SharePoint makes working collaboratively from any location easy as pie, as long as you have internet. However, some places you want to get work done, may not have internet such as a plane, a budget hotel, or a coffee shop with a self-important sign that says, “act like it’s the 90s and talk to each other.” Despite our wildest tech dreams, we can’t always connect everywhere. Fortunately, SharePoint has the ability for you to work offline. There are a few ways to do this, but conflicting data from different users can be a concern. That’s why check out is such a useful feature. Check it out (pun intended) below.
Always keep on this device
Let’s start with the simplest way to work offline when syncing a SharePoint site to your laptop or other device. While this has a lot of benefits such as the familiarity of navigating using file explorer, it also adds the option to mark a file or folder as “always keep on this device”. What that means is that selected file will be downloaded to the device and updated regularly so the current version will always be available with or without the internet.
This is fairly easy to do, just right click the file to get the option, but can lead to conflicts if two people work on the file at the same time and once isn’t connected to get the updates. Office 365 will ask the users to resolve the conflict, keeping what they want or overwriting edits. However, the conflict can be prevented if the user checks out the document before going offline.
Steps to check out a file
You can check out a file from , in the browser or by opening the file and going to options. We’ll start with the steps for SharePoint in the browser.
- Start in the browser version of SharePoint and navigate to the file you want to check out.
- Select options (the vertical dot dot dot)
- Towards the bottom of the options list, click more. Then click check out. You will see a confirmation in the upper righthand corner of your screen that the file is checked out.
Within the file is a little bit of a different procedure.
- Open the file that you want to check out in the local application.
- Click file in the top menu bar to open the info page.
- Click the “Manage _____” button towards the bottom of the options. This will reveal the ability to check out the file.
- Click check out to lock the file so only you can make changes for a time.
- This is also one place you can find version history and restoration while in the file.
Checking in and discarding a checked out file
Once you no longer need the item checked out, it’s time to check it back in. Checking in not only makes the file available to other to other users, but your changes will not be visible in SharePoint until you check your document back in. Basically, you just repeat the same steps only the buttons say “check in”.
- In the browser navigate to the same options and more as before.
- It will now have the option for you to check in the file. Click check in.
- A pop up will ask you to indicate what changes were made to the file while offline. This helps with any potential conflicts.
- Just below check in is the option to discard. If you made no changes or don’t want to keep any changes you made, you can click this. The version of the file you checked out will now be available to others.
If you already have the file open and want to check it, you can repeat the check out from within a file procedure but instead click check in.
- From within the file, go back to file and you should be on the info page. This page will indicate that the file is checked out.
- You should readily see the button to check in the file. Click the large square check in button to check your file back in.
- Just as above, discarding will get rid of the version of the file you created when checking out and only the original version will remain. You can click the rectangular discard button to discard your file.
Help! The file I need is checked out
The nature of collaboration is sometimes you and a teammate will want to work on a file at the same time. Check out and check in are manual processes so it’s possible a file can be checked out when two people need it, or that checking back in was forgotten.
The first thing you want to do is find out who has the desired file checked out and talk to them about it.
- Navigate to the file in SharePoint. You will see a small downward arrow indicating that file is checked out.
- Hover your mouse over the file to get more information. This will include who has checked it out.
- Send them a Teams message to ask if/when the file will be available.
If they don’t respond and you need the file, some users have permission to check in a file that has been checked out by another user. (Talk to your administrator for who can be granted this permission.) The process for this is the same as checking in a file you, yourself checked out, except that you will be asked to confirm overriding the check out. This method should be used sparingly as it can create conflicts.
Check out vs real time collaboration
Check out is great for when you may be offline and want to prevent conflicts. However, if your goal is to work on files collaboratively, it may be best to not check out the item. You can even work concurrently if more than one person opens at the same time. SharePoint is a very versatile application with major benefits to collaboration and productivity. Try out check out and figure out the most appropriate time to use it for your workflow.
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