(Check out a more recent blog as well: SharePoint Document Collaboration: Co-Authoring & Office Web Apps)

In this edition of SharePoint Tidbits from the Trenches, we’ll say “so long” to the days where documents lived in a sluggish circular workflow of composition, printing and emailing, reviews, edits, editing approvals and publishing.  Recently, the Microsoft Office team has been narrowly focusing on making their products adhere to the cloud-based collaboration capabilities of the future.

In the case of document life-cycles for Word 2010, their solution incorporates an amazing new feature – the ability for multiple information workers to simultaneously edit and collaborate on a Word document.  This process is known as co-authoring and happens in real-time with the seamless integration of Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

I’ll give you a second to catch your breath.  That’s right, one document with multiple simultaneous authors and real-time editing and collaboration.  No check-out/check-in required (although it’s still available) and it comes with countless time-saving and productivity boosting implications for all kinds of business operations.

Sounds great, right?  Let’s go over the prerequisites and how it works:

What do I need to try out this functionality?

  • A SharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010 site
  • A document library on that site (versioning-enabled optional)
  • Two or more users with contribute permissions on that document library
  • Two or more users with Office 2010 installed on their client machine

Ok. Now, let’s try it.

  1. Open up Microsoft Word 2010 and create a basic document with some text.
  2. Save this document and upload it to your hosted SharePoint 2010 document library.
  3. Have 2 or more users browse to this library and click on the document.
  4. Select “Edit” when this gray dialog pops up, then click OK.
    Co-authoring with Word 2010 and SharePoint 2010 - step 1
  5. Enter your SharePoint 2010 credentials (check the “remember my password” checkbox).
  6. Type away.

What am I looking at in Microsoft Word 2010?

  1. At the bottom left, you should see the users who currently have the document open in Word 2010’s edit mode.  Click on this icon to see the user-names.
    Co-authoring with Word 2010 and SharePoint 2010 - step 2
  2. Have user A type in some text and click the Save button.
  3. Now, user B will be alerted that updates are available.
    Co-authoring with Word 2010 and SharePoint 2010 - step 3
  4. When user B types in some text and clicks save, he will see both content changes with a highlighted paragraph of what was just imported.   After he saves the document again, the highlighting goes away.
    Co-authoring with Word 2010 and SharePoint 2010 - step 4
  5. You can also click on an author’s name at the bottom left and begin a collaboration effort from within Word 2010! Pretty neat, eh?
    Co-authoring with Word 2010 and SharePoint 2010 - step 5
  6. A popup appears when other users close Word (as seen above).
  7. If you have versioning enabled in the SharePoint 2010 document library, you’ll notice a new version is stored after every save:
    Co-authoring with Word 2010 and SharePoint 2010 - step 6

What other collaboration goodies are coming?

Office Communications Server 2010 will be released sometime this summer. When this is integrated with your hosted SharePoint 2010 environment, you’ll have the ability to see the online “presence” of the other authors, as well as being able to start a conversation (Email/IM/Video) right inside Word 2010.  Simply click on a name and choose the communications medium to allow users to virtually work together to get documents out the door faster.