How to Co-Author Documents in Microsoft Office

Co-Author Documents in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint

Did you know that multiple people can work together at the same time as a co-author on a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation? If you have access to OneDrive or SharePoint you and colleagues are ready to get started as document co-authors. Office has functions that allow you to make comments, track changes, as well as activities for creating quality documents. Co-authoring is simply having several people work on a document at the same time.

When you’re using SharePoint or OneDrive for storing your document, Office allows a group of people to edit and revise the document in real-time.  When you and your colleagues are and you are ready to publish, there’s no need to copy, paste, and reformat from multiple documents. You are really finished and ready to publish! By working together in real-time, you can see where everyone is and what they are typing. It is as though they are sitting with you in your office typing on your keyboard at the same time you are.

Co-author documents can be very efficient and effective.
Real-Time Co-Authoring

Two types of Co-Authoring

There are two ways to co-author documents that are supported in Office:

  • regular
  • real-time

While each approach lets multiple people collaborate and work together on documents, there are a few differences between them.

Regular Co-Authoring

Regular co-authoring is when you and others work on a document simultaneously, and not block each other. As others work on the document you can see which paragraph they have temporarily locked as they edit. You can see who is working on the document by looking in the Collaboration Corner.

Co-author documents can be very efficient and effective.
Collaboration Corner

You will see an Updates Available status message when new changes are made by others. When the document is saved, you see the changes made by others. The document is refreshed with changes that others have saved since the last time you saved the document.

Real-time Co-Authoring

Real-time co-authoring is when two or more colleagues can type at the same time and automatically see text changes as they happen. You can see the cursor location where someone is typing and what they’re typing as they are editing. The location and text of the colleagues appears on the document very quickly, with formatting following shortly thereafter.

What do I need to co-author a document?

To co-author a document, it needs to be stored in one of the following locations:

  • OneDrive consumer
  • OneDrive for Business
  • SharePoint Online
  • SharePoint server

For real-time co-authoring of documents, they must be stored in the cloud. So, real-time co-authoring works with OneDrive or SharePoint Online, but not SharePoint server. You cannot co-author documents that are stored on your local computer or mobile device.

Unless it’s blocked or turned off by an administrator Co-authoring with Office is turned on by default in OneDrive and SharePoint. You can start co-authoring right away with no need for special configuration or settings.

To co-author with others, you need:

  • Co-authors
    • People with permission to access and edit the documents to co-author with you.
  • A shared storage area
    • OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, or a SharePoint Server document library to store your files.
    • Real-time co-authoring requires the online versions.
    • Regular co-authoring works with on premise SharePoint Server but not real-time.
  • Apps that support co-authoring
    • Word and PowerPoint on all platforms, and on all versions since Office 2010, Excel Online, Android, and Windows Mobile.
    • Real-time co-authoring is supported on Word for Windows Desktop 2016, and Word, PowerPoint, and Excel Online.
  • A co-authoring compatible document format
    • Co-authoring is only supported on newer file formats such as .docx, .pptx, and .xlsx.
    • VBA macros are not supported in co-authoring documents.
    • Documents with Track Changes enabled do not support real-time typing in Word but you can still co-author.
When in Word 2016, you have the option to work real-time or not as a co-author.
When in Word 2016, you have the option to work real-time or regular co-author mode.

Save a Document and Collaborate

Depending the version of Microsoft Office products you are using the steps to working together on a document may vary slightly but the concepts are the same.

  1. Save and share the document to the Cloud OneDrive or SharePoint.
    Save and Share to Co-Author Word Document
    Save and Share to Co-Author Word Document
  2. Invite people to work on the document with you.
    Save and Share Document to Co-Author
    Save and Share Document to Co-Author
  3. Invite yourself by getting a document link!
    Get a document co-author link.
    Get a document co-author link.
  4. Start Co-Authoring.

The process for co-authoring documents in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint follows the same save and share steps.

Happy Co-Authoring!

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