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If you work on Word documents with others and your organization uses SharePoint, co-authoring will forever change the way you collaborate in Word. We use e-mail to collaborate on documents everyday. I create a document, send it to you using e-mail as an attachment. You make some changes and return it by e-mail. If there is just the two of us and we have plenty of time, e-mail is an acceptable collaboration platform. But when you and I are working on a document with several other people, and we're on a tight deadline, e-mail is more of a hindrance than a help.
Every e-mail creates a new copy of the document, and it's not always clear who has the most current version, or whether it's my turn to edit. With SharePoint, we can both edit at the same time. It would be great if we could all edit the document together. We've already seen how to save a document on a SharePoint site. We could open this Co-authoring document, either from the site by choosing Edit in Microsoft Word, or we could return to Word, go Backstage and either open a Recent copy of a document saved to SharePoint, or open the SharePoint directly and open the document from our Recent Places list.
With Word's simultaneous editing, also called co-authoring, two or more people can edit a document at the same time. Nick and I are both reviewing the employee handbook. We are working in different locations. But sometimes we'll end up editing at the same time. With the Word 2010, I'm notified when someone else begins editing a document that I already have opened for editing. A bubble appears that tells me that someone else is editing the document. I can click in the Status bar on the icon that shows multiple editors.
It shows me that there are two authors working on this document right now. I can turn on the Navigation pane and actually see where Nick is working on the document. Because I've used Styles in this document, the Navigation pane shows me each of the document sections that's a heading one or heading two. This is yet another great reason to use Styles. I can see there is a small icon that shows me that Nick is editing right here. If I click that section, it's even more specific. Word uses paragraph locking to prevent Nick and I from changing each others work accidentally.
The paragraph that Nick is editing right now is locked, so that only Nick can edit it. A paragraph that I am editing is locked, so that only I can edit it. Whenever Nick makes a change, a bubble pops up to show me that there's another section that he has changed. Updates available may also appear in the Status bar, so I would know that changes have been made. When I save my document, I am going to see the changes that Nick made. Note that the Save icon has changed to a Save and Refresh icon that shows me that there are multiple authors.
So, after I save, my document will be updated with any changes Nick has saved. A dialog box appears to tell me that my document has been refreshed, but more importantly, Nick's two most recent changes are highlighted onscreen so that I can see them. I know exactly what changes he is working on. I just work on this document as I normally would, avoiding the areas where Nick's working, making the changes that I need to make.
On his screen, I'm confident that he is seeing that I'm updating things as we go along. With co-authoring, whenever I open a document, I can see how many other people are working on it, where they are working in the document, and I am going to work on the document in the same way I normally would, perhaps saving changes more frequently than I would if I were working alone, so that my co-authors receive regular updates. They'll only see this kind of highlighting if I've already saved my changes. You actually don't need to work with others to use this feature.
You can collaborate with yourself. If you open the same document on more than one computer at the same time, Word will treat you and you as co-authors. Weird but true. Co-authoring is a powerful new feature that is wicked easy to use. Simply save the document you want to collaborate on in SharePoint and work as you normally do. Word 2010 does the rest.
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