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Co-Authoring Excel Documents with SharePoint 2013

August 1st, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Co-authoring documents has been part of SharePoint for quite a while. This feature helps multiple authors work on a given document at the same time while they see each other works in the document so they don’t create conflicts as they edit.

Among all Office client apps (the one that you install with office suit), Excel client does not support co-authoring, only through the Excel Web App can we do this. This has been clearly documented by Microsoft here. The limitation is primarily due to Excel client’s richness in functionality (i.e. – data models in PivotCharts and PivotTables) which makes co-authoring a bit tricky.

The requirement for co-authoring is that the document is in fact stored in SharePoint (on-premise or online in Office365) OR SkyDrive. So if you take the document out of SharePoint (or SkyDrive), co-authoring files will be out of the window with it!! Depending on where the document is stored, there are some similarities and differences in behavior which as been documented here.

Upgrading to SharePoint 2013 doesn’t change these limitations, however SharePoint 2013 adds a few new features to what was already there (see this post here). Overall, there is a better syncing pipeline between co-authors in Excel web apps and there is more visibility over who is online doing “what” in the workbook. Limitations still apply though!! When you view a workbook in Excel Web App 2013, some features are not supported or might work differently, as summarized in this post by Microsoft (Excel Web App 2010 link is here).

A few common questions I get asked by clients about co-authoring:

  • Q) Can you co-author on Excel files stored in SharePoint using Excel clients (2013, 2010, 2007, etc)?
  • A) No. You need Excel Web App and Excel Services depending on what you do in the Excel file.

     Supported software versions

 

  • Q) Can you take the Excel file out of SharePoint (or SkyDrive) and still co-author?
  • A) No. Co-authoring requires the file to stay in SharePoint (or SkyDrive).
  • Q)Does upgrading to SP2013 really help?
  • A)Yes. It improves the co-authoring experience but the unsupported features differences in behavior between client and browser still applies.
  • Q)What are the unsupported features in Excel web app?
  • A)Here is the list. Please note Microsoft is not using the word “Unsupported”, they’re saying features that differ in the browser, client and then in the description they say it doesn’t work in the browser.

Workblook features that differ between browser and desktop

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