- Navigate into a folder or subfolder and click Sync. No need to sync the entire document library.
- Change the folders that you’re syncing directly in the sync client.
- Realtime coauthoring is supported with Office 2016 (C2R build 16.0.7167.2xxx or MSI build 16.0.4432.100x).
Ever been cursed with this pop-up?
On a Friday afternoon, right before close of business, when you need to get your TPS Report submitted to upper management, this can be the most horrifying message a computer can send you.
(Well, maybe just after the newly designed blue screen of death.)
And, oh joy, Word gives you three options: 1) save a local copy of what’s likely an outdated file, 2) get a notification when the person gets back (after the weekend, amirite!?), or 3) give up all hope and press ‘Cancel’.
I can’t think of a better example of a lose-lose-lose situation.
So, why does this warning come up? Well, if you store a file—Word doc, Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation, etc.—in a shared drive or on older (or non-updated) versions of SharePoint, the system limits the number of editors to—you guessed it—one. (This is completely separate from the check in/out process in SharePoint, so don’t mix them up.)
And that’s the reason for this warning. It’s a courtesy (admittedly, that may be an overly nice term) meant to tell you that the file’s currently being worked on—or, more commonly in my experience: forgotten and never saved and closed—by someone else.
As if our lives aren’t stressful enough, I suspect this pop-up puts thousands on the brink of heart attacks every day. Thanks, Microsoft.
Because it can be a real nightmare to deal with this situation, Microsoft has finally introduced a service that allows you to edit files concurrently with your colleagues. And they call it co-authoring.
Basically, co-authoring allows multiple users to simultaneously edit the same document from multiple PCs. For the record, I hate this name. Because it’s totally misleading. But on we go.
If you’re familiar with Google Docs, concurrent/simultaneous editing has been available for years. So, for many of us, this functionality was a breath of fresh air when it was finally introduced in SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013.
Note, everything in this post relates to SharePoint 2013, Office 2013, and Office 365 (including SharePoint Online). If you’re looking for info on how Office or SharePoint 2010 or 2007 support co-authoring, go here.
I strongly suggest you push your IT department to upgrade if you’re still on these older versions of the software. And if you’re in IT, what’s the hold-up? Your users are waaaaaiting!
But how exactly does it work?
Hey, now that’s a really good question. Because the answer is far from intuitive.
Big picture-wise, it’s simple enough: essentially, you and your buddy Mike (Miguel, Mikhail, whatever) have the same Word doc open. Word tells you that you’re sharing the file with someone else. And you’re both safely editing the file simultaneously. In some instances you can see the edits occurring live in front of you, in others, you’ll see them once your application refreshes the content. If it’s live, you see a little cursor with the name of the person you’re working with. And it’s not just for Word. It also works for PowerPoint, OneNote, and, depending on the situation, Excel.
In actuality, it can be rather confusing, especially once you get into conflict resolution. And that’s why some people are deathly afraid of co-authoring. They feel they’ve lost control, that the domino was tipped before they meant to. On the other hand, many others have been wondering why it’s taken Microsoft so long to finally roll this out.
It’s an interesting dichotomy of user preferences, to say the least.
Co-authoring works differently depending on how you’re editing files. It depends whether you’re using Office Online/Web Apps (within your browser) or the actual applications (as in, launching MS Word and opening a document). I’ll refer to the latter option as the “client app” from now on.
It also depends on the app. Co-authoring doesn’t really make sense in some Excel files, so Excel offers limited co-authoring support.
What it does
You and your colleague(s) can open a Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote file and edit it at the same time. Big-picture, it’s pretty simple. The details, however… are not.
Knowing when you’re co-authoring
Sometimes it’s not the most obvious thing when you’re editing a file concurrently with someone else. Office will tell you, but you have to keep your eyes peeled. It’s way easier to tell if you happen to be on the same page, slide, or worksheet because you’ll see visual confirmation of changes. Otherwise, you’re dependent on little notifications elsewhere on the screen.
- Using the client app (Office 2013):
- Using Office Online/Web Apps:
When you see updates
- Using the client app: Whenever you save the file, any changes made by someone else while you had the file open will become visible. Your changes will also be uploaded and become visible to others. In essence, save = update.
