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Work with content in lists and libraries

Check files out and work with versions

SharePoint 2016 provides several content management capabilities, including checking files in and out and version control.

Check files in and out

Checking out and checking in documents and other files lets others know what documents you are working on so that they don’t work on them at the same time.

When you check out a file, you lock the file for editing to prevent other users from editing the file at the same time. When you are done editing the file, you check the file back in, allowing other users to edit the file. When you check in a document, you can also enter comments about what you’ve changed so that others can see them.

When you want to check out and edit a document, whether you plan to edit it online or download it to the client program, the following sequence is recommended:

  1. Check out the document.

  2. Download the document and open it in the client program, or open the document in an Office Online app.

  3. Edit the document.

  4. Upload the document, if necessary. (If you used Office Online, your edits are automatically saved.)

  5. Check in the document.

When a document has been checked out, the file icon changes to include a green, downward-pointing arrow, indicating that the document is now checked out. No one else can change this document, and no one else can see your changes while you have it checked out.

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A checked-out document

When a document is checked out to you, only you can do anything with the file. However, checking out a document is only the first step. You still need to open the file, download it, or edit it online. Finally, after you have finished your edits and saved the document back to the library, you need to check it back in.

To check a file out from a library

  1. Go to a library where you want to check out a file.

  2. Do either of the following:

    • Select the file or files that you want to check out by clicking or tapping in the column to the left of each file. Then, at the top of the page, select the Files tab, and in the Open & Check Out group, select Check Out.

    • Right-click (or on touch devices press and hold) the file that you want to check out, and on the shortcut menu, select Advanced, and then select Check Out.

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    Display the Advanced shortcut menu by right-clicking or pressing and holding the file name and then selecting Advanced

To check a file in to a library

  1. Go to the library where you want to check in a file.

  2. Do either of the following:

    • Select the file that you want to check in by clicking or tapping in its leftmost column, go to the Files tab, and then in the Open & Check Out group, select Check In.

    • On the shortcut menu for the file you want to check in, select Advanced, and then select Check In.

  3. In the Check in dialog, in the Retain Check Out area, select Yes if you want to do an interim check-in so you can continue working on the file. Otherwise, leave the default option No selected.

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    The Check In dialog

  5. In the Comments box, enter a comment that describes the changes you made. Although this is optional, it is recommended as a best practice.

  6. Select OK. The file is checked back in and the green arrow disappears from the file icon.

To discard a checkout

  1. Go to the library where you want to discard a checkout.

  2. Do either of the following:

    • Select the file for which you want to discard the checkout by clicking or tapping in its leftmost column, go to the Files tab, and then in the Open & Check Out group, select Discard Check Out.

    • On the shortcut menu for the file that you want to check in, select Advanced, and then select Discard Check Out.

  3. In the message box that appears, select OK.

Work with version history

When versioning is enabled in your list or library, SharePoint 2016 creates a separate copy of the list item or document each time it is edited. With versioning, you can store, track, and restore items in a list and files in a library whenever they change. Although this takes up extra space on the server, it also makes it easy to revert to an older version of the list item or document if necessary.

A library can be configured to keep only major versions or both major and minor versions. Major versions are indicated with whole numbers, such as 1, 2, 3, and so on. Minor versions are indicated with decimals, such as 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and so on. A major version number is associated with a version that has been published. A minor version number is associated with a version that is in progress but that has not yet been published.

Major versions are available for lists, but minor versions are not. Each version of a list item is numbered with a whole number.

When you view a document’s version history, SharePoint displays a list of the occasions when this document was edited and saved, and the author’s comments on those changes. From this list you can restore an older version of the document. The restored version becomes the new current version.

To view the version history of a file

  1. Go to the library that contains the file.

  2. Do either of the following:

    • Select the file by clicking or tapping in its leftmost column and then, on the Files tab, in the Manage group, select Version History.

    • Display the shortcut menu for the file, and then select Version History.

To view an earlier version of a file without overwriting your current version

  1. Display the version history of the file.

  2. In the Version History dialog, do either of the following for the file version you want to view:

    • Select the date/time stamp of the file version.

    • Point to the date/time stamp of the file version, select the arrow that appears, and select View from the menu.

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    The Version History dialog

    Then select the document name in the Version History form.

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    The Version History form for a document that is checked out

Depending on the settings in the library, the document opens for viewing in Word Online or as a read-only document in the Word client program, if it is installed on your device.

To restore an earlier version of a file

  1. Display the version history of the file.

  2. In the Version History dialog, point to the date/time stamp of the file version, select the arrow that appears, and then select Restore from the menu.

  3. In the confirmation dialog box, select OK to replace the current version with the selected version.

  4. Close the Version History dialog box to return to the library.