Wednesday, June 11, 2014

OneDrive for Business document sharing

In a previous post I covered how basic document collaboration and co-authoring worked with OneDrive for Business. That was in response to this question:

Does OneDrive provide any file locking at all? I.e., if two people open the same file at the same time, does it manage locking to prevent both updating the same file with conflicting updates, or does is simply provide collision notification later?

A follow question on from that was:

How is offline/synchronized file access reconciled with shared access (if at all)?

So let me address that one in this post.

If you followed along with the previous post you will know that we have two users working on a document from OneDrive for Business.

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Robert Crane has a Word document in his OneDrive for Business in Office 365 called ‘cloud qualification worksheet’ that he has shared with Richard Dawson who is a member of the same Office 365 tenant.

The previous post covered how they where able to work together on the document using both Office Online and Office on the desktop as well as mixing and matching between all of the options.

Now what happens if Robert elects to sync that Word document to his desktop and work on it there. Let’s see.

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As you can see above the document in question is synced to the desktop using the OneDrive for Business desktop app. You’ll notice that it is all up to date since it has a green check mark over the type icon.

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If Robert right clicks on the file he received the context sensitive menu shown. He select’s Edit.

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This opens the document in Word as normal for Robert. He can now start editing it.

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As before, Richard now see multiple people working on the document (top right) and see that the paragraph being edited by Robert using Word is ‘locked’ (i.e. Richard can’t edit this area until Robert saves his changes) when he starts working on the document also.

Richard is free to change any other part of the document.

Let’s now return to Robert’s desktop .

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When Richard starts making changes using Word Online Robert receives notification of this in his desktop document as well a corresponding ‘lock’ on the paragraph Richard is working with using Office Online in a browser as shown above. This means Robert can’t change that area that Richard is working on until Richard is complete and Robert saves and ‘refreshes’ his document.

You will also notice a little globe next to Richard name here in Robert’s version indicating Richard is editing ‘online’ (i.e. using Office Online). If you also mouse over Richard’s name you might see the message that updates are available and you should refresh the document. This means Richard has made changes and to get the latest version Robert should save and ‘refresh’.

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Since Richard is using Office Online any changes he makes are automatically saved and the document in OneDrive for Business is also updated. You can tell when Office Online saves are complete by looking at the bottom of the window as shown above where it says saved.

Once these online updates are saved they are automatically available to others. If those people are also using Office Online they will see the changes immediately. If they are working ‘offline’ using Office for the desktop they will need to save and refresh their document to see the changes.

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When they do so they will see the above message in their desktop application. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear in my testing that you see if overlay if one of the editors is using Office Online.

If Richard now opens the document in Word both users will get a similar experience to what was outlined in the previous post with desktop to desktop editing, so I won’t revisit that here.

Thus in summary, using the OneDrive for Business desktop app to sync files locally and opening and editing from this location while online is pretty much an identical experience to what happens if you open and edit a document directly from the browser. It allows you and others to work on the document together at the same time while keeping up to date.

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You will notice if you right mouse click on the file in your OneDrive for Business location on your desktop there is a OneDrive for Business menu option as shown above. Basically the options available there simply take you directly to you OneDrive for Business in a browser to allow you to perform the selection.

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Thus, if I select Share from this menu all it does it take me directly to the Share option for that file in my OneDrive for Business in a browser (I’ll also need to login to Office 365 if I haven’t already).

So, the OneDrive for Business desktop client app allows you to synchronize you files from your OneDrive for Business location in Office 365 to your desktop. When you work with these desktop sync’ed files you get very much the same co-authoring experience you would if you had opened the documents directly from a browser. Any command menu shortcuts redirect you back to browser to complete.

So now the question is what happens with this synchronization process when one of the authors is offline and makes changes? That’ll be the subject of an upcoming post so stay tuned.