- Using Office Online/Web Apps: Updates are almost live, if you’re both editing through the browser. You’ll note a colored cursor that will display your colleague’s name. The color sticks to the user so you always know which changes are theirs and where they’re at in the file. Basically, update = automatic.
- When using both: If you’re using Office Online and your colleague is using the client app, they will only see updates you’ve made once they save; likewise you will only see their updates when they save. (Basically, saving acts as a sync mechanism between the client app and SharePoint.)
If you’re editing with more than one colleague, anyone using Office Online will see instant updates made by other Office Online editors. Anyone using the client app will only see updates when they save, and the folks using Office Online will see those edits when they’re uploaded with the “save” from the client app.
Dealing with conflict resolution
I’ll cover this in a future post. It’s a topic unto itself.
Limits of co-authoring
Check out our infographic covering the size and usage limits for SharePoint. It has some info on co-authoring limits.
How version history works
This one’s kind of tricky. Assuming you have version history enabled on your document library—because, remember, version history is disabled by default in a new library in SharePoint 2013—you should see the following behavior.
- Using the client app: A new version is created every time you save the document. Whether it’s a major or minor version depends on the option(s) you or your site owner have chosen in the version history settings for that document library. In essence, save = version.
- Using Office Online/Web Apps: Even though SharePoint automatically updates the file whenever you make a change when using Office Online—which is why there is no “save” button in Office Online/Web Apps—it doesn’t automatically create a version whenever it saves. Microsoft claims new versions are created every 30 minutes after someone begins making changes to the file. However, actual usage proves this to be inaccurate. Sometimes versions are made every few minutes, and usually the editor that’s “credited” with the version is the one who opened the file before anyone else jumped in. I have no idea why the tool acts differently than what their documentation says. But it definitely does.
- In SharePoint Online (Office 365), you’re stuck with that time interval (30 min, even if it is inaccurate); in SharePoint 2013 on-premises, your IT department can change this. (Source) So, unlike using the client app, save ≠ version.
- But! You can force-create a version by checking the file out and checking it back in when you’re done editing. Details are here.
Pro tip: you should brush up on how version history works, and what the differences between using major and minor drafts are.
Working with check in/out
Co-authoring and check in/out are mutually exclusive concepts. That said, you can co-author on a file that lives in a library where check in/out is enabled. But…
- If “Require Check Out” is enabled on your document library, co-authoring is not available. (Source)
- If check in/out is enabled (but not required), co-authoring can only occur when files are checked in. (Source)
I strongly advise not using check in/out if you want to make use of co-authoring. It just doesn’t make much sense to use both.
Excel and co-authoring
Excel doesn’t have the best relationship with co-authoring. In fact, in my experience, Excel doesn’t have the best relationship with SharePoint in general. This is a topic of its own, so I’ll publish a separate post on this topic in the future.
For best results, use Office Online
No, seriously. If you want to see changes occurring live, or just-about-live, you need to be editing the file in the browser. But, there’s a downside. A good amount of the functionality that you expect in the Office applications isn’t supported in Office Online.
Most notably, Track Changes is missing from Word Online. It’s just not available yet, which blows my mind because it’s kind of the most fundamental of collaborative tools.
Additionally, unless you’re working on a simple table in Excel, you’ll likely not want to use Excel Online: connections between worksheets and macros are just two examples of functionality that will not work in Excel Online (in fact, you get an error when opening these types of files). So while you may be able to see live edits being made, you’re going to be disappointed in every other way.
You can use the client applications, but the updates are delayed. At the rate that I save my files (not often enough), you could have written half of a book and I wouldn’t know it until I hit ‘Save’. Call me a bad user. But that’s a minor issue.
by Matt Wade March 31, 2016
I recently fielded a question from a potential client who wanted to know if Microsoft SharePoint or Google Docs with Google Sites was a better fit for their organization’s document management and collaboration needs. Although this question is pretty straight-forward, the explanation can get a bit complicated.
The short answer is Google Docs/Sites is great tool if you do not have an enterprise collaboration platform at your disposal, and you need to to get a document sharing site up quickly. However, Google Docs/Sites falls way short in providing the breadth and depth of features that Microsoft SharePoint offers.
SharePoint is a true enterprise platform with capabilities that extend beyond document management and collaboration (e.g. Search, Workflow, and KPI Dashboards. If you have a dozen or more computer users in your organization who need tools other than email and network drives to collaborate, you should strongly consider an investment in the SharePoint platform. Microsoft even offers a free version of SharePoint for small and medium sized organizations (less than a few hundred computer users), along with premium versions for larger organizations – sharepoint-deployment-planning-services.
