With Office and OneDrive or SharePoint, multiple people can work together on a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation. When everyone is working at the same time, that's called co-authoring.
Co-authoring is available in Office when documents are stored in SharePoint or OneDrive and the other requirements below are met.
Note: Co-authoring is not available for documents protected with Information Rights (IRM) or Rights Management Service (RMS). For more info on collaborating without co-authoring, see Can I collaborate without co-authoring?
Updated June 21, 2017 thanks to customer feedback.
What kinds of co-authoring can I do in Office?
There are two types of co-authoring that are supported in Office, regular and real-time co-authoring. Both let multiple people collaborate and work together on documents.
Regular co-authoring is when you and others can simultaneously work on a document, and not block each other. You can see who else is working on the document. While a co-author is editing a paragraph, that paragraph is locked from editing by others. When new changes are made by others, you see an Updates Available status in your document or presentation. When you save, you see changes that others have made. Your document is refreshed, on save, with changes that everyone else has saved since the last time you saved. If you're using an application supporting regular co-authoring, you can co-author with someone who's using a version that supports real-time co-authoring.
Real-time co-authoring is when two or more people type and the text changes for everyone at the same time. With real-time co-authoring, you can see the cursor location of the other editors on your screen. Formatting changes show as well. If you co-author with someone who's using a version that supports only regular co-authoring, you won't see edits from them in real time.
What do I need to co-author a document?
Co-authoring is available for documents stored in OneDrive or SharePoint. Co-authoring with Excel and real-time co-authoring in Word and PowerPoint are supported in OneDrive and SharePoint Online only. When you store Excel documents on SharePoint server or any documents locally on your computer, you won't be able to co-author.
Co-authoring with Office is turned on by default in OneDrive and SharePoint. However, co-authoring may be blocked or turned off by an administrator.
To co-author with others, you need:
A shared storage area OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, or a SharePoint Server document library are shared storage areas which enable co-authoring. Regular co-authoring is supported for Word and PowerPoint documents stored in on-premises SharePoint Server libraries. For real-time co-authoring with Word and PowerPoint and any co-authoring in Excel, SharePoint Server document libraries are not supported.
Apps that support co-authoring Word and PowerPoint on all devices and versions more recent than Office 2010 support regular co-authoring. The Excel mobile apps and Excel 2016 with Office 365 also support regular co-authoring. Real-time co-authoring is supported in Word 2016, Word Online and PowerPoint Online.
A co-authoring friendly document Co-authoring is only supported on modern file formats: .docx, .pptx, and .xlsx. A few features are also not supported, such as VBA. Documents with track changes do not support real-time typing in Word.
Edit permissions for co-authors All co-authors must have permission to access and edit the documents.
Note: Updates from your co-authors will come in at the pace of the supported app they are using. For example, if you are in Word 2016, you can co-author with people who are using Word Online or Word for Mac. You'll see people's changes from Word Online in real-time, and changes from Word for Mac users as they save.
Create or open documents for co-authoring
You can create documents in Office Online or Office desktop products. These topics will help you learn how to co-author documents:
Share your documents to collaborate and co-author with others
A key to collaborating and co-authoring is sharing your documents. In SharePoint, OneDrive, and Office apps you can share files with others.
To find out more about sharing documents in OneDrive and SharePoint, look at these topics:
When you open a shared document in a desktop or mobile app, it doesn't matter if you're connected or not, you can keep working. If there are others editing the same document, they won't be able to see your changes while you're offline. When you go back online, you'll be notified of any changes that are available, and others will see that you have changes.
When you're working in Word, the paragraph you're working in is locked so that no one can overwrite what you're working on. When you go offline with Word, it is possible to work on the same paragraph as someone else in your group. When you save your changes, you'll get a pop-up message saying there is a conflict. You can then click through to where you'll be able to sort it all out.
If you're working on a file that's in a sync folder (such as OneDrive or OneDrive for Business), it syncs when you come back online, regardless of whether the app (Word, PowerPoint) is running. When you reconnect, your file automatically syncs. If there are conflicts, you'll get an alert. For more info see Sync OneDrive.
By default, in SharePoint the groups and permissions assigned to a library where you store or create a document are inherited by all documents in the library. For example, on a team site where everyone has read/write permissions, anyone can co-author. While a SharePoint Online document library with read-only permissions only allows peopleto view documents, though no one but the author can make changes unless explicitly invited.
SharePoint permissions are inherited, but you can set different ones for specific people. If a SharePoint library shares for view only, you can give edit permission to some users. However, if the library is set for edit permissions for everyone, you can't restrict a few to just viewing. You can override inherited permissions with a higher permission, not a lower permission. For more info on permissions, see Understanding permission levels in SharePoint
With SharePoint MySite, OneDrive for Business personal library, or consumer OneDrive, your files need to be explicitly shared. By default, they can only be edited and viewed by the owner of the library. You can select who can edit individual files by sharing to people or groups with edit permissions. For more on sharing, see Share files or folders in Office 365.
Although you can upload files via Word and PowerPoint 2007 or earlier to SharePoint Online or OneDrive, and you can open them for editing, you can't co-author these documents with those legacy applications. When a user opens a document with Word or PowerPoint 2007, SharePoint Online or OneDrive creates a lock on the document and prevents other users of Office from editing that document. To take best advantage of co-authoring in Word or PowerPoint, it is recommended that all users work with at least Office 2010 on the desktop, Office Online, newer Mac or a mobile app.
Yes, Microsoft has worked with dozens of partners worldwide so you can co-author with Office Online. Check your storage provide to see if co-authoring with Office Online is supported.
There is no support, however, for third-party providers with Office desktop or other platforms and Microsoft does not support co-authoring documents stored on Google Drive.
Here are some links to get you started.
If co-authoring isn't working correctly, there are several things that can cause problems. To help troubleshoot your co-authoring sessions and setup, see Troubleshoot co-authoring in Office.
If you've shared your documents using OneDrive or OneDrive for Business you can receive an email message letting you know that the document has been updated.
Can I collaborate without co-authoring?
You can still collaborate without co-authoring, such as when you've got unsupported file formats or you're using Information Rights Management (IRM). While everyone works separately, documents can be shared and checked out by others to write or update. In SharePoint, you can create workflows that track and enforce how a document is edited and approved. Additionally, you can create alerts on documents or libraries, or subscribe to an RSS feed so you're notified when changes are checked in. For more about checking documents in or out, workflows, and alerts:
Other topics of interest
If you haven't used Word Online or Office Online, you can test drive it here: Word Online. To change to a different online app, click the app launcher and choose another app.
Here are a few blog posts that might have valuable information for you:
Here are some Help links:
For SharePoint administrators:
Note: For more information about how to co-author documents, search the Help for Word, PowerPoint, and Office Online. For more information about configuring SharePoint for document collaboration and co-authoring, see the TechNet web site.
Leave us a comment
Was this article helpful? If so, please let us know at the bottom of this page. If it wasn't helpful, let us know what was confusing or missing. We'll use your feedback to double-check the content and update this article.