When working with SharePoint, the term ‘checkout’ refers to a feature whereby users can edit a shared file without conflicting with other collaborators. 

It is one of the useful tools for any workflow in SharePoint where more than one person requires access to the same document or list item. Checking out a file allows the user to make necessary changes without another person being able to simultaneously edit the same item. This avoids problems that might arise from having multiple versions or issues with the wrong document saving over other revisions.

Checkout is also an aspect of the platform we cover in our SharePoint training online and during in-personal courses at ONLC Training Centers.

What Does SharePoint Checkout Do?

In practical terms, the SharePoint checkout feature reserves the editing rights to a file to the person who checked it out. A red arrow within the workflow shows other users when a file is checked out and when it is checked back in and becomes editable by others again.

While a file is in use, users can still use the platform to find a document library in SharePoint. The file shows as ‘checked out to’ so it is clear which library user is accessing it. Others cannot open, check out, or edit the file until it is released.

Checking in the file returns access rights. When a modified or updated version of the document replaces the previous version within a document library, users will be able to edit the content of the most recent version.

A best practice is to add a comment when checking in a file to advise other users of the changes made or new content added to the document they need to be aware of. If this isn’t done, users will always have the option to look at previous versions of the file because SharePoint saves all of them and updates the version number each time the file is modified.

How to Use Checkout in SharePoint

If you want to check out a file, you can do so through your SharePoint document library by clicking on the three dots on the right-hand side of the file name and selecting More, and then Check Out.

You can edit and check the file back into the document library when you’re done. To check in a document when you have completed editing:

  1. Click on the ellipsis (three dots) by the file name.
  2. Select ‘More,’ and then ‘Check In.’
  3. Alternatively, you can hover over the red checked-out mark and click ‘Check In.’
  4. A check-in pop-up box prompts you to add a comment.
  5. Click on the purple ‘Check In’ button when finished.

Changes made while a file has been checked out are shown in the version history, which you can access through the same drop-down list by clicking on the ellipsis and selecting ‘Version History.’

Updating Check-In and Checkout Settings

The default settings in SharePoint do not require users to checkout files for editing. You can add this to the library settings to avoid issues with version history, especially for situations where several people will likely use the same document.

Follow ‘Library Settings’ to ‘Versioning Settings,’ and you will find a tick box asking whether you want documents to be checked out before they can be edited.

Toggling the checkbox to Yes means you can adjust the settings for the document library. However, this function is only accessible to the Site Owner and at the library level—not across an entire site.

In Conclusion

Checkout can be useful when collaborators want to limit access to files while they are editing or if there is a master file that shouldn’t be accessible for editing by anyone other than specifically designated users.

About The Author

Microsoft Certified Trainer and Consultant specializing in Office 365, Microsoft SharePoint, Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Visio, Microsoft Office Development, and Crystal Reports. In Glenn's career as an independent consultant, he provided network design, implementation and administration, database development, support services and training for several firms in the greater Philadelphia area.

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