How to Share an Excel File

Share using co-authoring or the shared workbook feature

With shared Microsoft Excel workbooks, you can collaborate with others by adding or modifying data, formulas, and formatting on-the-fly from multiple locations and devices. Here's how to share an Excel file in all versions of Microsoft Excel.

The instructions in this article apply to Excel in Microsoft 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, and Excel Online.

Share an Excel File in Microsoft 365 or Excel 2019

Newer versions of Excel replaced the Shared Workbook feature with a service called co-authoring. It allows for similar collaboration and offers advanced tools that aren't available in older versions of Excel.

If you use Microsoft Office, you may have an active OneDrive account. If not, or if you're unsure, sign up for OneDrive before continuing. The only exception is if you intend to share an Excel file hosted on a SharePoint Online library or internal network, in which case, you don't need a OneDrive account.

Before you can share a spreadsheet for co-authoring purposes, you must save it in the XLSX, XLSM, or XLSB format.

  1. Open the Excel workbook you wish to share.

  2. Select Share, located in the upper-right corner of the screen and below the Search Sheet bar.

    The Share button in Excel
  3. In the Share dialog box, select Sign In.

    screenshot of the Excel Share dialog

    If you're signed in to your Microsoft account, go to step 6.

  4. When prompted for your Microsoft account credentials, follow the on-screen instructions to complete the authentication process.

    screenshot of the Microsoft account authentication window
  5. Once signed in, return to the main Excel window and select Share again.

  6. In the Name field, enter a title for the shared workbook.

    screenshot of the Excel Share window
  7. Select the Place drop-down menu to choose where to share the file, for example, OneDrive. In most cases, this is the preferred location unless you use a SharePoint library or an internal network location.

    screenshot of the Excel Share window
  8. Select Save.

    The Save button
  9. The file uploads to the repository you chose in step 7. Select Share.

  10. In the Sharing Options pop-up list, select Invite People.

    You don't have to share the workbook for collaboration purposes. If you'd rather share a read-only version, select Send a Copy.

    The Invite People option
  11. In the Invite People dialog, type the email addresses of the people you want to share the workbook with. Separate each email address with a comma.

    screenshot of Excel Invite People window

    You can type names from your contacts in place of email addresses. In this case, you're prompted to grant Excel access to the corresponding application. 

  12. Enter a message for the recipients, if desired.

  13. The Can Edit option, accompanied by a check box, is disabled by default for precautionary purposes and dictates that the recipients can't modify the Excel file. To remove this read-only restriction, select the check box so that the check mark appears.

    The "Can Edit" button
  14. Select Share. Your recipients are notified that a workbook has been shared with them.

How to Share a Workbook in Excel Online

Just like Excel for Microsoft 365 and Excel 2019, the web-based version of Excel uses the co-authoring features in place of what used to be known as Shared Workbooks.

  1. Go to Excel Online in a web browser and open the workbook you want to share.

  2. Select Share, located in the upper-right corner of the browser window to display the Invite People dialog box.

    The Share button in Excel Online
  3. In the To field, type the email addresses of the people you want to share the workbook with, each separated by a comma.

    screenshot of Excel Online Invite People interface
  4. In the Add a quick note field, enter a relevant message for your recipients.

    screenshot of Excel Online Invite People interface
  5. Select Recipients can edit.

    The "Recipients can edit" link in Excel Online
  6. Two drop-down menus appear. The first contains the following options: Recipients can edit (default) and Recipients can only view. If you choose the latter, your recipients receive the workbook with read-only restrictions.

    screenshot of Excel Online Invite People interface
  7. The second drop-down menu dictates whether your recipients require a Microsoft account to access the document. Select the option that meets your needs.

  8. Select Share. Your recipients are notified that a workbook has been shared with them.

How to Share a Workbook in Excel 2016 

Follow the Microsoft 365 instructions, as the co-authoring feature and the steps are similar. The main difference is the Share button, which appears in the upper-right corner and is represented by a head and torso alongside the word Share.

If you'd like, you can use the Shared Workbook feature. To do so, add the appropriate options to the Quick Access Toolbar by following the steps below.

Unless you have a specific need to enable the original Shared Workbook functionality, such as sharing on a restricted network with particular requirements, use co-authoring instead.

Add Shared Workbook Buttons in macOS

  1. Select Excel > Preferences.

  2. In the Excel Preferences dialog, select Ribbon & Toolbar, located in the Authoring section.

  3. Select Quick Access Toolbar.

  4. In the Choose commands from setting, select Review Tab.

  5. In the list of options provided, select Share Workbook (Legacy) to highlight it.

  6. Select the right bracket (>) found next to the Share Workbook (Legacy) option so that it moves to the list labeled Customize Quick Access Toolbar.

  7. Select Save to complete the process. You can now begin the sharing process from the Excel toolbar.

Add Shared Workbook Buttons in Windows

Follow these steps to add the Shared Workbook functionality to Excel 2016 for Windows:

  1. Select File > Options > Quick Access Toolbar.

  2. Select Choose commands from to expand it, then select All Commands.

  3. Scroll down and select Share Workbook (Legacy) to highlight it.

  4. Select Add.

  5. Add each of the following commands, one at a time: Track Changes (Legacy), Protect Sharing (Legacy), Compare and Merge Workbooks.

  6. After these items are added, select OK to return to the main Excel window. You can now begin the sharing process from the Excel toolbar.