One of the big advantages of Microsoft 365 is its range of collaboration tools. As a cloud-based subscription service, it enables people to work together in real-time and across multiple devices. 

Before you can even think about collaborating though, you'll need to share the relevant files. Here's how to share documents on Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with the same process available in apps like OneNote and Publisher. 

A desktop PC or laptop is the most common place to work together remotely, but there's similar functionality on mobile and even through the Microsoft Teams app. 

How to collaborate on files on desktop

While there are more features available on the desktop Office apps than the web equivalent, the collaboration tools remain much the same. 

Open the file that you have shared, or has been shared with you.

If you have permission to edit, just start typing and the information you enter will appear for other people.

You may only have the ability to comment:

  1. Highlight any text you'd like to make a comment about and right-click
  2. Choose 'New Comment' and type out what you'd like to say. You can also use the @ key to tag a specific person that the document is also shared with
    Add comment Microsoft Word
  3. The owner/s of the document can then reply, delete or mark as resolved

Some documents will be set to view-only, which means you can read the document but not make any changes. To edit, you'll have to create a separate copy for yourself, but any subsequent changes won't be seen by other people unless you share that with them separately. 

How to collaborate on files on mobile

The sharing process is largely the same as on desktop, but features are located in slightly different places. The first thing you'll notice is the four buttons at the top of the screen when you open a document. 

Microsoft Word mobile buttons

To start editing, click the first icon from the left which looks like a pen. The magnifying glass allows you to search within the document, while the next icon switches between print and mobile view (you can edit from both). Sharing, saving and print options are located towards the right of the screen. 

To comment, the easiest way is to highlight the text while in mobile view and choose 'New Comment'. This works in much the same way as the desktop version. Documents that are read-only will usually display in print view, although you may not need to open the associated app to read it. 

How to collaborate on files using Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is designed to be a hub for all your collaborative needs, and this extends to editing documents right from within the desktop or mobile app. 

  1. Open the Teams app and navigate to the channel (or create a new private conversation) where you'd like to share it
  2. In the general chat for that group, click the paperclip icon below the text box to attach a file
  3. Once uploaded, hit enter to share that file with the group
  4. You should now see the message that you've just sent, with a link to the document. Click the three dots to the left of the file and choose 'Edit in Teams'
  5. You'll now see a web version of Word (or whichever Office app you're using), with changes saved in real-time and the ability to display a conversation at the same time
    Edit document Microsoft Teams

Don't want to commit to a Microsoft 365 subscription? Here's how to get Word, Excel and PowerPoint for free.