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Top questions about check out/check in, and versions

Applies to: SharePoint Online.

How to check out, check in, or discard changes to files in a library.

Behind the Office 365 Community scenes, we’ve been keeping track of your best questions about checking out, checking in, and versioning files in your document libraries. We’ve gathered them together to share with you, along with our best answers. Many of the following questions also have links to current help topics for a deeper dive into the content.

Thanks to customer feedback, this article was updated August 12, 2016.

Are my files saved automatically when I check them in?

No, checking out a file simply alters the condition of the file to allow only you to edit the file.

If you check a file out and don’t save it back, your changes will be lost. If you want to keep changes, always save the file.

How you save the file will be determined by the editor or tool you’re using. If you edit a text file online, you need to clearly select Save. However, if you edit in a Office 365 app, such as in Word or Excel, you can exit the document and it will promptly save.

If you check a file out, save it, and then erase the check out, your changes will be omitted from being saved back to the library.

Why can I edit a file without checking it out?

Automatically, anyone with edit permission in a document library can alter a file. However, you can organise the library to mandate someone to check the file out first before updating it.

You must be the document library owner or site administrator or have similar permissions to do this setting.

  1. Access your desired library to require check out.
  1. In SharePoint Online, choose Settings and then press Library Settings.
Settings menu with Library Settings selected
  1. In SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2016, choose Page, and then pick Library Settings.
SharePoint Library Settings buttons on Ribbon
  1. In the Settings page, select Versioning Settings.
Library settings dialog with Versioning selected.
  1. In the Versioning Settings page, scroll down and press Yes for Require documents to be checked out before they can be edited.
Settings Dialog with Yes highlighted on Require documents to be checked out to be edited

How do I require files to be checked out in my library?

By default, a document library permits members with edit permission to alter and edit files without checking them out. To preclude this, allow check out required in the library. You must be the document library owner or site administrator or have similar permissions to do this setting.

  1. Access your desired library to require check out.
  1. In SharePoint Online, choose Settings and then press Library Settings.
Settings menu with Library Settings selected
  1. In SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2016, choose Page, and then pick Library Settings.
SharePoint Library Settings buttons on Ribbon
  1. In the Settings page, select Versioning Settings.
Library settings dialog with Versioning selected.
  1. In the Versioning Settings page, scroll down and press Yes for Require documents to be checked out before they can be edited.
Settings Dialog with Yes highlighted on Require documents to be checked out to be edited

How to see who has files checked out?

A fast way to view who has a column checked out is to hover over the Checked Out icon icon image to launch a tip that informs you who has the file checked out.

You can also insert the Checked Out By column to the preset view of the library. This way, everyone can quickly see who has a document checked out. To learn how to add a Checked Out By column in SharePoint, see Create a column in a list or library.

More information

How do I enable versioning?

Versioning is a way to log a history of document changes that needs a controlled publishing cycle of major versions, or major and minor versions.

Version History with minor version deleted

Turn on versioning

Enable and configure versioning for a list or library

What’s the best way to upload files?

Click Add to Drag Files to Library

Using drag and drop   

The easiest way to upload files is by dragging them from a computer or network folder to the document library. Start by opening the library on your site. Next, find your sought documents on your computer to upload, pick them, and drag them to the space in your library where it says, drag files here.

If this option isn’t shown to you, install the newest version of your browser software or Microsoft Office. This feature needs a minimum of Office 2013, or the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome.

An Open Explorer window

Using the Open with Explorer command   

This command launches Windows Explorer on your computer, but it presents the folder structure on the server computer that underpins the site. Periodically, you may have to copy or move many documents in a library to another library.

Note: Open with Explorer in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2016, or View in File Explorer with SharePoint Online only work in Internet Explorer 10 or 11. It is not supported by Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Mozilla FireFox.

For example, you may want to relocate all documents made longer than a year ago in one library to another library to archive the information. Or, you might want to copy documents from a personal library from one site to another library in a subsite as you update workgroups.

You can also manage the files in the folder, such as copying, renaming, deleting, and so on.

Drag files to library

Using the new document command   

In the Create a new file callout, select UPLOAD EXISTING FILE. In the dialogue box that displays, press Browse to upload individual files.

The benefit of this approach is that it works flexibly with each browser and browser version you presently have.

Related tips about check out, check in, and versions   

With the specific way you upload, remember the following about check out, check in, and versions when they are enabled:

  • If you are uploading a file to a library that requires files to be checked out, the file is initially checked out to you. You’re still required to check the file in before other people can view and edit it.
  • If the library is configured to track versions of files, you usually insert the uploaded file as a new version, which then transforms into some of the version history of the file.
  • If the library enforces you to set values to one or more library columns, like a department name or project number, you are required to still amend the values and check in the document prior to the completion of the upload operation.

More information

How can I add a new document as a version of an existing one?

A way you can achieve a new document being added as a new version is to check out the current one, and substitute all content with the new version. After the checked out version is modified, check it back in. SharePoint will create a new copy, storing earlier versions (providing you have it configured for that). For more info on versioning, see How does versioning work in a list or library?.

