Recently we received a number of emails with questions about what is co-authoring, which products support it, and what can possibly cause it not to work auto-magically.

In technical terms:

Co-authoring functionality simplifies collaboration by enabling multiple users to work productively on the same document without intruding on one another’s work or locking one-another out.

In plain English:

Co-authoring is simultaneous editing. Two or more people are working on different parts of a document.  While one person works on his section of the document, another person can work on hers, without either interrupting their work.  Imagine if you were in the same room as the committee of five working on the Declaration of Independence with pen, ink and parchment.  Alas they only had one pen to use, so their dilemma was not locking each other out of a file/document, rather they had to wait their turn to share the pen and ink.

When a document is being edited by multiple people, a windows pop up will alert you like the image below:

Microsoft Office 2010 offers co-authoring functionality for Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft Word 2010, and Microsoft OneNote 2010 documents on SharePoint Server 2010.  New co-authoring functionality is also supported in Excel Web App and OneNote Web App.  The co-authoring functionality requires SharePoint Foundation 2010, or a Windows Live SkyDrive account. 

Within each application co-authoring applies in a specific way.  In Word only the paragraph the person is working on is locked.  In PowerPoint the particular slide and in Excel the particular cell is locked.

Co-Authoring is the default behavior for Word 2010 accessing SharePoint 2010 servers, however there are a few things that could prevent co-authoring from occurring:

·         All co-authors need to be using Office 14

·         Currently in Word, the only document type available for co-authoring is .docx

·         It is also possible your document could have non-coauthoring compatible features such as IRM/DRM, Macros, Encryption, Document marked as Final, etc. 

·         Documents stored in a SharePoint document library that have the required check-out turned on will also prevent co-authoring


Co-Authoring is a great way to eliminate the previous methods of sending out a document for multiple reviews, and then trying to compile the “final revision”.    If you have not already tried it out, grab a collegue and open a file together to see how it works. 


For more details:  Co-Authoring Overview (SharePoint 2010)