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Excel 2019: Simultaneously Edit the Same Workbook in Office 365


March 07, 2019 - by Bill Jelen

Excel Simultaneously Edit the Same Workbook in Office 365. Photo Credit: Perry Grone at Unsplash.com

For decades, some people have been wanting a better way to have multiple people in the same workbook at the same time. The old Shared Workbook functionality was awkward. People resorted to only one person having write access at a time", which led to someone opening the file and then forgetting to close it before going for a two-hour lunch and tying up the file that whole time.

After Google's spreadsheet product began offering the ability for multiple people to edit the same worksheet, the Excel team spent over two years developing a feature that they call co-authoring. The feature was released to Office 365 customers in the summer of 2017.

The feature works well once you get it set up. But it is difficult to figure out all of the steps to allow multiple people to use Excel on their computers instead of having some people stuck using Excel online.

To start, choose one person to be the owner of the workbook. This person should already have a One Drive For Business or SharePoint Online folder set up. The owner of the document should use File, Save As and choose to save the document in either OneDrive or SharePoint Online.


The owner of the workbook clicks the Share icon in the top right corner of Excel.

The top right of the Excel window offers icons for Share and Comments. Click Share.

The Share panel asks you to invite people by e-mail address.

The Share pane says Invite People and offers an icon where you can choose from your Contacts.

But if you look at the bottom of the panel, you can generate a sharing link.

At the bottom of the Share pane are two choices: Send as Attachment and Get a Sharing Link. Choose Get a Sharing Link.

Generate a sharing link where anyone with the link can edit the workbook.

Copy the link and send it to others on your team.

The Share Panel offers an Edit Link and a View-Only Link. Click the button to create either (or both) link. Once you create the link, you will see it is insanely long (https://1drv.ms/s/aksldsjasjdskjsajaldkladjkl. Instead of trying to type the link, use the Copy button that appears to the right of the link.

The next step is the annoying part. When they follow the link, they will be taken as a guest to Excel Online. The spreadsheet will appear and they can edit in Excel Online. I talked to people from one company who stopped at this point. One person (the workbook owner) would edit in Excel and everyone else was stuck in Excel Online.

Caution

As shown below, the "Edit in Browser" button is very prominent and it is what you are likely to click. In desperation, you might try clicking Download, but this removes the ability to co-author. Not so obvious in the top right corner is the Sign In button.

This figure shows the workbook in Excel Online. A big icon says "Edit in Browser", but you don't want this one. The next icon says Download and you definitely don't want that one. Far to the right is a button to Sign In. That is what you have to do first.

For the other co-authors to use the workbook in the real version of Excel running on a PC, they have to first Sign In to Excel online. Use the credentials that are shown in Excel under File, Account.

Once they have signed in, then the Edit Workbook drop-down menu appears. Open the menu and choose Edit in Excel. This is the only way to have everyone co-author and use the real desktop Excel instead of Excel Online.

While you and others are working in a document, your active cell will be outlined in green. The active cells for others will be other colors. If you want to know who is editing a cell, hover over that cell.

This shows an Excel worksheet with three cell pointers. One in Green is your active cell. Two other cell pointers show where your co-workers are working.

Co-authoring will work fine provided everyone avoids editing the same cell at the same time.

When someone (probably your manager), dives in to edit a cell that you are already editing, then a confusing set of rules decides who's edit wins. Rather than dealing with these rules, be happy that co-authoring mostly works and have everyone agree not to edit the same cell at the same time.

Co-authoring is a whole new experience. There are good things and bad things that you need to get used to when you are co-authoring.

Title Photo: Perry Grone at Unsplash.com


Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
Microsoft Excel 2019 Inside Out

Dive into Microsoft Excel 2019–and really put your spreadsheet expertise to work. This supremely organized reference packs hundreds of timesaving solutions, tips, and workarounds–all you need to make the most of Excel’s most powerful tools for analyzing data and making better decisions.