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Check out, check in, or discard changes to files in a library

Applies to: Excel for Office 365, Excel 2019, SharePoint Online, Excel 2016, SharePoint Server 2016, SharePoint Server 2013, SharePoint Server 2010.

If you want to apply changes to a file on a site and you want to guarantee that no one else can alter it, check out the file. Once you have the file checked out, you can edit it online or offline, and save it unlimited times, if required.

After you finish editing and check the file back into the library, other people can notice your changes and edit the file, if they have permission. And, if you decide not to apply or retain any changes in the file, you can merely discard your checkout so you don’t affect version history.

Tip: If you want to edit an Office document at the same time as other people (also called co-authoring), don’t check out the document. Just open it and edit it. We recommend turning on versioning for the library first, though, just in case someone makes a mistake later and you need to restore an earlier version of the document. For more information about co-authoring, see Document collaboration and co-authoring.

Anytime you want to check out and edit a document, whether it’s working online, or downloading, do it in the following sequence:

  • Check out the document
  • Open the document in a supported app or download
  • Edit the document
  • Save the document or upload
  • Check in the document

Tip: Check out these YouTube videos from SharePoint community experts to learn more about working in SharePoint. If you’re managing a library, you may also find these videos on documents and libraries helpful.

Check out files

Some libraries are constructed to need checkout of files. If checkout is required, you will be asked to check out any files that you want to edit. Once complete, you have to check it back in or discard the checkout.

If checkout isn’t mandatory in the library, you don’t need to check it out as long as you don’t mind letting other people edit at the same time as you.

Tip: If your team plans to use co-authoring, we recommend turning on at least major versioning in the library, just in case someone makes a mistake and uploads a document of the same name in a library where everyone is co-authoring. This way, if you lose changes, you can restore a previous version of the document. See Enable and configure versioning for a list or library for more info.

  1. Find the library where your file is saved. If you’re looking at a view of the library on another page, you might have to select the library title first. For example, you may have to click Documents first to go to the Documents library.
  1. Choose your desired file(s) that to check out, and then pick Check out.

Notes: 

  • In the classic experience, locate Check Out on the Files tab in the ribbon.
  • After the file is checked out, the icon beside the file name is partially overlapped by a green, downward-pointing arrow icon image . This indicates to you, or anyone else, that the file is checked out. If you point to the icon of any checked-out file, you can see the document name and the individual’s name who has checked out.

Check in files

Your files and any changes you make to them, will be unavailable to your colleagues until you check the files back into your library.

If you downloaded your document to work locally, you’ll want to upload it before checking it. in. See Upload files to a library to see how to do this.

  1. Locate the library where your file is saved. If you’re looking at a view of the library on another page, you may have to click the library title first. For example, you may have to click Documents first to go to the Documents library.
  1. Click the file(s) that you want to check in, then press Check in.

Note: In the classic experience, find Check In on the Files tab in the ribbon.

  1. In the Comments area, insert a comment that outlines the changes you made. This step is optional but strongly urged a best practice. Check-in comments are particularly useful when several people work on a file. Moreover, if versions are being tracked in your organisation, the comment forms part of the version history, which could be valuable to you in the future, if you need to restore to an earlier version of the file.
  1. Press OK. The green arrow disappears from the file icon when the file is checked back in.

Discard a check-out

If you check out a file and don’t make changes to it, or you make changes that you don’t want to keep, you can easily discard the checkout, instead of saving the file. If your organisation tracks versions, a new version is produced every time you check a file back into the library. By discarding the checkout, you can evade creating new versions when you haven’t made any changes to the file.

  1. Find the library where your file is saved. (If you’re looking at a view of the library on another page, you may have to click the title of the library first. For example, you may have to click Documents first to go to the Documents library.)
  1. Choose the file, or files, that you want to discard changes or, click Files and then click Discard Checkout.
  1. Press OK to finish discarding the checkout. The green arrow disappears from the file icon when the file is checked back in.

Check in someone else’s document

If you have permission, you can check a file back in that was checked out by someone else. 

Once you check-in the file, you’ll get a warning dialogue that the it is checked out to another user. Pick OK if you want to override and check it in.

screen shot of warning about checking in another users file

See who’s got a file checked out

If you require a file but it’s checked out, you can track which user has it checked out so you can contact them. To see the user, hover your mouse cursor over the document’s icon to obtain a tooltip pop-up that includes the user’s name that has it checked out.

To check in multiple files at once

Note: Some functionality is introduced gradually to organisations that have opted in to the Targeted release programme. This means that you may not yet see this feature or it may look different than what is described in the help articles.

You can check files in individually, or in a set. After you check several files in, they will all have the same setting for retaining the check out, or comments. Follow these steps.

  1. In the document library, pick all your desired files to check in by selecting on the checkmark to the left of the document’s icon.
  1. Click Check in.

Note: In the classic experience, find Check In on the Files tab in the ribbon.

  1. In the Comments area, create a comment that summarises your changes. This comment will be applied on all the files you’re checking in.
  1. Press OK. The green arrow fades away from the file icon when the file is checked back in.

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