Work together on documents in Microsoft Teams

Working online means you will often need to share and collaborate on files your colleagues. This can be easily done using Microsoft teams, which allows you to work together on Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

Your files library in Microsoft Teams

Each team is organised into Channels, and each channel has its own file folder where you can share relevant files. To access these files go to Channel and navigate to ‘Files’ tab near the channel name (Fig 1).

Figure 1 - files tab highlighted in Microsoft Teams channel
Figure 1 – files tab highlighted in Microsoft Teams channel

Please note: Make sure to use the Files tab at the top of the channel conversation window instead of the Files button on the left side of the app. That button gives you access to ALL of your cloud files, rather than just the files for a specific channel.

You can use the files library in Teams to upload existing files or create new ones. When you upload a file, it creates a copy in Teams.

Upload existing files

There are two primary ways to upload existing files into your library. Both methods start by going to the files folder for your channel and both methods, by default, upload copies of your files to the channel file folder.

  • Drag and drop – Using your mouse, drag the file from where it’s currently located and drop it on the Teams window among the files. 
  • Upload – Select Upload, then select the file (or files) you’d like to upload, and select Open.
Figure 2 - Files library in teams with Create file and Upload buttons highlighted
Figure 2 – Files library in teams with Create file and Upload buttons highlighted

Any files you upload will be accessible by any member of your team. And just like in SharePoint, you can pin specific files to the top of your list for easy access.

Create a file

To create a Word, PowerPoint, or Excel document in Teams, select New (see Fig 2 above), then select the kind of file you’d like to create. The new file will open in Teams so you can begin editing it, and if you’d prefer to work in the desktop version of the app, select More options to the left of the Close button on the ribbon.

As soon as it’s created your new file will be available for your team members to edit as well.

Collaborate on the files

IMPORTANT (March 2020):
Temporary change in editing office documents in Microsoft teams
For students and teachers working with Office documents in Microsoft Teams, there will be an additional step in order to edit a document. Upon clicking on the document, users will first see the document in view mode. In order to edit the document, users need to click on the options in the top right of the white bar above the document content and select “Open in Browser” or (for users with Office for Windows installed on their device) “Open in Desktop App”. This will open the document in Office in a separate window from Teams and allow the user to make changes.

Files stored in your team’s file library are accessible to every member of the Team. In Office for the web, Office for Android or iOS, or the latest applications from Office 365, you and your team members can co-edit Word, PowerPoint, or Excel documents.

There is need to check files out or worry about if one of your colleagues has the document open. Just open the file and if other team members are editing it at the same time your changes will be seamlessly merged as you work together.

Share with people outside your team

There may be an occasion when you’ll want to share your file with somebody outside your team. If the file is a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file, the easiest way to do that is to open the file with the appropriate Office for the web or desktop app and select Share towards the top right corner of the window. That will open the Share dialog box where you can enter the aliases or email addresses of people you want to share with (Fig 3).

Share icon and dialog box in Excel
Figure 3 – Share icon and dialog box in Excel

Important: To share with somebody outside your team you’ll have to open the file in Office for the web or Office desktop; the Teams editor doesn’t have that feature. Click the arrow next to the Edit button and choose the appropriate app (fig 4). 

The edit button with the choices expanded and an arrow pointing at the drop-down button
Figure 4 – the edit button with options to edit in multiple ways

If you want to share with people outside your organization you may have to click the permissions drop-down (right above where you add the people you want to share with) and select that Specific People can access the file (Fig 5).

Use the link settings dialog to specify permissions for a sharing link
Figure 5 – Sharing settings allowing you to share with Specific people outside the organisation

Once you’ve shared the file, those users can edit the file in real time (unless you unchecked Allow editing in the Link Settings dialog) just like the other members of your Team can.

Information updated from Microsoft. Original guidance available via this link.

Last updated: 26/3/2020

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