One of the abilities that SharePoint Online has is the ability to ‘check out’ a document. Why would you do that? By ‘checking out’ a file in SharePoint Online you are making the file read only for everyone except yourself (and administrators who can override this if necessary). This means you can continue to work on the document without worrying about others editing it.
So how do you check a document out in SharePoint Online? There are a couple of ways.
Select the three dots (ellipse) to the right of document name. Then select the ellipse again from the menu bar that appears along the bottom of the dialog box. A drop down menu will appear as shown above and from that you can select Check Out.
You can also select the item to ‘check out’ and then select the File tab at the top of the page. This will display the ribbon menu as shown above and from there you can select the Check Out option in the Open & Check Out section of the ribbon menu.
Once you check a file out all users will see a green arrow appear in the lower right of the files icon as shown above.
The person who ‘checked out’ the file can now make as many changes to the files as they want. They can do this either online or offline, updating as many times as they want. Everyone apart from the person who ‘checked out’ the file will be able to view the file as it was just prior to ‘check out’, they cannot however make any edits or updates themselves. The person who ‘checked out’ the file will see any changes or updates they have made to the file.
When the original person who ‘checked out’ the item is ready they can ‘check in’ the item by either selecting the option via the ellipses as shown above,
or via the ribbon menu as shown above.
You will also notice that there is the option to ‘Discard Check Out’. This option will basically revert the file back to its original state just prior to check out discarding any changes that have been made since the file was ‘checked out’.
Once the file has ‘checked in’, you will be prompted as to whether you wish to Retain Check in and whether you want to add any Comments as shown above. Normally you simply add any comments desired and press the OK button to 'check in’ the document.
After ‘check in’ is complete the file will appear as normal, the green arrow icon will disappear and all users will be able to see the updated file.
By default, with SharePoint Online ‘check in’ is optional however you can make it mandatory via the Library Settings.
You’ll need to have the appropriate rights to make this change. Select the Library tab from the top of the page to reveal the ribbon menu as shown above. From here select the Library Setting button on the right of the ribbon.
Select Versioning settings from under the General Settings section in the top right of the page.
Scroll down the page until you locate the Require Check Out section and set that to Yes and press the OK button to save the changes and update.
Check out with SharePoint Online is a great way to ensure that only one person is working on a file at one time. It can greatly help you simplify the way you go about creating and managing documents. You can also require all items to be ‘checked in’ via Library Settings if desired.
Remember, check in/out applies to all SharePoint Online plans as well as for OneDrive for Business (given that is also SharePoint).