Sharing Excel Workbooks in Teams Meetings

Collaborating with Excel Live in a Teams Meeting Canvas

Microsoft 365 notification MC436423 (21 September) brings joy to the legions of Office 365 users who work with Excel with news that they can share Excel workbooks in Teams meetings. This is Microsoft 365 roadmap item 96099.

Participants in a Teams meeting can use the share tray to open workbooks through Excel Live (Figure 1). Teams lists the last five workbooks you’ve used, and if the set of workbooks doesn’t include the file you want to use, you can browse OneDrive for Business or your computer to locate it.

Selecting a workbook for Excel Live to open in a Teams meeting
Figure 1: Selecting a workbook for Excel Live to open in a Teams meeting

Write Access Needed for Collaboration

Collaboration implies that you want to work with people, so before Teams opens the selected workbook, it reminds you that it needs to share the file with all meeting participants. If you agree, Teams updates the direct access link for the file in OneDrive for Business. If the workbook is on a local drive, Teams first copies it to the Microsoft Teams Chat Files folder in OneDrive for Business and then sets the necessary permissions. This is the same OneDrive location used to store files shared in the meeting chat.

Copying the workbook from a local drive to OneDrive for Business might confuse its owner if they don’t realize that the most up-to-date version of the file is now in the cloud. However, this is a necessity to allow Excel Live to open the workbook and support features like autosave and co-authoring, both of which are needed to allow interactive collaboration to happen.

Working on a Shared Workbook

After everyone has access to the workbook, Teams loads the file into the “meeting window canvas” to allow everyone to work on the information it contains. In Figure 2, we see a workbook being edited with the position of the current person who’s actively making a change clearly shown. As you’d expect, the experience is very similar to what happen during co-authoring of Office documents in either the desktop or online applications.

Editing a workbook with Excel Live in a Teams meeting
Figure 2: Editing a workbook with Excel Live in a Teams meeting

Like other co-authoring scenarios, individual users don’t have to wait for others to stop updating a file. The auto-save mechanism makes sure that delta changes made by individual users synchronize back to the file in OneDrive for Business and then replicate out to others who have the file open. Synchronization and update isn’t as fast as what happens with Loop components in Teams chat, but it’s more than adequate when collaborating on something like a workbook.

Dealing with New Meeting Participants

If you add someone to a meeting when you’re working on a shared workbook, be prepared to go to OneDrive for Business to update the sharing permissions for the file. The newly added users will see a “no access” error message (Figure 3).

Excel Live can't open a workbook for a newly added participant in a Teams meeting
Figure 3: Excel Live can’t open a workbook for a newly added participant in a Teams meeting

The spurned user can request access to the workbook by email. Once permission if granted by the workbook owner, they’ll be able to open and interact with the file. I don’t expect that this will be a big issue because relatively few meetings that use Excel Live for collaboration will add new participants in mid-flight. However, it does point to the need for workbook owners to understand that they might need to grant permission on the fly by either managing access to the file in OneDrive for Business or by responding to the email request to approve access (Figure 4).

Access to a workbook granted through email
Figure 4: Access to a workbook granted through email

Client Support

Microsoft says that the Teams desktop (Windows and macOS) and mobile clients will support Excel Live collaboration when the feature launches in mid-October 2022. Support in the browser client comes a little later, perhaps delayed by the need to update the PWA client that’s due to replace the Teams desktop client for Linux in December 2022.

Microsoft also notes that Teams enables the Excel Live feature by default. Admin controls to dictate what users can access Excel Live in Teams meetings will be available soon.

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