From a document management perspective, Microsoft SharePoint and Google Docs have compelling offerings. Both provide a browser-based user experience for managing documents in a central location and keeping track of a document’s version history.
SharePoint includes a wider variety of document management features than Google Docs, including:
- Metadata tagging to help you organize and find documents quickly
- Check-in/Check-out to prevent multiple users from editing a document at the same time
- Document sets which allow a group of related documents to be treated as a single piece of content that share metadata and version history
- Records management for managing the lifecycle of documents and providing for the ability to place documents into a legal hold state
- Provides for the ability to trigger workflow processes (e.g. approval/publishing of content) whenever a document is added, changed, or removed
Google Docs may be a better fit than SharePoint in some circumstances:
- Google Docs is quite a bit easier to setup and configure than SharePoint, so you should be able to get started in less time
- Organizations with only a simple need to share documents may find Google Docs easier to use
- Google Docs is often a good fit for organizations with ad-hoc teams that must be brought together quickly (especially when team members hail from different organizations)
- Google Docs will likely cost substantially less to implement than SharePoint
If you are looking for a document management solution that supports day-to-day employee and interdepartmental document sharing as well as special projects, then SharePoint will be a better fit for your organization in the long-run. If you just need a quick and dirty solution for an ad-hoc project, then Google Docs is probably a better way to go.
SharePoint and Google Docs with Google Sites are pretty far apart on the maturity scale – SharePoint has been around for over 10 years and is a pretty stable solution for the Enterprise; Google’s Docs with Sites were released less than 4 years ago which is evidenced by a few bugs that bite from time to time.
Both SharePoint and Google product suites include document management systems and the ability to create collaboration sites, but SharePoint includes quite a few additional features. SharePoint is often referred to as a Swiss army knife of collaboration and office productivity features.
SharePoint features that are absent from Google’s offering include:
- Flexible collaboration site templates and structures provide the ability to meet varying business needs of different departments and teams
- Workflow to automate and manage business processes
- Enterprise search capabilities to index content on your network drive (as well as the content you store inside SharePoint)
- Configurable lists to capture metadata when storing documents
- Centralized task lists to replace spreadsheets (great for managing projects)
- SharePoint dashboards can integrate data from other systems to track your Key Performance Indicators
- Tight integration of Documents, Tasks, and Calendars with the Microsoft Office Suite (e.g. updates made in Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will automatically update the central copy inside SharePoint)
SharePoint and Google offerings also differ significantly when it comes to permission management. Google has limited permission management, allowing you to only define who can view content and who can edit content on each site. In SharePoint you have a lot of flexibility regarding the granularity of permissions – within a SharePoint site you can allow people to view some of the content, but not all. Similarly, you can allow people to modify some pieces of content, but not all content. Permissions are also easier to maintain in SharePoint. Access rights for Google Sites and Google Apps are maintained separately, which can sometimes overlap and lead to some confusion or surprise over who has the ability to access or edit content.
The organization adoption level for Google sites is pretty tiny when compared to the adoption level of SharePoint. Google Docs had a few notable customers switch from MS Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint) to Google Docs, but Google Sites hasn’t really taken off yet.
Overall, SharePoint is still a category killer and the clear winner when it comes to document management and collaboration solutions. For good reason, there are over 100 million users of SharePoint world-wide!
Originally Posted by Rick Rietz
The new UK-based datacentre is said to be opening from late 2016, though it sounds like the MoD will begin using it sooner than that.
O365 and Azuze UK data centre coming 2016
At his keynote speech at the Future Decoded event in London yesterday, CEO Satya Nadella stated that customers in the UK would at last be able to store data within the country, allaying fears (even I not actual legal impediments) around governance and data protection.
In addition to Microsoft Azure and Office 365, the UK datacentre will support Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online sometime afterwards. Microsoft will also offer Azure ExpressRoute to provide customers with the option of a private connection to the cloud.
“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more,” says Nadella. “By expanding our datacentre regions in the UK, Netherlands and Ireland we aim to give local businesses and organisations of all sizes the transformative technology they need to seize new global growth.”
