If we look at Microsoft Office versions, older clients do not support co-authoring. You would need to be on Office 2010 as a minimum to make use of co-authoring. Office 2007 is not supported, so if you are running the older version of Office, it is time to upgrade. You also need to make sure that the Office applications are updated as well.
Everyone should be on the same Office version
One other thing to note is that all your users should be running the same version of Office. A mix-and-match of Office versions does not sit well, and your users will end up having a bad experience with co-authoring.
Co-authoring does have its share of frustrations and issues. You may have a user check out a document and not check it back in, or there is a lock on a document that needs to be addressed. Microsoft does provide a page where you can troubleshoot issues with co-authoring. (You can access it from here.) The page has quite a number of items, so be sure to take a look if you are experiencing issues with your users.
You may be wondering, when a document gets updated by a co-worker, how will you be notified? If a document is on OneDrive and shared, it should send you email notifications of any changes made to the document.
I think co-authoring in Office 365 can work well for users. But you may have to solve the issue where a document gets sent to a user, and they have their own version of it. If that other version gets sent out, it becomes a nightmare when files are emailed and nobody knows which version is the latest and most up-to-date. Users do not like change, and with some training and live demonstrations, you can show them how to collaborate together. SharePoint Online does not have to be a nightmare, and it can be a great tool.
I worked with SharePoint 2013 back in the day. With Excel back then, you could only use the Excel web app for co-authoring and not the Office client. So if you are running SharePoint 2013 and want to use co-authoring, you need to understand this limitation, unfortunately. You also need to understand your limitations with the Excel web app, so it may be better to migrate to SharePoint Online and Office 365 to avoid further user frustration.
For some, Office and SharePoint co-authoring is not wanted
If you prefer to have users only be able to check out documents from SharePoint Online, which means only the person that checked out the document will have access to it, then co-authoring is not for you. This means that if another user needs to modify the file, they will need to wait until the previous user has completed their work. If the user, however, just needs to view the document, they can open it in read-only mode and get the info.
OneDrive, which is part of a shared storage area from Microsoft, allows you to use co-authoring. One thing to be aware of is that you can only save files in the latest supported formats such as .docx, xlsx, and pptx.
So, if you want to use co-authoring for your Microsoft Office documents using SharePoint on-premises, you need to provision additional servers to cater for that. Office 365 will have it enabled by default for you and your users. You do not need to provision anything additional.
Microsoft has a great tutorial page on how to do things and you can access the page here.
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