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Overview of co-authoring in SharePoint 2013

 

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2013 Enterprise, SharePoint Online, SharePoint Foundation 2013

Topic Last Modified: 2014-02-19

Summary: Provides information about co-authoring and the permissions and software versions that are required for co-authoring in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online.

Audience: IT Professionals

Use the co-authoring feature in SharePoint Server 2013 or SharePoint Online to enable multiple users to work on a document, at any time, without interfering with each other's changes. Co-authoring removes barriers to server-based document collaboration and helps organizations to reduce the overhead associated with traditional document sharing through attachments. This functionality requires no additional server setup and is the default state for documents stored in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online. Co-authoring functionality is managed by using the same tools and technologies that are already used to manage SharePoint, helping to minimize the impact on administrators.

As with Office 2010, Office 2013 provides co-authoring functionality for Word 2013, PowerPoint 2013 and OneNote 2013. Office 2013 introduces co-authoring functionality for Visio 2013. If you are using SharePoint Online or have SharePoint 2013 configured to use Office Web Apps Server, users can also co-author documents in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote Web Apps.

ImportantImportant:
This article is for IT Professionals. It applies to planning for co-authoring in an organization.
Are you looking for help with co-authoring? You may be looking for Document collaboration and co-authoring, which will help you understand and use the co-authoring and versioning features of SharePoint 2013.

In this article:

In traditional collaboration, documents are shared via email attachments. Tracking versions and edits from multiple authors is difficult and time-consuming for users. Email systems have to contend with storing multiple copies of the same document, not to mention increased network traffic as documents are sent repeatedly.

The use of SharePoint to store documents for collaboration has reduced these problems by providing consistent access to up-to-date versions of documents, the ability to track earlier versions, and centralized management. Storing a single document, instead of many attachments, also reduces network and storage overhead.

But this solution hasn’t been perfect. When one author has a document open, other authors can’t work on it. If someone forgets to close a document or check it in, other users may be locked out indefinitely, a situation that often requires a call to the IT department.

Co-authoring in SharePoint 2013 addresses these issues by making it possible for multiple users to work on a document, at any time, without interfering with each other's changes. This approach streamlines many common document-collaboration scenarios. For example:

  • Two or more authors work on different parts of a composite document. While one author works on his section of the document, another author can work on hers, without either interrupting the other's work.

  • Several authors work on a composite slide show. Each author can add slides to the presentation and edit them, instead of working in isolation and trying to merge several documents and make them consistent all at the same time.

  • A document is sent out to several experts and stakeholders, each of whom provides some edits or additions. No user’s edits are lost, because they are all working on a central, server-stored document.

Co-authoring is easy to use from the end user’s point of view. When a user wants to work on a document in Word 2013, PowerPoint 2013, OneNote 2013, Visio 2013 or one of the Office Web Apps, he or she merely opens it from SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online, as usual. If another user already has the document open, both users can edit the document at the same time. One exception to this is that users can co-author in Excel Web App only if everyone uses the Excel Web App to access the workbook. If anyone uses Excel 2013 or Excel 2010 (the client application) to access the workbook, co-authoring in Excel Web App will be disabled for that workbook while it is open in the client application.

When a user saves a Word 2013, PowerPoint 2013, or Word Web App document, other current users are notified that there are new edits. Those users can refresh their views immediately to see the changes or continue their work and refresh later to see the latest edits. PowerPoint Web App, and Excel Web App auto-save so that users can view any changes automatically. The authors can see one another’s work, and everyone knows who is working on the document. SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online versioning and tracking tools protect the document so that authors can roll back unwanted changes. When Lync is available, users can see the online status of fellow co-authors and start instant messaging conversations without leaving the document.

In OneNote 2013 and OneNote Web App, shared notebooks enable users to share notes seamlessly. When a user edits a page of the notebook, those edits are automatically synchronized with other users of that notebook so that everybody has a complete set of notes. Edits made by multiple users on the same page appear automatically, which enables near real-time collaboration. Versioning and other shared features in OneNote make it possible for users to roll back edits, show what edits are new, and determine who made a specific edit.

The Excel 2013 client application does not support co-authoring workbooks in SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online. But, the Excel client application uses the Shared Workbook feature to support non-real-time co-authoring workbooks that are stored locally or on network (UNC) paths. Co-authoring workbooks in SharePoint is supported by using the Excel Web App, which is included with Office Web Apps. Office Web Apps is available to users through OneDrive and to business customers who have Office 365, or Office 2013 volume licensing, or Office Web Apps Server and SharePoint 2013. For more information, see How Office Web Apps work on-premises with SharePoint 2013.

There are several factors that administrators will want to consider when planning how to use co-authoring in their environment.

Co-authoring functionality in SharePoint is designed to be easy to set up and requires minimal effort to manage. But, there are several things to consider when you set up and manage co-authoring:

  • Permissions – For multiple users to be able to edit the same document, users need edit permissions for the document library where that document is stored. The simplest way to guarantee that this is to give all users access to the SharePoint site where documents are stored. In cases in which only a subset of users should have permission to co-author documents in a particular library, SharePoint permissions can be used to manage access. For more information, see Overview of site permissions in SharePoint 2013.

