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MVPs for Office and SharePoint 2010: Using co-authoring features in Office 2010, Office Web Apps, and Office for Mac 2011

MVPs for Office and SharePoint 2010: Using co-authoring features in Office 2010, Office Web Apps, and Office for Mac 2011

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Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by MVP Stephanie Krieger as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office and SharePoint 2010" series. Stephanie Krieger is a Microsoft Office System MVP and the author of two books on Microsoft Office document production. As a professional document consultant, she has helped many global companies develop enterprise solutions for Microsoft Office on both platforms and taught numerous professionals to build great documents by understanding how the Office programs “think.”  You can reach Stephanie through her blog,, where you can find links to more content and get information as it becomes available on her upcoming book for Office 2010 and Office for Mac 2011. Stephanie would like to thank fellow Office System MVP Beth Melton for help with the screenshots for this article.

Using co-authoring features in Office 2010, Office Web Apps, and Office for Mac 2011

I work for myself, so I often have the privilege of working on my own schedule. Except, that is, when working on projects with others. Collaboration can be a fun and creative process — and the results can be fantastic — but not when you have to wait your turn to edit a document or wait for someone who checked out the file and then left for the day without checking it back in. Sound familiar?

Well, fortunately, the days of waiting in line to get your work done are over. Now everyone can work on their own schedule — at least when it comes to editing your documents.

Microsoft Office 2010 enables technology known as co-authoring, which gives you the ability to edit the same file at the same time as people in other locations. No more waiting in line to get your work done, no more getting locked out of your files, and more options for real-time collaboration with your team.

What applications enable co-authoring?

You can use co-authoring in the Office 2010 versions of Word and PowerPoint. Co-authoring via shared notebooks is also available in Microsoft OneNote 2010. And, simultaneous editing is also available in Microsoft Excel Web App and OneNote Web App.

So, how do you give it a try? Let’s jump into the details.

Get started: Save your files to the cloud


Storing your files online is easy and it brings a lot of benefits like backup and easy access to your stuff from almost anywhere. But my favorite thing about this technology is that it’s not just for big companies — it’s available to everybody. 

  • Businesses can use co-authoring within the enhanced security of their own firewall when they have Microsoft SharePoint 2010 installed in the organization. 
  • Everyone else (such as students, home users, and independent contractors like me) can take advantage of co-authoring technologies just by having a free Windows Live ID.

For SharePoint 2010 users

To get started using co-authoring with Office 2010, just save your Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, or Excel files to a SharePoint 2010 site. You can do this directly from within the Office 2010 applications (as shown in Figure 1) or from SharePoint.

Note: For co-authoring in Excel Web App or OneNote Web App via SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Office Web Apps must be installed in your organization.

For everybody else

Windows Live SkyDrive is a free (yep –free) service that gives you 25GB of online storage space for documents and photos, gives you access to Office Web Apps, and to co-authoring capabilities in Office 2010 and Office Web Apps.

Note: If your Windows Live ID is connected to a Hotmail account – you now get very cool integration with Office Web Apps for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel file attachments to the emails you receive, such as the ability to view your files in Office Web Apps right from your Hotmail inbox.

Figure 1: To save your document, presentation, or workbook to SkyDrive or SharePoint directly from the applicable Office 2010 program (Word 2010 shown here), click the File tab to go to Backstage view and then click Save & Send. Click Save to Web to access SkyDrive options as shown here, or click Save to SharePoint to access your SharePoint site. If you have not yet logged into SkyDrive from within Office 2010, you see the option to do so from this location. And both Save to Web and Save to SharePoint remember your locations by default.

Co-authoring in Word and PowerPoint

You can simultaneously edit Word 2010 documents and PowerPoint 2010 presentations in those Office 2010 applications on your computer.

After you save your file online to SharePoint 2010 or SkyDrive, open the file for editing in Word 2010 or PowerPoint 2010 on your computer. When someone else opens the same file for editing while you have it open in Word 2010 or PowerPoint 2010, from the same SharePoint or SkyDrive location, you automatically begin a co-authoring session.

