File Sharing – The Hidden Gems of Microsoft 365

Existing users of Microsoft 365 will be well aware of the ability to edit documents in real-time and share files by various methods in 365, and as a result, may be scratching their heads as to why these features might be considered ‘Hidden Gems.’ It’s not so much the features themselves but some of the handy ‘sub-features’ incorporated into the co-authoring and file sharing experience that many users are unaware of.

Let’s examine document editing and file sharing in further detail and uncover some of the tools and features that often go overlooked and underused.


Document Co-authoring

The ability for multiple users to collaborate on a single document in real-time is a fundamental part of the collaboration experience within Microsoft 365 for many users. As long as a file is stored in a publicly accessible location (OneDrive or a SharePoint site), editing permissions are enabled and the file format meets certain criteria, then a file can be opened and edited by multiple contributors at the same time.

Let’s assume you’ve never tried the process…what is document co-authoring like?

It lets you know who’s working on the document

The presence of any individuals within a given document will be displayed in the form of a ‘user icon’ in the top right and coloured cursors within the body of the document.


‘Comments’ let you suggest edits without altering the document

Adding a comment is a great way to query an aspect of a document without making a change to the text. Simply highlight an item or section of the text, right-click, select ‘New comment’ near the bottom and then start typing your comment. Your comment will then be displayed at the side of the document with a link to the relevant text. You can also @mention an individual to draw the attention of a specific collaborator. This individual will then be sent an email link to the document.


‘Follow-ups’ remind you to return to a section

These are somewhat like comments, but this feature is typically used to highlight areas of a document that are incomplete. Only available in the web app variants of the office apps, follow-ups are accessed and set up in a similar way to comments – by right-clicking on the relevant part of the document and selecting ‘new follow up.’

As with comments, follow-ups also let you ‘tag’ other collaborators.


Activate ‘Reviewing mode’ when suggesting changes to a document you don’t own

Reviewing mode lets you pepper the body of a document with suggested edits without corrupting the underlying text – like how a teacher might mark a student’s work.

‘Reviewing’ mode can be activated from a drop-down menu located in the top right of the document:

Once activated, you’ll notice that any changes you make to the document show up as a different colour to the rest of the text and any text you try to delete will remain simply with a score through it. This allows changes to be accepted or rejected by the document owner by right-clicking the suggested edit.

On returning to a document that has been edited, a message will appear letting you know that changes have taken place and presents a list of collaborators involved.

In addition to comments, follow-ups and suggested edits you may also notice the presence of changes to the text indicated by blue dots on the left-hand side of the document.

With a number of features letting you make changes while preserving a document’s integrity, plus the ability to work on the same document with several members of your team in real-time; Co-Authoring in Microsoft 365 takes the pain and hassle out of document revisions.


File Sharing

Microsoft 365’s cloud storage platforms enable file sharing through various paths and by various means. Share files with your team through SharePoint sites, access file resources and edit documents within the Teams or send file links to individuals within or outside of your organisation – 365 makes it all possible.

The primary vehicles for file sharing are SharePoint sites and the use of individual file links.


Permit mass file access with SharePoint

SharePoint sites are the easiest way to give a group of individuals permission to access a communal file resource. When configuring a SharePoint site, administrators can create ‘groups’ and assign each group sets of permissions; this way distinct sets of individuals can enjoy a tailored level of access to the content held in the site.

‘Visitors’ Group – This group is used for users who require access to site content but don’t require the ability to contribute or edit content.

‘Members’ Group – You’ll likely want to include most of your Team in this group. This gives users ‘edit’ permissions, allowing them to alter, create, move and remove content on the site.

‘Owner’s’ Group – This group has the greatest level of control over the site. In addition to editing content, these individuals can alter site architecture, security settings, add and remove members, create new subsites, and even delete the site altogether.

Viewers’ group – This group is the most restricted. ‘Viewers’ can only view content in office web apps and are not allowed to download content.

SharePoint site ‘owners’ are the admins for a particular site. They decide who to assign permissions to and what actions should be restricted.


Share individual files while retaining control

You can send individual files from SharePoint sites and OneDrive sites to potentially anyone with an email address, both within and outside your organisation. SharePoint site owners, however, can override this ability by imposing restrictions if they wish to keep files tightly controlled.

Links can be restricted to work only for individuals in your organisation, individuals with existing access to the site/OneDrive account or you can choose to give external parties access to an individual file by selecting the ‘anyone with a link’ option. You can also choose to restrict or permit editing, enable/disable downloading or restrict alterations to review mode only, so those with access can suggest changes without altering the body of the document.


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We understand the heightened importance of value for money, efficiency, and productivity in the current climate. Thankfully, cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft 365 make it easier (and more affordable) than ever to tackle the productivity challenges that the modern world presents.

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