  • Versioning –SharePoint Server versioning keeps track of changes to documents while they are being edited, and even stores earlier versions for reference. By default, this feature is turned off in SharePoint 2013. SharePoint 2013 supports two kinds of versioning, major and minor. It is best that minor versioning remain off for document libraries that are used for co-authoring in OneNote, because it may interfere with the synchronization and versioning capabilities that are part of the product. This limitation only applies to minor versioning. Major versioning may be used with OneNote. For more information, see How does versioning work in a list or library?.

  • Number of versions – The number of document versions retained affects storage requirements on the server. This number can be tuned in the document library settings to limit the number of versions retained. OneNote notebooks that are frequently updated may result in many versions being stored on the server. To avoid using unnecessary disk space, we recommend that an administrator set the maximum number of versions retained to a reasonable number on document libraries used to store OneNote notebooks. For more information, see Enable and configure versioning for a list or library

  • Versioning period – The versioning period determines how often SharePoint products will create a version of a Word or PowerPoint document that is being co-authored. Setting this period to a low value will capture versions more often, for more detailed version tracking, but may require more server storage. The versioning period does not affect OneNote notebooks. This value can be altered by adjusting the coAuthoringVersionPeriod property on the server. For more information about adjusting this setting, see Configure the co-authoring versioning period in SharePoint 2013.

  • Check out – When a user checks out a document for editing, the document is locked for editing by that user. This prevents co-authoring. Do not enable the Require Check Out feature in document libraries in which co-authoring will be used. By default, Require Check Out is not enabled in SharePoint 2013. Users should not check out documents manually when co-authoring is being used. For more information, see Set up a library to require check-out of files.

Unlike Word and PowerPoint, OneNote stores version information within the file itself. For this reason, administrators should follow these recommended practices when storing OneNote notebooks in a SharePoint 2013 document library:

  • Do not enable minor versioning. By default, minor versioning is not enabled in SharePoint 2013.

  • If major versioning is enabled, set a reasonable maximum number of versions to store. By default, major versioning is not enabled in SharePoint 2013.

For users to co-author documents by using Office, those documents must be stored in SharePoint 2013, SharePoint Online or SharePoint 2010. Office 2010 users have the same set of co-authoring features when they open documents from SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online as they do when they open documents from a SharePoint 2010 document library.

The following table summarizes the Office application versions that are needed for organizations to take advantage of the co-authoring functionality that are available with SharePoint.

Co-authoring support for Office on each version of 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

NoteNote:
  • Versions that are denoted by “*” support co-authoring functionality, even when Office Web Apps isn't configured or enabled in SharePoint.

  • The co-authoring functionality is available to Office 2013 users who have OneDrive accounts, whether or not SharePoint 2013, SharePoint Online or SharePoint 2010 are installed. This article only covers use of co-authoring in SharePoint.

Some organizations may want to use co-authoring in an environment in which users have different versions of Office.

Users of earlier versions of PowerPoint and Word can share and edit documents that are stored in SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online exactly as they could in earlier versions of SharePoint. But they can’t use co-authoring to work on them at the same time. To collaborate best in PowerPoint and Word, we recommend that all users work in Office 2013. Users of PowerPoint 2007 and Word 2007 won’t experience any significant difference between their current experience and their user experience in SharePoint. For instance, if Office 2007 users open a document that is stored in SharePoint and is currently being edited by another user, they will see a message that the document is being used. They will be unable to edit it. If no other user is editing the document, Office 2007 users will be able to open it as usual. When an Office 2007 user opens a document, the document will be locked. While it is locked, Office 2013 users can't use co-authoring to edit the document. This behavior matches earlier versions of SharePoint.

Document co-authoring is supported between PowerPoint 2010 and PowerPoint 2013 users, and Word 2010 and Word 2013 users. But, PowerPoint 2013 and Word 2013 have some feature improvements that offer users a better co-authoring experience than in earlier versions. For more information, see Co-Authoring in What's new for IT professionals in Office 2013.

OneNote 2013 and OneNote 2010 are backward compatible with the OneNote 2007 file format and they support co-authoring with OneNote 2007 users. In mixed environments, notebooks must be saved in the OneNote 2007 file format for OneNote 2007, OneNote 2010, and OneNote 2013 users to work on it together. But, by upgrading to the OneNote 2013 file format, users gain several key features, such as compatibility with the OneNote Web App. That allows users who don't have any version of OneNote installed to edit and co-author notebooks.

OneNote 2013 includes the ability to upgrade OneNote 2007 files to OneNote 2013 files at any time. This provides an easy upgrade path for organizations that are moving from a mixed environment to a unified environment on Office 2013. For more information, see Upgrading to Microsoft OneNote 2013 from a previous version.

SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 applications minimize the performance and scalability impact that is associated with co-authoring in your environment. Office clients do not send or download co-authoring information from the server until more than one author is editing. When a single user is editing a document, the performance impact resembles that of earlier versions of SharePoint.

Office clients are configured to reduce server impact by reducing the frequency of synchronization actions that are related to co-authoring when the server is under heavy load, or when a user is not actively editing the document. This helps reduce overall performance impact.

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