Co-Authoring in SharePoint

What is Co-Authoring?

One of the reasons to use SharePoint is to have a centralized location for sharing files. A team of users can store a set of common files on SharePoint so they can all share access to them as needed.  If they need to edit any of these documents collaboratively, SharePoint offers co-authoring as a solution.  Co-Authoring allows multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously.

For example, when opening a Word document in the Microsoft Word Web App, a user can type in and utilize the application as usual.  However, if someone else is working on the same document simultaneously, they will be able to see who it is, the location of their cursor in the document and live changes of any edits they have made.

Co-authoring in a Word Document
Figure 1 - Co-Authoring in a Word document

Types of Co-Authoring

In SharePoint 2016, there are two slightly different ways that users have the ability to co-author shared documents, Real-Time and Regular co-authoring.

Real-Time Co-Authoring

With real-time co-authoring, users must be connected to the Internet.  Otherwise, they will not be able to see the live changes and notifications that occur when other people edit a shared document.  There are a few limitations based on the application being used.  As shown in the Figure 1 above, some applications such as the Microsoft Word Web App show the latest information with identification, cursor location and live edits.

Regular Co-Authoring

With regular co-authoring, users do not necessarily have to be online, and they will not see each other’s’ live changes.  They can open a document, edit it offline and save their changes locally.  When they reconnect to the Internet, their changes will be uploaded.  Co-authors will be notified of other users’ changes by a notification in the bottom toolbar.  Users can then click on the notification to decide how to synchronize your changes and correct any that may conflict with each other.

Regular Co-authoring in a Word document
Figure 2 - Regular Co-Authoring in a Word document

Restrictions and Considerations

Co-authoring documents with other users has the following restrictions and considerations:

1.    Documents must be stored in a shared area such as a SharePoint server or OneDrive. Real-Time 
co-authoring requires an online shared storage area.

2.    Users must have permissions to access the same shared documents.

3.    Keep in mind that some applications do not support co-authoring.  In addition, the support for co-authoring is not the same for all applications.  For instance, Microsoft Excel only supports online, real-time co-authoring. Visio only supports offline, regular co-authoring. Table 1 from Microsoft TechNet provides an overview of co-authoring support.

Co-authoring Support For SharePoint

Office version

SharePoint 2013 configured to use Office Web Apps Server

SharePoint Online

SharePoint 2010 with Office Web Apps enabled

Excel 2013

No

No

No

Excel Web App

Yes

Yes

Yes

Excel 2010

No

No

No

OneNote 2013

Yes

Yes

Yes

OneNote Web App

Yes

Yes

Yes

OneNote 2010

Yes

Yes

Yes

PowerPoint 2013

Yes

Yes

Yes

PowerPoint Web App

Yes

Yes

Yes

PowerPoint 2010

Yes

Yes

Yes

Word 2013

Yes

Yes

Yes

Word Web App

Yes

Yes

Yes

Word 2010

Yes

Yes

Yes

Visio 2013

Yes

Yes

Yes

Visio Web App

No

No

No

Visio 2010

No

No

No

Office 2007 client applications

No

No

No

Table 1 - Overview of Co-Authoring in SharePoint: Microsoft TechNet, August 3rd, 2015

 

4.    In addition, there are some considerations to keep in mind with features such as Versioning and Check Out.  For instance, versioning can impact storage space if the number of major/minor versions is set to a high number.  Documents that are checked out will lock out other users from being able to edit a document.  This conflicts with the very purpose of co-authoring, which is meant to allow multiple authors to work on a document at the same time.  The Require Check Out setting in document libraries meant to be used for co-authoring should not be enabled.  Furthermore, the Require Check Out setting is for the whole document library, so you can't have a mixture of documents requiring check out and documents with co-authoring in the same document library.

5.    Users must use Office 2010 products or later.  Office 2007 products use an older document format this is not compatible with co-authoring.
 

Author: 
Jose Santos