CoAuthSync_featCo-Authoring is one of those great but forgotten SharePoint features.  More often than not, colleagues bump into each other, exclaiming “oh, there’s another user working on this document with me. I forgot Word could do that”.  Yet once you’ve experienced the usefulness of co-authoring, it’s on the forefront of your mind when 2 or more team members begin to work on a document together.
I’ve found that when working with documents that are synchronized to your desktop, you need to an additional step to make sure you are co-authoring.

SharePoint Beginners, continue reading.  Everyone else… jump to the point.

There are some important concepts to understand about co-authoring and documents located in SharePoint. Some of these concepts will be familiar to readers already.


When a document is opened, an application like Microsoft Word remains “connected” to the location of the file.

  • If the file was opened from your computer, the application will remain connected to the file on your computer. Changes will be saved and refreshed back to the local computer copy on your hard drive (or file server).
  • If the file was opened from the SharePoint website, the application will remain connected to the file in SharePoint. Changes will be saved and refreshed back to the SharePoint copy.

A computer or file server will only let one person open a document to edit. Subsequent people will be allowed to open a read-only copy and may choose an option to be alerted when the document is closed by the first person, making it available for editing.


Document Libraries, Versioning and Check In/Out.

SharePoint stores documents in containers that are appropriately called Libraries.

Document libraries can be set to:

  • Keep multiple versions of documents for comparison and control purposes;
  • Require a person to Check Out a document before they start editing it, in the same way you check a book out of a library to reserve your own copy to read.

To be able to co-author a document, the document library needs to have versioning and check out/in turned off.  A document stored in a SharePoint document library can be accessed concurrently by up to 100 people.  This can be done either by opening the document in the browser using Office Web Apps, or opening the document on your desktop using a compatible edition of Microsoft Office.

So to co-author a document, each person needs to open the document from the same location, SharePoint. 


Co-authoring and Synced documents

Document libraries can be synced to your desktop using SkyDrive Pro syncing software. Open a document locally on your computer and changes are saved and synchronized back to the document library in SharePoint.

What happens when two or more people open the synced document and save changes? There is possibility for version differences and upload problems to resolve.

So why wont a synced document slip into co-authoring mode and simply let many people access and change it?  Return with me to the concept I introduced earlier.

When a document is opened, an application like Microsoft Word remains “connected” to the location of the file.

Where is the synced document located? Locally on your computer. That’s the point of syncing. However, you’re not opening the master copy located in SharePoint.

To co-author, you need to open the document from SharePoint.


SkyDrive Pro syncing software is integrated with Windows File Explorer. To open the document in SharePoint.

  1. Locate the document in SkyDrive Pro (in File Explorer)
  2. Right-click the document and choose Copy LinkCoAuthSync_01
  3. Paste the link into the address box of File Explorer and hit enter to launch the document in Office Web App.
  4. From here, choose to Edit the Document on using Office on your desktop.

It’s a round-about way of opening the document from SharePoint.

I think that SkyDrive Pro syncing software’s right-click (context) menu could do with an additional choice.

Open SharePoint copy, Open from SharePoint or Co-Author.





  • Co-Authoring is supported in Word and PowerPoint documents when the document is opened directly from SharePoint. Only the changes are saved directly to the document stored in SharePoint.
  • When a Word or PowerPoint document is synchronized locally using SkyDrive Pro software, changes are saved to the local copy of the document and the whole document is queued up and synced to SharePoint. Conflicts can occur.
  • OneNote Co-Authoring is different in that when you work on a notebook locally from your computer, the OneNote program manages the syncing.



  1. Great post very helpful – Does anyone know what happens if a document library is synced to multiple peoples Sharepoint explorer, they than go offline and work on the same document than re-connect, whats happens to changes?


    1. Hi Julian. Changes are merged. If they are made while you’re offline, they merge the next time you are online. I only expect a conflict when multiple people work on the same paragraph or sentence while offline. Even then, Office will advise you of the conflict and give you the opportunity to manage the merging process, choosing which version to keep.Does that answer your question?


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