[In Part 2 of his series on Document Management and Collaboration in Microsoft SharePoint, Matt Milsark offers advice on using the SharePoint check-in and check-out process. Missed the first post? Please read SharePoint Document Management: Collaboration in the Cloud.]
Check This Out!
Online document collaboration is quickly becoming standard practice for businesses of all sizes.
Often times, multiple employees need access to create, edit, revise, proofread and review the same documents. Unfortunately, many businesses or departments or teams simply use a file share to store collaborative documents. But when multiple people need to work on the same content, strange things can happen. With a file share there’s no real way to manage who’s working on what document, and as a result it’s very easy in to overwrite the revisions made by another employee.
Microsoft SharePoint helps eliminate the collaboration difficulties normally associated with file shares with tightly integrated document management features. With SharePoint’s check-in and check-out feature, overwriting edits is impossible because when a document is checked out, no other person can make edits to that document until it is checked back in. Users can view the current document, but cannot make edits.
By default, required check-in and check-out is disabled in SharePoint 2010. A user can still check documents in and out, but most users won’t – either because they don’t know how or they’ll just forget. So to best leverage this feature, it’s highly recommended to force check-out. This isn’t a global setting. You can configure one library to force check-out and another not to. The following example uses a Word document. The document collaboration features of SharePoint work best with the Microsoft Office files (like Word docs, Excel sheets and so forth). Although you can use check-in/check-out with any document type, it’s most seamlessly integrated with the Microsoft Office suite.
To enable force check-out:
- As a Site Owner, navigate to the document library.
- In the Ribbon Bar, click the Library tab.
- In the Ribbon Bar in the Settings group, click Library Settings.
4. In the General Settings section, click Versioning settings.
5. The last option is Require Check Out. Ensure Yes is selected.
Users will now be unable to edit documents unless they first check the document out. While the document is checked out, no one else will be able to make edits.
Check this Out in Action
So how does this all work?
When a user views a document that is not checked out, SharePoint will remind them it cannot be edited until it is. This reminder surfaces in different ways. One way is by a message box like this:
A user has to choose Check Out and Edit and the document is automatically checked out for them.
Another way users are informed is directly from inside the application, as shown here:
Just click Check Out and the document is ready for editing.
So now when a user browses to the library, they will see the green-arrow on the document indicating it is checked out. If they hover the mouse over the icon, it will display the user who has checked out the item.
So the user who has checked out the document makes their edits. When completed, they now need to save the document back to SharePoint and ensure the document is checked-in so others are able to assist in the search.
This is pretty easy to do. It can be done by first Saving the document as normal, and then Check-In the document from the client application. In the Ribbon bar, click File. Click Info.
What’s really helpful is that you’ll be reminded to check the document back in if you forget. So if you don’t check in the document, when you attempt to exit Word (in this example), you’ll see a message box like this:
Click Yes and the document is checked in, ready for someone else to edit.
So that’s it for check-in/check-out. It’s an extremely useful SharePoint feature for document collaboration, available in both Foundation and Server. And it requires very little configuration. In the next installment, we’ll cover SharePoint Versioning…