Can I get a reminder that I have a document checked out after a period of time?

No, unfortunately from the SharePoint environment you are unable to set a reminder or to find the date that a document was checked out. There are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that will enable it, but they need a custom programme to be written. Consult your administrator or site designer.

As a visual workaround, watch for the checked out icon icon image , or insert a Checked Out By column to the library. To learn how to add a Checked Out By column in SharePoint, see Create a column in a list or library.

Why aren’t others seeing files I just uploaded?

If you upload files to a library that obliges files to be checked out, the file is initially checked out to you. You can view the files, but others cannot and that’s easy to miss. Before others can see or edit the files, ensure you fill in any essential properties and then check in the files.

More information

I clicked a document link in e-mail, but it opened read-only – how come?

If someone sends you a link to a SharePoint file and you click it, always ensure to read the title bar to check if it says read-only before you begin editing. If it does and the library has checkout allowed, you must check out the file. You can always explore the library by scrutinising the URL to locate the library.

But if the file is an Office document, like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, it’s simpler. First, set the document in Edit mode, select the File tab, and then find the Manage Versions button, which you can use to check out the file.

However, it is worth noting that it’s also possible that someone previously has the file checked out, so in this case, the Check Out command would be unavailable.

Should I use my local drafts folder?

How often have you seen this?

Message box that offers the opportunity to keep checked out file in a local drafts folder

The local drafts feature has existed for many versions. Choosing Use my local drafts folder grants you permission to transfer the file offline and clarifies locating the file on your computer, if you must open it later while you have no network connection. Automcatically, the folder is named SharePoint Drafts and it’s found in your Documents or My Documents folder. NB: you don’t see this dialogue box if you pick two or more files for check out.

But times have changed. If you want to work with files offline, then your greatest opportunity these days is to use OneDrive for Business which makes it a doddle to take any document library offline and to autonomously synchronise changes. OneDrive for Business comes with Office 2013 and there is also a stand-alone version.

More information

How do I check in lots of files in different subfolders in one fell swoop?

A library organised into folders usually includes a preset view that presents all the folders. If you want to check in many of files in lots of folders, make a new view that “flattens” the library, allowing you to view all the files in one view without folders. To do this, click Show all items without folders below Folders on the Edit View page. During this time, you may increase the file restriction which enables you to view every file simultaneously by also raising the Number of items to display below Item Limit. This reduces the complexity through relying on one operation to pick all your essential files to check in.

Note: SharePoint Online and Office 365 do not currently allow multiple files when checking in with modern mode. Use Classic experience by clicking Classic SharePoint at the bottom of the Quick Launch bar on the left of the screen.

More information

Why don’t I see a Check out icon in my OneDrive for Business local folder?

If you’ve synced a library with OneDrive for Business, you can still check out files in the browser. You will notice the Checked Out icon icon image in the browser to reveal that the file is checked out. However, no Checked Out icon appears on the file in the local folder of your device because the local folder has no awareness of the check out/check in state of the file on SharePoint.

However, in your local folder you can do the following:

  1. Right-click the name of the file.
  1. Select OneDrive for Business, and then press Go to browser.

You can now easily view the SharePoint library and the check-out/check in state of any library file.

Someone went on holiday and left a file checked out. Now what?

You don’t have to wait for them to return.

A site or library administrator can use the Override Check Out permission which allows check in of a document or delete another user’s check out of a document. But beware of the direct consequences of performing this. Your colleague away on holiday might want to insert the local copy of his changes back to the document in the library and the two versions must be associated, either manually or by using comparison tools, like the ones supplied by Word and Excel.

More information

Should I enable check out and check in of files?

Basically, checking out and checking in files is an approach to locking a file for independent editing and then to release the lock for others. Carefully think about your collaboration style when designing libraries, organising your files, and choosing the best way to collaborate. There are multiple methods to collaborate with others on documents. The following table can aid you select what’s best for you.

Collaboration styleTypical usesBest practice
InformalEveryday team documents, light or infrequent editing, and occasional editing conflictsDisable check out requirement (This is the default library setting) but you can still check out individual files as needed.
Co-authoringEasy, real-time document collaboration with Office products on client computers and by using Office for the webDisable check out requirement and avoid checking out a file because it’s incompatible with co-authoring
FormalSequential comment and review and document approvalEnable required check out

Here are some further tips and tricks if you enable check out in a library:

Check out file
  • Refrain from retaining files checked out for too long.
  • Insert the Checked Out By column to the standard view of the library. In effect, others can quickly see who has a document checked out. If this column is missing from a view, you can still hover over the Checked Out icon icon image to check tip that updates you with who has the file checked out.
  • Ask before overriding someone else’s check out.
  • Avoid editing currently checked out files.
  • Keep in mind that your changes are not presented to others until checked in.

More information

I read and tried everything but I’m still stuck – What do I do now?

If you persistently have problems or encounter unusual behaviour, it could be time to file a service request.

Contact support for business products – Admin Help .

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