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Co-authoring: here to stay

Simultaneous co-authoring of documents is becoming an integral part of users’ working day, but it is bringing challenges with it.

The pandemic, as has been endlessly discussed, kick-started a huge upheaval in remote working. What has been a slightly slower burn but arguably has created a more permanent change is in co-authoring, or simultaneous editing of documents.

Microsoft Teams creates an environment that encourages users to work together – instant chat, calls, and meetings as well as easier access to shared files in SharePoint.

All these capabilities encourage users to spend more time working on documents in a shared environment.

It’s been available in Google Docs for many years and simultaneous editing works very well. However, Google has not yet provided a word processing facility that allows the same level of customisation that is provided by Microsoft Word and that law firms and major corporate businesses expect.

Teams allows users to work together on Word documents at the same time. The file will be opened from SharePoint in the Teams window, but it will default to working with the web version of Word. We have seen documents become corrupted, particularly with multi-level numbering schemes.

We put it down to two main issues. First is that co-authoring is a moving target in Microsoft and the continuing development can make Teams and Word a little unstable. Second, there is a continuing reluctance of many users to embrace the use of (paragraph) styles in Word.

The main thing to do to mitigate this risk is to only work in the Desktop version of Word:

Frequently, issues can be resolved by ‘resetting the styles’, but that is a more involved routine that most users would not know how to implement.

The takeaway from all of this is that this feels like a moving target with Microsoft. However, we expect co-authoring will become increasingly embedded in firms’ work practices.

If you find you are struggling with co-authoring you can get in touch and we can look at options to simplify the processes for your company.

Call Rob Simcock on +44 (0)7885 243 986 or