"Best Practices" for co-authoring?

Regular Contributor

I end up attending a lot of "meetings" with departments at our institution that end up as more of a gripe session about how things don't work as expected in Office 365. In many cases, the end users just have incorrect expectations, and once I explain how those things are supposed to work, they're satisfied (not "happy", but at least they understand). 


One common theme that's come up over and over relates to real-time co-authoring. "It doesn't work!" "I can't see what other people are typing!" "It saved HER changes, but not MINE!", etc. 


I explain that there are recommendations on the number of co-authors (10) as well as limits (99) on the same. I tell them that it's important to have up-to-date versions of the apps (which often leads to another line of griping on how IT doesn't keep the user's devices updated) and also recommend that they use the web-based apps (rather than desktop apps) because - in my experience - it's more of a "real-time" experience. There's less latency/lag because it's basically a web page refreshing vs. a desktop app posting/getting data through HTTP calls. 


This brings me to my question: does Microsoft have any sort of "official" Best Practices for co-authoring? I've found several pages explaining how to use it, how to troubleshoot it (if there is a specific message involved) and even in great detail how it actually works (locks and tokens and all that). But there's nothing that says "for best results, users should ... ". Whenever specific versions of apps are mentioned, it basically says "Office 2013 or newer". And I get that Microsoft is pushing the idea of "any app on any device", which sounds great for marketing, but is terrible when end users take that 100% literally.

4 Replies

@Chad_V_Kealey Following this.  We have the same issue.

It would be really helpful to see such a guide. We currently experience issues and they are very hard to log as they are intermittent and impossible to reproduce at will - Otherwise we could properly log the issues with MS.
@AnilK and @Chad_V_Kealey
Obviously, Microsoft is not stepping up on this one, so maybe we just need to create our own Best Practices. I'm not an expert, but these are things I have observed:

1. Sometimes 10 co-authors is too many, especially on large Word or Excel files.
2. Avoid Track Changes in Word files. It causes extremely poor performance and a lot of the errors Chad described above.
3. For large Excel files, it is better to convert the file to a list. We've seen too many critical errors in files with over 1000 rows.

Please add your observations. What worked for you? What did not work?


Our current advice (which has helped, but not resolved the issue)

1) Use Client version (2208 has a fix, but it's not in the online version yet)

2) Ensure that your laptop remains connected to the network (we use the One drive status in the system tool tray as diagnostic)

3) Use multilevel paragraph options (even for simple numbering)


Our real problem is the inability to reproduce any of these errors at will.  They just happen.  I've tried not to extend our consideration to networking and connectivity, because my brain is already ready to explode without the added dimension!