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There is a downside to taking your documents off your own desktop and putting them in SharePoint. If they're available for others to edit, you may have two or three people trying to edit the same document at the same time. Now this could be good if you're trying to be collaborative. In fact, with the Office 2010 programs you can do something called co-authoring. That just simply means that two people or more have the same document open at the same time, and they can see each others changes as they're being made. But for some people that's exactly what they don't want to have happen. If they're trying to make major updates, they might want to lock the file while they're working on it, and this is what we do using Check In, Check Out.
Now you can always Check In or Check Out a document on a Document Library without changing any settings. I can just select a document, come up to my Ribbon and say Check Out. Click OK. It's Checked Out. We see the little icon there, the little green arrow. However, by default, this is not required on a Library. Now when you work with Versioning, it is an option there, and if I look on the Library Settings of this Library, again, I have to be a site owner to be able to do this. In the Versioning Setting section I'll not only find the ability to turn on Versioning, keeping multiple versions in this library, but at the bottom there's this option, Require documents to be checked out before they can be edited.
Now these things are often used together, but they don't have to be. You could just turn on the required Check Out if you wanted without Versioning, but you will find it in your Versioning Settings. Back in the Document Library here I've got two things checked out, but I don't necessarily know who checked it out. I know I checked out one of them, but what about the other one? Well, SharePoint does know, obviously, who's checked it out, and I can see that information if I want to. What I'm looking at in this Document Library is simply a view of the available data.
It's showing me four pieces of data: the type of document, the name of it, when it was modified and who it was modified by. And this is part of the Library View, and this can be changed. If I go to the Library section in my Ribbon, decide to modify the view, it will show me that there's a whole bunch of different things that I can show: who it was created by, what file size it is, what content type, and here's this Checked Out To. This will be the name of the person who Checked Out the document, so I'm going to select that, come back up, click OK.
And I can see right now that I have two documents Checked Out; one's Checked Out to me, one's Checked Out to Gini. Well, what if I know that Gini just left on a seven-week sabbatical, and she'd obviously check something out before she left. I know it could be problematic if other people are trying to edit it. If I do have the correct permissions, what I can do is select that document and say Discard Check Out, click OK, effectively forcing it back in so somebody could check it out.
Now if you have people doing Discard Check Outs all over the place, there is always the potential to clash over edits. But if you have both the Check In, Check Out required, and good Versioning Settings on, you can avoid almost all of these common issues.
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