by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 26, 2016)
Graeme notes that in Excel it is possible to share a workbook, so that multiple people can work on it at the same time. He wonders if there is a way to create a Word document that multiple users can work on at the same time.
What Graeme is referring to is most often referred to as collaboration—the ability for multiple people to work together on creating a single document. For those using Word in an enterprise environment, chances are good that they've had the ability to collaborate on documents for some time. SharePoint, which is part of the Office server suite, has been available for about 15 years now. It includes document management capabilities, including the ability for multiple people to work on the same documents.
That doesn't help the majority of Word users, though, because the majority of users don't utilize SharePoint. For "the rest of us," we've actually had document collaboration available in one form or another since Word 2013. If you are using Word 2013, you can invite people to share your document and specify what those people can do. More information can be found about this on this old Microsoft page:
Scroll down the page until you see the section titled "Friction-Free Collaboration." As you might expect from a promotional piece on Microsoft's site, they make sharing sound easy as pie. But is it really "friction free?" Not according to many:
It is important to realize that in order to collaborate with others, those others need to be able to get to your document. In the Word 2013 and Word 2016 world, this means that the document you want to share with others needs to be stored in OneDrive, which used to be called SkyDrive. It won't work to make sure that the document is available in other locations, such as a network share or on Google Drive.
The biggest drawbacks to collaboration in Word 2013? It is granular only to a paragraph level, which means that multiple people cannot work on the same paragraph at the same time. In addition, collaborators cannot see others' edits immediately; the edits are only visible after a collaborator saves their document.
If you are using Word 2016 then collaboration is a more "friction free" than in Word 2013. Gone are the big drawbacks just mentioned, with collaborators now being able to see edits almost instantaneously. If you are looking for a good, quick tutorial on how to use collaboration in Word 2016, you can refer to this page:
It should be pointed out that if you are using Office 365 (which generally corresponds with Word 2016), and your version of Office 365 is made available through a business plan, then you'll have access to sharing capabilities that non-business users don't have. That is because business plans (specifically Small Business Premium and Midsize Business) provide hosted SharePoint and Lync servers. If you think you fall into this category—and who really knows because Microsoft has this bad habit of changing plan names and capabilities every six months or so—then you should check with your business plan admin to see how to access those features.
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