Mobile Co-Authoring for Protected Documents

Public Preview Available Now

Message center notification MC337330 (February 28) announces co-authoring for protected documents on both iOS and Android mobile devices. Microsoft 365 roadmap item 88512 explains the new feature as “Multiple authors can edit labelled and protected documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint simultaneously, frictionless, and with auto-save, as if they were regular documents.

Protected documents are those assigned a sensitivity label with rights-management based encryption. Protected documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business are unencrypted to allow system services like Microsoft Search and Data Loss Prevention policies to access both document metadata and content. Encryption is applied when users download documents.

Co-Authoring History

Office online first supported co-authoring for protected documents in November 2019. General availability of the capability in both the Windows and Mac versions of the Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise (desktop) arrived in late 2021. Before co-authoring can happen in a tenant, the setting to enable the feature must be set in the Microsoft 365 compliance center (Figure 1).

Enabling co-authoring for files protected by sensitivity labels
Figure 1: Enabling co-authoring for files protected by sensitivity labels

I’m sure that the new mobile support will be most appreciated by those who use iOS and Android tablets rather than mobile phones. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many senior employees use tablets when away from the office, and those are the people likely to receive protected documents for review. However, even on an iPhone, it’s perfectly feasible to edit protected documents when other users have the documents open. In Figure 2, we see that Word has locked a paragraph because another user is active there. Locking makes it easier to avoid multiple conflicting changes in the same location.

Co-authoring a Word document on an iPhone
Figure 2: Co-authoring a Word document on an iPhone

The AutoSave (synchronization) mechanism isn’t the same as used by the Office online or desktop apps. It seems like the mobile apps synchronize with the server every minute or so rather on an ongoing basis as co-authors input and amend text. If you leave a document open in a co-authoring session and come back to it several hours later, the app downloads the latest content.

Joining the Co-Authoring Preview

Co-authoring of protected documents on mobile devices is now in public preview. It’s not a general preview as you must submit a request to Microsoft to have them enable the preview for your tenant. You’ll also need to upgrade the Office apps on your device to version 16.0.14931 or higher on Android or 2.58.207 or higher on iOS. More information is available in this Microsoft Technical Community post.

Teams Calendar Search

Another recent update that didn’t get much publicity is the inclusion of calendar meetings in search results in the Teams mobile client. Naturally, because it depends on access to the calendar in your Exchange mailbox, search for calendar items only works when you are signed into your home tenant. The feature is generally available to all tenants. You might need to update your Teams mobile client to see calendar items show up in search results.

The search results (Figure 3) look as you’d expect. Search can find any calendar item, and if the item is a Teams meeting, you’ll see the option to join the call (even long after the meeting finished).

Teams mobile includes calendar items in its search results
Figure 2: Teams mobile includes calendar items in its search results

On the grand scheme of things, neither of the two features is especially important. They’re more like fill-in functionality to round out how an application works and to make it more useful. You might never use either feature. But if you do, you’ll be glad that Microsoft added them to the mobile apps.

So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what happens, why it happens, and what new features and capabilities mean for your tenant.

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