Open, edit, or download a file in a library

The method that you choose to open or edit a file in a library (library: A location on a SharePoint site where a collection of files is managed. The library can display information, including user-defined properties, about each file.) depends on what you want to do to the file. You can open the file read-only to view the contents. You can open the file to edit it, either by checking out or not checking out the file. Finally, you can download the file to your computer or another computer you have access to and save it in another location to view or edit later on.

You can open most commonly-used file types from a library and view or edit them in a client application or even in the browser. However, not all documents can be opened or edited directly from a library.

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Considerations when opening or editing a file

The following sections discuss important considerations when you open, edit, or download files from a library.

Checking in and checking out files

When you open or edit a file, consider whether or not to check out the file, and where to store the offline copy of the file.

Checking out files    By default, a library does not require files to be checked out, but your library may be set to require check out before you edit, and your organization may even require it. Requiring file check out prevents multiple people from making changes at the same time, which in turn helps to avoid editing conflicts and confusion. In libraries that require check out, the file is automatically checked out for you when you edit it, if you haven't already checked out the file. While the file is checked out, you can edit and save the file, close it, and reopen it.

Checking in files    If the file is checked out, other users don't see your changes until you check in (check in: To release the lock for editing and enable other users to view the updated file or check out the file.) the file. When you check in a file, you are prompted to enter comments about the changes that you made. Some programs that are compatible with SharePoint technologies, such as Microsoft Word 2010, allow you to check in the file and keep the file checked out so you can continue to work in the file, but allow others to see your most recent changes.

Storing offline files    When you check out a file from some programs, you can work with the file on your computer, even when you are disconnected. Working with files on your computer is frequently faster than working with files on the server and enables you to easily continue working while you are away from the office. You can store the copy of the file either in the SharePoint Drafts folder in your My Documents folder or on the server. You can even change this location in some programs that are compatible with SharePoint technologies, such as Word 2010. Regardless of where you work with the file, the copy in the library is updated when you check the file back in.

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Downloading files

You may not be able to open a file directly from a library. This can occur, for example, when the file type is not recognized. In these situations, you can download the file directly to your computer or another computer you have access to. After you edit or work with the file, you can then upload the file back to the library and replace the current version in the library with the one you downloaded.

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Making changes to a read-only file

If you make changes that you want to keep while you are viewing a read-only file, you may not be able to save the file directly to the library and keep the same file name. You can keep your work, however. You can rename the file and save it to the document library, or you can save the file to your hard disk and then upload it later. If you upload the file later, you can upload it as a version of the existing file if versions are being tracked, so that it is part of the file version history.

Some programs that are compatible with SharePoint technologies, such as Word 2010, provide an option to edit a read-only file, which usually appears at the top of the file. Using this option can be helpful if you first open a file to read it, and then decide you need to edit the file instead.

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Open a file read-only

  1. Navigate to the site containing the library for which you want to open a file.
  2. Click the name of the library on the Quick Launch, or click Site Actions, click View All Site Content, and then in the appropriate libraries section, click the name of the library.

 Note    A site can be significantly modified in appearance and navigation. If you cannot locate an option, such as a command, button, or link, contact your administrator.

  1. Click the name of the item in the Name column, and then do one of the following:
  • In some programs, in the dialog box that appears, select OK.
  • In some programs, in the dialog box that appears, select Read Only.
  • In other programs, in the File Download dialog box, click Open.

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Open a file to edit it

  1. Navigate to the site containing the library for which you want to open a file.
  2. Click the name of the library on the Quick Launch, or click Site Actions, click View All Site Content, and then in the appropriate libraries section, click the name of the library.

 Note    A site can be significantly modified in appearance and navigation. If you cannot locate an option, such as a command, button, or link, contact your administrator.

  1. Select the file by hovering over the selection column, and then clicking the check box. Make sure that only one file is selected in the list of files on the page.
  2. In the Ribbon, under the Library Tools section, click the Documents tab, and then in the Open and Check Out group, click Edit Document.
  3. Do one of the following:

Check out is not required

  • A message appears and asks whether you think the file is safe to open or it. If you want to proceed, click OK.

Check out is required

  • If the program is compatible with SharePoint technologies, such as Word 2010, you see a message that asks if you want to work with the file as a local draft. If you want to work on a copy of the file on your hard disk, select the Use my local drafts folder check box selected. If you want the draft copy to be stored on the server while it is checked out to you, clear the check box.
  • For other programs, you may see a message first stating that you must check out the file before you can edit. Click OK to check out the file first. Then a message appears and asks whether you think the file is safe to open or it. If you want to proceed, click OK.
  1. Edit the file, save the file, and then optionally close the program.

Note the following:

  • If the file is not checked out, your changes are saved to the library and are visible to other users, who may need to refresh their browser to see the latest information about the file.
  • If the file is checked out, your changes are not saved to the library and are not visible to other users until you check in the file. When you do check in the file, you can decide to check in the file without saving your changes. You lose any changes made while the file was checked out. The file reverts to the last checked-in version, and no version history is kept for the unsaved changes.

 Note    Depending on how your library is set up, you may be prompted for additional information about the file when you save it. For example, you may be asked to choose the content type of the file or enter more details about the file.

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Download a file to a library

  1. Navigate to the site containing the library for which you want to open a file.
  2. Click the name of the library on the Quick Launch, or click Site Actions, click View All Site Content, and then in the appropriate libraries section, click the name of the library.

 Note    A site can be significantly modified in appearance and navigation. If you cannot locate an option, such as a command, button, or link, contact your administrator.

  1. Select the file by hovering over the selection column, and then clicking the check box. Make sure that only one file is selected in the list of files on the page.
  2. In the Ribbon, under the Library Tools section, click the Documents tab, and then in the Copies group, click Download a Copy.
  3. In the File Download dialog box, click Save.
  4. When you are done editing or working with the file, upload the file back to the library.

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Applies to:
SharePoint Foundation 2010 , SharePoint Online for enterprises, SharePoint Online for professionals and small businesses , SharePoint Server 2010