He added that the new local Microsoft cloud regions will enable data residency for customers in the UK, allowing data to be replicated within the UK for backup and recovery, reduced network distance and lower latency.
Nov 11, 2015
“Businesses are hungry to seize new opportunities using technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft. “Only when businesses create a culture that empowers everyone to have access to data and insight that drive action will they be positioned to truly transform.”
Nadella demonstrated products and services built by Microsoft to empower industries, organizations and individuals to drive insight and action from their data.
“Microsoft Azure IoT services combined with Windows 10 IoT for devices and Power BI is fueling a degree of collaboration, visibility and insight from data unheard of in the oil and gas industry — from the oil field and operations center all the way to the boardroom,” said Gary Pearsons, vice president and general manager, Customer Support and Maintenance at Rockwell Automation.
There were several components of today’s announcements:
Tools for industries
- Microsoft Azure IoT Suite. Microsoft Azure IoT Suite is an integrated offering that takes advantage of all the relevant Azure capabilities, simplified billing and easy provisioning to help businesses connect, manage and analyze all of their “things.” Available in preview later this year, this new offering will provide businesses with finished applications targeting common Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios — such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance — to simplify deployment and provide the ability to scale their solution to millions of “things” over time. Azure Stream Analytics will be generally available next month as part of Azure IoT or as a standalone service. Currently in preview, Azure Stream Analytics helps customers process massive amounts of real-time, incoming data from “things” and services so customers can predict trends and automate service and responses.
- Windows 10 for Internet of Things. Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will provide versions of Windows for a diverse set of IoT devices, under the Windows 10 IoT moniker. Windows 10 IoT will offer one Windows platform with universal applications and driver models that will span a wide range of devices, from low-footprint controllers such as IoT gateways to powerful devices such as ATMs and industrial robotics. Windows 10 IoT will also bring enterprise-grade security from the device to the cloud and native connectivity for machine-to-machine and machine-to-cloud scenarios with Azure IoT services.
Tools for organizations
- Power BI is a service, now available in the U.S. and more than 140 markets around the world, that helps customers take the pulse of their business via live market operational dashboards, explore data through interactive visual reports, and easily share new insights with colleagues and customers. New Power BI connectors, dashboards and reports for some of the industry’s most popular data sources — including Google Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Zuora, Acumatica and Twilio — will be available soon.
- The Spring ’15 release for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, expected by the end of the second quarter of 2015, will deliver significant performance enhancements, deepen interoperability with Office 365, and with new knowledge management enhancements, improve efficiency and collaboration between workers and businesses. The release also introduces Microsoft Social Engagement, the latest update to Microsoft’s social monitoring tool designed to enable people to monitor and engage in the context of their Dynamics CRM and/or Office application. The intelligence gained from this new solution will enable businesses to be better informed about what customers are saying across all social channels.
Tools for individuals
- Office Delve, now globally available, uses sophisticated machine learning techniques to help people discover relevant documents, conversations and connections from across Office 365. In addition, Exchange Online and Yammer content is now accessible via the Delve experience.
- The company announced the IT Professional and Developer Preview of Office 2016, a key milestone for the next version of Office on the Windows desktop. Office 2016 is expected to be generally available in the second half of this year. Microsoft encourages IT pros and developers from its enterprise customers to join the preview to prepare, begin testing and help shape the future of the product.
- Skype for Business (previously Microsoft Lync) technical preview starts Monday, and the new Skype for Business client, server and service within Office 365 will be available starting in April. Skype for Business delivers an enterprise-ready voice and video collaboration experience based on the familiar Skype user interface, including the ability for Skype for Business customers to connect with anyone in the Skype network.
Customers and partners also highlighted the benefits of these products and solutions and demonstrated how they are taking the next steps to use systems of intelligence to transform their businesses.
While it seems like almost every piece of IT is moving to cloud these days, there are still plenty of reasons to keep SharePoint in your server room – where it belongs.
At the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) last month in Orlando, we heard many of the same grumblings we’ve been hearing about Microsoft for years now: They don’t care about on-premises servers. They’re leaving IT administrators in the dust and hanging them out to dry while forcing Azure and Office 365 content on everyone. They’re ignoring the small and medium business.
It’s hard to ignore this trend. It’s also true that the cost-to-benefit ratio continues to decrease to the point where common sense favours moving many workloads up to the cloud where you can transform capex and personnel expense to opex that scales up and down very easily.
