How to co-author a document in Word 2013?


Quite often you need to work on a document with others. In Word 2013 you can be much more efficient collaborating, by co-authoring documents in real-time. You can also access your documents from anywhere and edit them from any device using the Word Web App. Let me show you.

Here is a document that I’m working on with two of my colleagues. Ideally, we would all sit down in the same room and work on it together, but since we are not all physically in the same place we are going to co-author this document remotely online.


How to save a document online and share it?

To co-author a document with others you need to save the document to a OneDrive or a SharePoint folder. Click “FILE”, “Save” and then select the location.

Here, I’ll select my OneDrive business folder, this way the document is saved to the cloud, but I also have a local copy of the document synchronized on my laptop so that I can work on it even if I’m offline. Next, you need to share the document with the people you want to co-author the document with.  Click “Share” and then “Invite People”. Here I’ll add Nourah and Jacob whom I’m working on the document with. You can decide if they should have read-only access or editing access. To co-author the document they need to have editing rights, so leave the default which is “Can edit”. Here I’ll write a personalized message that will be included in the email.

To start sharing click “Share”. An email is sent out with a link to the document. Here you can see that the document has been successfully shared with Jacob and Nourah.

I’ll click back to go back to my document.


How to update changes to your document

When you’ve saved a document to a shared location you can see that the save icon looks a bit different. By clicking the save button not only do you save your own changes, but you also refresh the document and synchronize any changes that other authors might have done to the document.


How to do version control in SharePoint?

When multiple people are working on the same document it’s very useful to use version control so that you can roll back to an earlier version of the document if you want to. Version control is turned on by default on this SharePoint document library. To check the version settings in SharePoint, click the “FILE” tab, at the bottom right corner of the “Info” section click “Open File Location”. Now the SharePoint document library opens up in my browser. To check the Versioning settings, Click “LIBRARY”, “Library Settings” and then “Versioning settings”.

Here you can see that version control is turned on and that major versions are being saved automatically for this document library. You can also see that check-out is not required since we want multiple people to be able to edit the document at the same time. I’ll click “Cancel” here and close down the library settings and go back to the document.


How to edit a Word document online?

Let’s switch over to Nourah to see what this looks like for her. Nourah is traveling, she has logged into Office 365 via the browser on a temporary computer. Here she sees the email with the link to the document, she clicks the link to open up the document.

The document opens up in the browser using the web app Word Online. To edit the document she clicks “EDIT DOCUMENT” and selects to “Edit in Word Online”. The document opens up with the editing tools activated in the browser. She gets a notification that I’m currently editing the document.


Editing a Word document in iPad

At the same time, Jacob opens up the link to the document in the browser on his iPad. He selects to Edit the document using Word. The document opens up and now he can edit the document on his iPad using the Word app for iPad.


Co-authoring documents in Word

When I refresh the document in Word, I get a notification that two other authors are editing the document. If I click the little people icon in the Status Bar I can see that both Nourah and Jacob are editing the document. I can see from their green color status that they are online and available using the real-time communication platform Lync.


How to communicate with each other using Skype or Lync 2013?

Using a real-time communication platform like Lync or Skype you can easily communicate with your co-authors. When I hover over Nourah’ s name the Lync Quick Bar opens up and here I can easily select different ways to communicate with her.

Here I’ll click the instant message icon and send a message to Nourah, asking her to write a 100-word introduction. I can immediately see from Nourah’s reply that she is ok with that. Now I want to send a message to Jacob as well, so to include him in the conversation I’ll click the participant icon and then “Invite More People”. I’ll write Jacob’s name, and select to add him to the conversation as well. Now I can send a message to both of them asking if they can make the deadline by 12 pm. I’m happy to see from their responses that they are both ok with the deadline. I’ll thank them and then minimize the Lync communication window.


Co-authoring the Word document

Let’s see what happens when Nourah starts writing text into the document. You can see Nourah’s screen in the top right corner. As soon as Nourah starts editing the text I can see in my document that the paragraph is marked with a grey line and her name.

The section is locked for editing, so when I try to change something I get a message that modifications are not allowed since the section is locked.

To the right in the Status Bar, I can see that updates are available, I’m also notified that updates are available if I hover over the locked section.

If I scroll down a bit I can see that Jacob is editing another section of the paragraph, but there are no updates available yet.

To update the document click the save button.  I get a message telling me that changes are marked with a green overlay. The green color is only shown momentarily to highlight the changes made by other authors. It does not appear when you print the document and the next time the document is saved it disappears.

Here I can clearly see the changes that Nourah has made to the document. After a while, I can see in the Status bar that more updates are available so I’ll click the save button again to refresh the document. Here I’ll mark the option not to show the information window again and click “OK”. The green color from Nourah’s section disappears, while the section Jacob has been editing is highlighted.


How to resolve editing conflicts in a Word document?

Even though it is unlikely, multiple people might start editing the same section at the exact same time, or someone might work on the section while they’re offline. Let’s see how Word manages these situations. I’ll go to the very end of the document by pressing “CTRL + End” on my keyboard. Now I’ll start adding some text to the Closing paragraph. In the top right corner, you can see Nourah’s screen. At the exact same time as I’m editing the Closing text, Nourah is making changes to the same section. Since Nourah is using Word Online her changes are made to the server document immediately.

When I save the document I get a notification that my changes conflict with updates made by someone else. As you can see, my document has been updated with the changes Nourah has made to the document, but her text has mixed with mine. I’ll click “Resolve” to manage this conflict.

When you click “Resolve” the “CONFLICTS” tab opens up, here Word tracks the changes and I can select to accept or reject the changes I have made. In some instances, I prefer the wording Nourah has used so I’ll reject what I wrote and keep her text. In other places, I want to keep my text so I’ll walk through the paragraph resolving the conflicting text. When I’m happy with the changes I’ll click “Save and Close View” and then close the “CONFLICTS” tab. I’ll click Save again, and this time my changes are saved to server copy without any warnings.


How to check document versions in SharePoint?

Now I’ve gone through the entire document and I’m happy about the changes we’ve made together as a team. If however, I need to go back to a previous version of this document I can always do that thanks to the version control. To see earlier versions of the document, Click “FILE”, “Manage Versions” and then “Refresh Server Versions List” to make sure you have all the latest versions.

Mark the version you want to open, here I’ll open the very first document I first uploaded to the server. To restore this version click “Restore”. But in this case, I’m very happy with the current version so I’ll just close down this earlier version and go back to the current version of the document.

By working on this document together as a team and co-authoring it from various locations and devices, we were able to successfully meet our deadline.


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