Collaboration and Co-Authoring in Word Online: How It Works

The Ultimate Guide to
Office 365

One of the most significant components of the evolution of the Microsoft Office Suite in recent history is the inclusion of collaboration and co-authoring in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. While the 2013 desktop versions of these applications aren’t quite “ready for prime time” with real-time collaboration, the Office 365 for Business web apps include this feature.

Today, we’re looking at real-time collaboration in Word Online.

Note: this post was written before real-time co-authoring capabilities came with Word 2016!

Creating content in Microsoft Word is an integral part of many business processes, whether it’s a high-priority RFP or a meeting outline prepared by an intern. If teamwork on a document is essential, Word Online should be the medium for collaboration.

First, make sure that your document is stored on OneDrive for Business or SharePoint, so you can access it in Word Online rather than Word 2013.

Next, make sure the document or site is shared with all authors and collaborators. (Here’s how to require others to sign in to view documents and sites.)

Once all necessary users have the appropriate access, you can begin collaborating. The exact collaboration model is up to you. For example, two users might co-author a document at the same time, with each assigned different sections. Or, a group leader may take the primary authoring role, with one or two remote group members following along from home with the document open.

Check out the video below for an example of how Word Online co-authoring is experienced:

If you’re having issues co-authoring, one of these problems might be happening:

  • The document is stored on a server that doesn’t support co-authoring, like an on-premises server.
  • The file format is not supported, i.e. it is not .docx. If your Word file is a .doc, you will be prompted to convert it when you open it. Be sure all the authors are working with a .docx document.
  • The document is marked as final.
  • The document contains an OLE object, ActiveX control, macros, or HTML frame sets.
  • The document is very large (file size).

Meanwhile, co-authoring is coming to Office 2016. We saw a demonstration of real-time collaboration in Word during the keynote at WPC that made the crowd very happy. The inclusion of co-authoring in the full-featured desktop version of Word surely will be welcomed by users around the world.

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