Co-Editing Documents Online in SharePoint 2010

Go Paperless! IT Training can help!

This is part of a series of articles that will appear over the next few months as part of the Go Paperless initiative at Indiana University.

Scenario Setup

Let’s suppose I’m sharing a description of one of our IT Training workshops with my colleagues and I need some quick feedback to help finalize it.

I’m sharing with colleagues in my IU staff department who know how to use SharePoint 2010, because our intranet runs on SharePoint. The information I’m sharing is work-related. The file I am sharing is a Word document less than 1GB.

SharePoint would work well, in this case. So would Box. But let’s also suppose we keep all of our workshop descriptions in SharePoint. Point SharePoint—for the win!

But. Let’s also suppose that everyone I want to share with is at a conference, and I know they just have their tablets with them—all different kinds of tablets.

What now? To the Internet!

Using SharePoint, your colleagues can co-edit this document with just a browser using the online web app. They don’t need to have Microsoft Word installed. They don’t even need the free Office Mobile or Microsoft Word mobile apps, although those are nice. This just graduated from going paperless to going application-less.

I’ll show you how.

Note: There are many ways to collaborate using SharePoint. I’ll focus on document sharing and co-editing online today, but be sure to check out our more in-depth resources and events related to SharePoint at IU.

Document co-editing online in SharePoint

Document owner – how to share online viewer link

There are many different ways to share a document in SharePoint (hence, the name SharePoint). I’m going to show you a method that will allow collaborators to view and edit the document online at the same time in the Office web app. This assumes we are working on an editable Office documents—namely Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or OneNote. I’m using a Word document in this example. This also assumes you have already successfully placed or created your document into a SharePoint library.

Note: Screenshots and instructions will be based on using Internet Explorer 11 on a Windows 8.1 PC. Generally, SharePoint will perform best using Internet Explorer compared to other browsers.

  • Right-click the name of the document.
Screenshot of the SharePoint document list. Right-click the name of the file
  • In the drop-down, click Copy shortcut.

Screenshot of the context menu. Click Copy shortcut

  • In your email or chat client where you’re communicating with collaborators, type CTRL + V to paste the URL into the message.

Note: Another way to get this same URL is to click the name of the document, which will open the online view. Copy the URL from the top of the browser window. The URL to the online view of the document is usually very, very long. If possible, when sharing, you might want to edit the text of the URL to be the document name or a similar label.

Document editors – how to co-edit in the online web app

Collaborators will click the link and go to an online view of the document.

Using the Find and Zoom tools at the top of the document and the Page tool and scrollbar on the right, the collaborators can easily review the document directly in the browser.

Note: We can also find a Print option from the File menu of the document, but this series is about going paperless, so let’s not dwell on that.

Screenshot of the SharePoint Word document viewer. Use the Find, zoom, Page, and scrollbar tools for reviewing the document

In my scenario, I want all hands on deck, and in this scenario, the document library doesn’t have a requirement to check it out before editing. This means, collaborators can click Open in Word or Edit in Browser and get started making edits. I am going to ask my collaborators to use the Edit in Browser option, but let’s be sure we know the difference:

  • Open in Word
    • Requires Microsoft Word is installed on the editor’s computer
    • Nice for more complex editing and formatting involving images, tables, charts, and graphics
    • Can add comments and use richer review features
  • Edit in Browser – Doesn’t require opening in an installed Microsoft Word application
    • Opens the document in a fully online editor
    • Online version of Microsoft Word doesn’t have all of the features of the desktop application, but has the ones you will likely use the most
    • Does not always render intended formatting for images, tables, charts, and graphics
    • Best for text-based edits and simple formatting updates.
Screenshot of the SharePoint Word document viewer. Open in Word versus Edit in Browser modes are explained.

To edit in the browser using the online web app, co-editors will click Edit in Browser. To free-form co-edit a document like this, for the best syncing experience:

  • Editors should all be either using the Edit in Browser method or the Open in Word method to edit. Otherwise, if one person has the document open in the desktop application, SharePoint might block others from editing it online.
  • Editors should each be focused on a different portion of the document. For example, Sam is editing the Workshop Description, while Jack is editing the What You’ll Learn Or, editors are building the document rather than changing the document.
  • Editors should click the Save icon often to sync their changes with each other. Saving in this context prompts the browser to pull down other editors’ recent updates and upload yours. If editing in the browser, your ribbon will look like the following image. The Save icon is in the upper left, directly above the File command tab.
Screenshot of the SharePoint Word document editor. Save icon in upper left corner syncs content (highlighted)

If you don’t use the methods above, this type of review experience could get messy with editors overwriting each other’s changes, which is why SharePoint allows a site admin or library owner to turn on features like check in/check out and versioning for more controlled review experiences. SharePoint also allows activation of workflows to automate review processes. You can learn more about those features in our SharePoint for End-Users workshop.

While the co-editing experience actually using the desktop application is very rich, because you do have access to the full-featured version of the application, I am pointing out the co-editing capability in the online web app, because of the ability to edit anywhere with just a browser. Also, the integration of these online apps is a big part of how Microsoft Office is developing Office 365.


Quick facts about SharePoint @ IU:SharePoint 2010 logo. Image hyperlink goes to the article "Top five tips on migrating data from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010" on Computer Weekly (

  • Microsoft SharePoint is a web-based document storage and collaboration solution that can be configured in many ways to suit users’ needs.
  • UITS runs SharePoint 2010 as an enterprise-wide service across all IU campuses.
  • This service is available to all grad students, faculty, and staff. Undergraduate students may gain access through a special request by a sponsoring faculty or staff member.
  • This service is primarily geared toward providing departmental intranets (or group sites) to facilitate document storage, team organization, and collaboration around departmental projects and efforts.
  • Personal SharePoint workspaces called MySites are also available for individuals to use whether they are members of a group site or not.


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