SharePoint Document Collaboration: Co-Authoring & Office Web Apps

[In Part 5 of his series on Document Management and Collaboration in Microsoft SharePoint, Matt Milsark focuses on co-authoring and Office Web Apps with SharePoint. Missed a post? Check out the previous article on SharePoint Major/Minor Version Control & Content Approval.]

SharePoint Co-Authoring and Office Web Apps

This is the last post (at least for now) in my ongoing series on document collaboration in SharePoint 2010. For this post, we’re going to take a look at co-authoring and Microsoft Office Web Apps. SharePoint’s co-authoring feature provides the ability for multiple persons to work on the same document simultaneously. This greatly decreases the life cycle of a document as many people can contribute their portion without waiting for someone else to finish.

In a time-crunch, co-authoring can also be used as a sort of quick editing tool; multiple people can review and perform group editing on a document.

Andy Milsark has already provided a quick look at co-authoring Word documents in a previous post. Please take the time to review his blog as well. As was mentioned in his post, co-authoring is a feature available in SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. Unfortunately, you cannot use co-authoring in either SharePoint 2007 or Office 2007. You can, however, use co-authoring with SharePoint 2010 Foundation, SharePoint Server Standard, or SharePoint Server Enterprise editions.

The required technologies depend on what type of documents you want to co-author. For example, Word documents can be co-authored immediately after installing SharePoint, with no other add-ons needed.

Office Web Apps provides the ability to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files directly from the browser, freeing users from having to have the client application installed locally. This means users can make most edits and changes from a remote location. They can even use their mobile phones to view (but not edit) documents. This enhances connectivity, and permits users to continue working on critical documents regardless of their location. Office Web Apps is a great add-on for SharePoint that increases productivity and efficiency. It should almost be mandatory for any business with traveling employees or employees that access SharePoint information from multiple devices.

Some Office documents will still require the Office client because certain features are not available in Office Web Apps. Some documents and features that still require opening the Office client are:

  • Documents protected by Information Rights Management (IRM).
  • Copying formatting inside a document.
  • Tracking changes in a Word document.
  • Macros are disabled in Office Web Apps.
  • Updating external tables or query tables in Excel.
Screenshot: Excel file within SharePoint browser
Screenshot: PowerPoint file within SharePoint


Versioning and Check Out

Before continuing, let me point out the check-out/check-in requirements of co-authoring. In order for co-authoring to work, SharePoint version control features must be disabled first. If you require check-out, edits can only be made by the first person to grab the file. Everyone else is effectively locked out. To ensure check-out is disabled:

  1. Navigate to the document library.
  2. In the ribbon bar, click the Library tab.
  3. Click Library Settings.
  4. Click Versioning Settings.
  5. For the last option, Require Check Out, make sure it is configured to No.

SharePoint 2010 Screenshot: disable required Check Out

Although versioning with co-authored documents may appear exactly the same as versioning single author documents, it is not. True, the end result is the same. However, how it gets there is slightly different. If you were the only author of a document, a new version is created every time you click Save. So if you’re like me and impulsively click <ALT>-F+S then you can easily have eight versions of a document. In a co-author scenario, SharePoint does not create a new version whenever a document is saved. Rather, it creates a new version based on a definable time (the default being every 30 minutes).

Some tips when using versioning and co-authoring:

  • When working with Word 2010 and PowerPoint 2010, it is recommended to use both major and minor versioning.
  • For libraries containing OneNote notebooks, it is recommended to only enable major versioning. If minor versioning is enabled, synchronization errors could occur that prevent changes from being made.
  • Whenever versioning is enabled, it is always recommended to specify a maximum number of versions SharePoint saves.


As I’ve mentioned, Word 2010 allows co-authoring from a SharePoint library without additional configuration. Here’s a table that shows the requirements for specific documents:

Document Type Required Technologies To Co-Author
Word 2010 SharePoint Use Word 2010 client to co-author.
PowerPoint 2010 SharePoint Use PowerPoint 2010 client to co-author.
Excel 2010 SharePoint and Office Web Apps Use Office Web Apps to co-author.
OneNote 2010 SharePoint Use either OneNote 2010 client or Office Web Apps to co-author.

Co-authoring is a perfect fit in today’s collaborative work space. It unifies multiple people and makes them strive towards a common goal of creating the best content possible.

Office Web Apps also fits nicely in today’s work place. As that line between home and work grows ever thinner, Office Web Apps accommodates a user’s need to finish a document from any computer.

Wrapping up the Document Collaboration Series

I hope you have found the information in this blog series helpful and that maybe it triggered an idea for you on how to improve your SharePoint experience. Document collaboration is a feature of SharePoint that is often the driving force behind SharePoint adoption.

However, too many businesses use SharePoint as a glorified file share. That’s not really document collaboration. Document collaboration allows multiple people to effectively create relevant content. SharePoint provides features such as versioning/check-in check out/Office Web Apps/co-authoring that allows you to provide them the tools to meet this common goal.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or the team by contacting As Microsoft certified SharePoint experts, we can make sure you get the most out of your SharePoint solution.

2012-05-08T07:24:41+00:00 May 8th, 2012|


  1. […] engineer Matt Milsark offers tips for co-authoring and Microsoft Office Web Apps. … More: SharePoint Collaboration: Co-Authoring & Office Web Apps ← Governance & Strategy Key to SharePoint Deployment; Office 365 … Sharepoint […]

  2. wba May 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the post. I have one question concerning the versioning/autosave. How do you change the default value of 30 minutes?

  3. Matt Milsark May 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm - Reply


    Thanks for reading. Here is the Technet article that disccuses how to change the co-authoring versioning period. Of course, it requires PowerShell, but it does look pretty straight-forward.

  4. wba July 20, 2012 at 5:07 am - Reply

    That’s what I was looking for…thanks for your help!

  5. madecenik April 30, 2013 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    i have office web application active, but i don;t know why the office collaboration is not working. would you please help how to enable it?

  6. Stephanie August 21, 2013 at 9:16 am - Reply

    we just switched from check in/out to co-authoring which is great, however we miss the version control window where you can select a minor/major version and add comments. Is there a way to enable this or create a warning/notification of the version. We also can’t find a way to add comments, even to a major version, when using co-authoring.

    Thanks in advance!!!

  7. […] (Check out a more recent blog as well: SharePoint Document Collaboration: Co-Authoring & Office Web Apps) […]

  8. […] next article of this ongoing series will focus on SharePoint “Co-Authoring”. This is an exciting feature of SharePoint 2010 allowing multiple users to edit documents […]

  9. Mike October 9, 2014 at 3:42 am - Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for a great blog!
    I’ve got an issue with co-authoring that is a real mind-bugger! 😐
    We use co-athoring and SharePoint 2010 and it works nicely however one document is acting out. Sometimes changes aren’t saved when several authors are working on the document.
    Details about the document:
    DocType: Word 2010 (.docx)
    Size: 26MB
    Version in SP document library: 0.34

    Any ideas as to why this could happen?

  10. guru July 28, 2015 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    co authoring from client word is working but ppt does not.. any idea to fix?

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