Handling conflicts with Office 2016 files and OneDrive for Business

January 31, 2017

Confused about conflicts with Office 2016 files? The latest version of Microsoft’s ubiquitous productivity suite (according to research, one in seven people on the planet use Office today!) includes a number of awesome improvements in terms of user experience and the way we collaborate. However, there are a couple of significant issues relating to the way Office 2016 files sync up with the cloud, and in particular, around how file conflicts are managed.

Since its launch in 1990, Microsoft Office has crept into every part of our lives—almost every home, school and office has some iteration of the Office suite installed on the desktop, and it’s increasingly accessed in the cloud and via mobile devices too (regardless of operating system). With the latest version of the suite, Microsoft wanted to make some important improvements affecting the user experience, but also to the way it is used to collaborate. Unfortunately, some of these improvements have unintentionally led to conflicts with Office 2016 files when you try and collaborate with colleagues and store files using OneDrive for Business.

As we’ve mentioned before, OneDrive for Business—Microsoft’s enterprise file sync tool—is set up in a way that makes file conflicts more likely. And while Microsoft has provided a number of ‘workarounds’ to help resolve these issues, we’re not completely convinced they’re altogether that easy or effective in the long run.

Problems with syncing Office 2016 files

All in all, the improvements to Office 2016 are really good. Microsoft has made it much easier to work with the suite regardless of where you are or the device you’re using. Features like ‘Tell me what you want to do’, will help users with, say, adding a formula to an Excel spreadsheet if it’s the kind of thing they can never quite remember how to do. Similarly, it’s great that Outlook now recommends your ‘latest documents’ when you go to send someone an attachment and the ability to share a document from within the window is also very handy.

From these improvements, it’s clear that Microsoft is trying to do two things: improve the tool generally, but also make it fit more naturally around the way people work. The idea is that people simply don’t work on documents in a ‘vacuum’—in fact, they work on documents with colleagues in a collaborative manner. So, the big focus from Microsoft is, therefore, on making it easier not only to use Office but make it easier to work on Office documents in a collaborative way.

So, it is now easier than ever to collaborate with Office 2016 files, and Microsoft’s most important way of supporting this is the ability to ‘co-author’ documents, where employees can edit different parts of the same document in real-time. Whether you need to write a PowerPoint presentation together, make individual changes to sections of a report just before the deadline or type up all your meeting notes in the same OneNote page, co-authoring is a great idea. Unfortunately, it depends on OneDrive for Business to work—and this is where those problems arise with your Office 2016 files.

Office 2016 files

Why do conflicts with Office 2016 files happen?

If you and your colleagues are working on Office 2016 files and use OneDrive for Business to support that collaboration, the following are just some of the many ways that conflicts can arise:

  • You edit a document offline while others are editing it online. When you sync back up, there will be multiple, conflicted copies of the document with separate changes.
  • Different people are using different versions of OneDrive for Business (get an overview of the mind-boggling range of versions of OneDrive here).
  • Someone has decided to change the name or location of an online file while you were working with it offline.

The problem with co-editing is that it introduces a number of moments when conflicts could happen and introduces further complexity to an already complicated situation. Unfortunately, the only real way of resolving any of these conflicts is for one person to tell everyone else to stop what they’re doing, then look at all the conflicting documents that have been created and have sole responsibility for reordering the final version of the file. If you’ve ever had to do this, you’ll appreciate how painful it can be.

If you have to keep on using OneDrive for Business to edit Office 2016 files, you might find that the best solution is organisational, not technological:

  1. Ensure everyone in the business is using the same version of OneDrive for Business (good luck with that!)
  1. Set an organisational policy that says people are only allowed to co-author documents in Office online (where it’s basically impossible to create conflicts)
  1. This should also have the caveat that whenever someone decides to work on a file that’s synced to their local machine, they make sure no-one else is going to be working on the document at that time

The problem with this solution is that it effectively cancels out any of the collaboration benefits of co-authoring, removing the seamless and easy nature of co-authoring as Microsoft intended it. And this is where Easier365 from Digilink comes in.

End conflicts with Office 2016 files with Easier365

A big problem with OneDrive for Business is that you don’t get access to an interface that just tells you what’s going on with files stored in the cloud and on your computer. Easier365 has an easy-to-use interface where you can immediately see what’s happened with any of your files and resolve issues much faster. It tells you when you have a conflict, and remembers each and every document that has been affected. It’ll then present you with a number of options allowing you to choose what you want to do. You can easily view different versions of a file, accept or reject changes, restore older ‘edits’ or compare and merge conflicted files.

With Office 2016, Microsoft wanted to make a productivity suite that not only works well in itself but also fits around the way people work today. By and large, this has been a success, and the fact you can co-author in Office 2016 is really awesome. Unfortunately, since co-authoring also depends on OneDrive for Business and all its idiosyncrasies, collaboration goes from being a pleasure to a pain. However, Easier365’s simple interface resolves these issues, meaning you really can do co-authoring in the way Office 2016 is designed to encourage.

Easier365 provides a means of syncing Office 2016 files more easily when you co-author documents, spreadsheets, notes and presentations with colleagues. Download your free trial here, to see exactly how Easier365 can complement your Microsoft investment.


© 2017 Digilink