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One of the great capabilities of SharePoint is the ability for multiple users to work on the same document at the same time (also know as co-authoring). This functionality enhances collaboration, improves user experience and adoption of SharePoint.

WHAT IS CO-AUTHORING?

Co-Authoring in SharePoint is a formal name for multiple (2 or more) users collaborating together on the same file/document at the same time.

WHAT TYPE OF FILES CAN YOU CO-AUTHOR?

As of the writing of this blog post, you can co-author the following MS Office files:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote

HOW TO ENABLE CO-AUTHORING?

You do not need to enable it. In SharePoint Online, co-authoring is enabled by default.

HOW DOES CO-AUTHORING WORK

Word

Co-authoring works best with Word documents. It behaves a little bit differently in Word Online vs. native Word Application, but it works! When 2 or more users edit the document at the same time, they get to see “each other’s presence” and changes as they happen live.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Live changes as they happen in Word Online

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of Word Online when another user edits at the same time

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of Word native application when another user edits at the same time

Excel

Co-Authoring in Excel works with both the native Excel app (desktop app) and Excel Online. Just like with Word, you get presence notifications in the upper-right-hand corner. When edits are made to cells, they happen live and changed cells are highlighted with user indicator.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

User experience when co-authoring in Excel Online

User experience when co-authoring in Excel Desktop App

NOTE: In the past, when you tried to co-author and edit a document using Excel native application, the second user trying to edit a document would get a notification message below. In other words, co-authoring in Excel native desktop app did not work before. That has been addressed by Microsoft as of August 2017. If you still encounter co-authoring issues using Excel, assure you run the latest and greatest version of the Office suite.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

PowerPoint

Co-authoring works well with PowerPoint. Just like with Word, you see another user’s presence in the upper-right-hand corner. It works both with PowerPoint Online (edit in the browser), as well as the native PowerPoint application.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of PowerPoint Online when another user edits at the same time

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Live changes as they happen in PowerPoint native application

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of PowerPoint native application when another user edits at the same time

OneNote

OneNote also works well with co-authoring. It provides a very similar notification mechanism as well when multiple users change same OneNote page. Changes take place live as well. Co-authoring with OneNote works well with both browser editing and native application.

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Notification in the upper-right-hand corner of OneNote Online when another user edits at the same time

Co-authoring documents in SharePoint

Live changes as they happen in OneNote Desktop (native application)

HOW DOES VERSIONING WORK WITH CO-AUTHORING?

Great question. When 2 or more people are editing the file at the same time, it saves file  everyone once in a while (every minute or so – nobody knows for sure an exact formula), and whoever is the last one to make changes at the time of “save” – that name is registered in the version history. In the example below, you can see changes to the file done by two users co-authoring in the span of 1 minute.

Abdulsalam Garba

The author Abdulsalam Garba

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