Note: If you work on a Mac or work with others who work on that platform, you can also save to SkyDrive or SharePoint from the Office for Mac 2011 versions of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint and you can use coauthoring in both Word for Mac 2011 and PowerPoint for Mac 2011. 

  • See a notification pop up from the Status bar at the bottom of the screen when someone else opens your file for editing while you’re still in it. 
  • You see changes from other editors after they save the file and they see your changes when you save. If someone makes changes to the same copy of the document when they have it offline (such as if they open the file for editing and then leave the office with it still open on their laptop), their changes automatically sync the next time they are online and you then see those changes as well. 
  • View the number of current editors at any time on the Status bar (as shown in Figure 2) and click that notification to see names and contact information for other current editors, and to instantly start communicating with other editors right from within Word or PowerPoint. 
  • Depending on your instant messaging software, you may also be able to view information about current editors and initiate communication with them from the Microsoft Office Backstage view.

Note: To see contact card information (including availability information, also called presence) and communicate with other current editors from Word or PowerPoint, they need to be contacts of yours in your default instant messaging program. Supported programs for viewing presence and initiating IM conversations include Windows Live Messenger and other programs that support IMessenger. If you use Microsoft Lync Server 2010 with Microsoft Lync 2010 (or Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 with Microsoft Communicator 2007 R2 or another application that supports IMessengerAdvanced), you can see presence information and initiate IM or voice calls from within Word 2010 or PowerPoint 2010, and can also utilize these communication options from Backstage view.

In Word 2010

When simultaneously editing files with others in Word 2010, the paragraph you are currently editing is automatically blocked to other editors to avoid conflicts. You see who is editing the paragraph and can view their presence and initiate contact from their as well.

  • You also have the option on the Review tab to block off selected parts of the document so that other editors can’t edit them.
  • When you save the document, if other editors have made changes, you see those changes clearly highlighted in green so that they’re easy to find. 

In PowerPoint 2010

When simultaneously editing files with others in PowerPoint 2010, you can see what slide someone else is editing from the Slides pane in Normal view (as shown in Figure 2). Click the author indicator on the thumbnail to see presence information and access their contact card.

  • Slides are not blocked when one person is working on them, so multiple editors can work on the same slide at the same time and changes are merged when you each save. 
  • If conflicts arise, or if you choose the Save and Review option in Backstage view, you can enter a conflict resolution mode where you can review and accept changes.

Figure 2: When coauthoring in either PowerPoint 2010 (shown here) or Word 2010, see the number of current editors on the status bar at the bottom of the screen and click that indicator for a pop-up list that shows you else is editing. Click a name in that list for a contact card through which you can initiate a conversation without leaving the program. Also notice that, in PowerPoint, you see an indicator in the slides pane (as shown on slide 3 in this image) of where other authors are working in the presentation—click this indicator to see who is editing that slide and initiate contact. In Word, you see the editor’s name in a callout beside the paragraph in which they are editing, and can initiate contact from the contact card that appears when you click that callout as well.

Sharing Notebooks in OneNote 2010 and OneNote Web App

If you already use Microsoft OneNote, you might know about shared notebooks from OneNote 2007. In that version, you could simultaneously edit notebooks stored on your computer network with others who have access to that network.

If you’re new to shared notebooks, think of them as a brainstorming or planning tool. They’re a great way to collect and store lots of different kinds of information (whether you share them with others or just with your other devices).

With Office 2010 and OneNote Web App, you can simultaneously edit shared a notebook that is stored on a SharePoint 2010 site or in a SkyDrive folder with people virtually anywhere to whom you give access to your files. And, you can edit those notebooks at the same time as others who are using OneNote 2010 or OneNote Web App — so you can even simultaneously edit a notebook with someone who doesn’t have OneNote installed on their computer.

In both OneNote 2010 and OneNote Web App, you can do the following:

  • Use the Show\Hide Authors feature on the View tab to see who made specific changes.
  • Use the Page Versions feature, which creates a version whenever another editor makes changes to a page in shared workbook, to retrieve content that you or someone else inadvertently changed or deleted.

