How to get Office 365 document sharing to actually work

Office 365, Office 2016, and OneDrive have finally come together across Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and the web -- but you still need a guide to making it all work

You know how in the movies the monster lopes along yet always somehow catches the screaming girl who's running away from it? That's been the story of Office 365, Microsoft Office, and OneDrive, the three pillars of Microsoft's attempt to move its productivity suite into a collaboration tool, both across users and across devices. But now, after years of progress and piecemeal rollouts, Microsoft has finally pulled together the pieces into a cohesive package and delivered on the original collaboration promise.

Well, mostly -- the tools still have gaps, but the main issue is deadly practical: It's not obvious how to use them together, so many users can't capitalize on the collaboration promise, though they now have the tools to do it.

Office 2016 makes it very easy to share documents, whether for collaboration or library purposes, such as making a manual available to your team. Office 2016 also makes it easy for individuals to access documents stored in their OneDrive cloud storage accounts from multiple computers, tablets, and even smartphones.

If you install Microsoft’s OneDrive app, you can access your documents -- any files, in fact -- from any application, not only Office 2016 ones, from any of your devices. You can also share those files with anyone using the OneDrive Online web app -- again, whether or not they are Office 2016 documents.

No doubt, Office 365 offers a lot of collaboration and work-from-anywhere potential. But it’s not always clear how to tap it.

Welcome to InfoWorld's comprehensive Office 365 sharing how-to. The following guide will help you and your employees take full advantage of the Office 365 plan you've paid for. Here, for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android, I break down how to use the sharing tools available in Office 365, Office 2016, and OneDrive.

Note that Windows 10 screenshots are used throughout this guide unless the tools work differently on other platforms. Microsoft has made many of the features common across Windows 7 and later, OS X Yosemite and later versions of MacOS, iOS 8 and later, and Android 5.0 Lollipop and later, as well as via the major browsers.

But not all features are universally available, and not all features work the same on all platforms. Android users in particular face functional shortcomings, while Windows users (usually) get all the bells and whistles. Microsoft's vision of universal apps still has a long way to go.

My company's Office 365 deployment uses the E3 plan, which covers all these tools. Other plans may lack some capabilities or offer additional features. Also, each business can enable or restrict functionality for its users, so some capabilities I cover in this guide may not be available in your deployment -- take that up with IT, not me.

Despite confusing setup issues, functional inconsistencies across platforms, and not-fully-baked permissions management in Office 365 for document sharing, I strongly recommend you adopt these capabilities in your work environment.

Once you get past the initial hurdles, you'll find it's a very powerful tool to work easily across multiple devices and to share with other users. If you've used Google Docs, you'll understand its power. Office 365 brings that sharing power to world-class productivity tools, a combination that is unbeatable today.

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Galen Gruman

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