But SharePoint Server is such a sticky product with tentacles everywhere in the enterprise that it may well be the last great on-premises application. Let’s explore why.
The cloud simply means someone else’s computer
One clear reason is that SharePoint, for so many organizations, hosts a large treasure trove of content, from innocuous memos and agendas for weekly staff meetings to confidential merger and acquisitions documents. In most organizations, human resources uses SharePoint to store employee compensation analysis data and spreadsheets; executives collaborate within their senior leadership teams and any high-level contacts outside the organization on deals that are proprietary and must be secured at all times; and product planning and management group store product plans, progress reports and even backups of source code all within SharePoint sites and document libraries.
No matter how secure Microsoft or any other cloud provider claims it can make its hosted instances of SharePoint, there will always be that nagging feeling in the back of a paranoid administrator’s head: Our data now lives somewhere that is outside of my direct control. It’s an unavoidable truth, and from a security point of view, the cloud is just a fancy term for someone else’s computer.
Not even Microsoft claims that every piece of data in every client tenant within SharePoint Online is encrypted. Custom Office 365 offerings with dedicated instances for your company can be made to be encrypted, and governmental cloud offerings are encrypted by default, but a standard E3 or E4 plan may or may not be encrypted. Microsoft says it is working on secure defaults, but obviously this is a big task to deploy over the millions of servers they run.
Nothing is going to stop the FBI, the Department of Justice, the National Security Agency or any other governmental agency in any jurisdiction from applying for and obtaining a subpoena to just grab the physical host that stores your data and walk it right out of Microsoft’s data center into impound and seizure. Who knows when you would get it back? Microsoft famously does not offer regular backup service of SharePoint, relying instead on mirror images and duplicate copies for fault tolerance, and it’s unclear how successful you’d be at operating on a copy of your data nor how long it would take to replicate that data into a new usable instance in the event of a seizure.
Worse, you might not even know that the government is watching or taking your data from SharePoint Online. While Microsoft claims that if possible they’ll redirect government requests back to you for fulfillment, the feds may not let them, and then Microsoft may be forced to turn over a copy of your data without your knowledge. They may get a wiretap as well. And if the NSA has compromised the data flowing in and out of their datacenters with or without Microsoft’s knowledge, then it’s game over for the integrity of your data’s security posture.
It’s tough for many – perhaps even most – Fortune 500 companies to really get their heads around this idea. And while Microsoft touts the idea of a hybrid deployment, it’s difficult and not inexpensive and (at least until SharePoint 2016 is released) a bit kludgy as well. On top of that, wholesale migration of all of your content to the cloud could take weeks and require investment in special tools, increased network connection bandwidth and all of that. All of these reasons validate SharePoint remaining on premises for most places that are already using it.
It’s (sort of) an application development platform
Some companies have taken advantage of SharePoint’s application programming interfaces, containers, workflow and other technologies to build in-house applications on top of the document and content management features. Making those systems work on top of Office 365 and SharePoint Online can be very difficult beast to tame. With the on-premises version of SharePoint, everyone has access to the underlying environment and could tweak and test it. Office 365 requires licenses and federated identities, and doesn’t offer access to IIS and SharePoint application management features.
[Related: 10 SharePoint success stories]
On top of that, a pure cloud or even a hybrid option still may not be any less expensive than using portions of resources and hardware your company already has…another reason why SharePoint is one of the last remaining applications that will make sense to run on premises for a long time to come.
It’s a choice with less obvious benefits – there is lower-hanging fruit
Email is still the slam dunk of cloud applications. Your organization derives no competitive advance, no killer differentiation in the marketplace from running a business email server like Microsoft Exchange. It is simply a cost center – no one is building applications on top of email, no one is improving or innovating on email in a way that would mean it made sense to keep that workload in your own datacenter. Secure email solutions exist now that encrypt transmissions and message stores both at rest and in transit, so security in the email space is much more mature than, say, hosted SharePoint. No wonder Exchange Online is taking off.
SharePoint is not as clear a case here. While you might choose to put your extranet on SharePoint Online or host a file synchronization solution in the cloud, there are enough reasons not to move SharePoint into the cloud for a variety of audiences and corporations big and small that should see SharePoint on premises long after most everything else has been moved over to Somebody Else’s Computer™.
Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, N.C.
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