In OneNote 2010, you can also search for changes by author. Changes made by others since you last edited the notebook are also automatically highlighted when you open the file.

Note: Because saving in both OneNote 2010 and OneNote Web App is automatic, your changes and those of other editors can update and be seen in almost real time. And if you use Microsoft Office Mobile 2010 on Windows Phone 7, you can share the same notebooks across OneNote 2010, OneNote Web Apps, and OneNote Mobile 2010—and changes made in OneNote 2010 or OneNote Web App sync with your notebook on Windows Phone 7 as well.

Co-authoring in Excel Web App

Last but not least, you can simultaneously edit the same Excel 2010 workbook with other people who have access to the SharePoint 2010 or SkyDrive location where you save the file.

Co-authoring in Excel Web App is simple. Just open the workbook for editing in the browser. When someone else opens the same workbook for editing, from the same location, simultaneous editing begins automatically.

  • Nothing is blocked when simultaneously editing in Excel. Edits are added to the file in the order they are made.
  • Because files are saved automatically when you work in Excel Web App, you see changes from other authors in near real time.
  • See how many editors are working in the file on the bottom-right corner of the Status bar. Just click that indicator to see who else is editing.

Want more information?

Learn about co-authoring, presence, and many other new features in the Office 2010 product guides. Download guides for your favorite Microsoft Office programs as well as for Office Web Apps. Want to learn more about SkyDrive and SharePoint 2010? You’ll get quick intros to those as well in the Office Web Apps product guide or you can check out or

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  • Hi, everyone! Just a little postscript. Since I wrote this post, the Office for Mac 2011 product guides have also become available... so you can learn more about co-authoring, presence and many new and improved features in those programs as well:  

  • Hey Steph, you rock !


  • OK Stephanie, I set up MS Word and SkyDrive. Now I only have to convince my co authors. Thanks for the post!

  • How many Editors can edit the same file at the same time?

  • Hi,

    Thank you for this useful article.

    I am an Office 365 subscriber (E3 Plan) I have the following three questions.

    My firm conducts strategic planning and performance management consulting, along with a range of other services. Our Clients (companies external to my consulting firm that pay us for our consulting services and have domains and tech infrastructure that is separate from us)  are large and small and across a range of industries.  Some are PowerPoint saavy and others are not.  Our clients use Powerpoint 2003, 2007 and 2010, while my firm's consultants use PowerPoint 2010.  Our Clients are external to my firm's domain.  Their browsers also vary in how up to date they are, but most likely use Microsoft Internet Explorer while some may use Chrome.

    A. Needs/Use Case:

    1.PowerPoint collaboration in the form of my firm's consultant managing the creation of ppt presentations by several of my firm's consultants and members of  the Client team, typically numbering 5-15.

    2.The most useful collaboration tool is simultaneous co-authoring, mainly of different slides, although it may also occur on the same slides

    3. Nature of documents produced is sensitive and requires the highest level of security

    4.Client access needs to be easy and have a polished professional look, feel and navigation (e.g. Need for Client email to have them go through a multistep linking of their corporate email to a Hotmail login as was the case up to three weeks ago for providing external SharePoint editor access wont do.)

    5. Minimum client visibility of the collaboration tools, and minimum client learning

    Ability to edit and deliver/present presentations on a Windows Tablet or iPad is a nice to have, as is change tracking.

    B. Three Questions:

    1. In light of the variability of PowerPoint versions on the client side, and that collaboration requires the 2010 version, could clients who have local copies of Office 2003-2007 use only the PowerPoint Web App to address all of the above needs?

    2. Is this best done via my firm providing Clients links to documents on SharePoint, SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro?  Does meeting any of these needs require that my firm or its Clients sign up for preview versions Office 365 or Office 2013?

    3. If the above needs cannot currently be met via Microsoft products, currently, then is there an expected date by which they may be?

    I would be glad to provide any clarification of my needs to allow for the clearest/most complete possible answer.

    Thank you very much,


  • Does this work in SharePoint 2013 on premise without Office Web Apps.  I want people to be able to co-author a document that is sitting on a SharePoint site.

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