How to Share an Excel File

Share using Co-Authoring or the Shared Workbook feature

files and folders shared on a network

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Microsoft Excel shared workbooks are a great way to collaborate simultaneously by adding or modifying data, formatting, and formulas on-the-fly from multiple locations and devices. In this article, we'll cover how to share an Excel file in Office 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, and Excel Online.

The instructions in this article are broken into sections that cover Excel in Office 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016, and Excel Online.

Share an Excel File in Office 365 or Excel 2019

Newer versions of Excel have replaced the Shared Workbook feature with functionality called co-authoring, which essentially allows for similar collaboration but also offers some advanced tools not available in older iterations.

In order to share a spreadsheet for co-authoring purposes, it must be saved in one of the following formats: XLSX, XLSM, or XLSB.

If you’re using Microsoft Office, there’s a good chance you already have an active OneDrive account. If not, or if you aren’t sure, you’ll want to sign up for OneDrive before continuing. 

The only exception here would be if you intend to share an Excel file hosted on a SharePoint Online library or an internal network, in which case, there's no need for a OneDrive account. 

  1. To get started, open the Excel workbook you wish to share.

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

    screenshot of Excel for Office 365
  3. When the pop-out box appears, select Sign In.

    screenshot of the Excel Share dialog

    If you’re already signed in to your Microsoft account, skip to step 5.

  4. A new window will appear asking for your Microsoft account credentials. Follow the on-screen prompts 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. A pop-out window will reappear, prompting for sharing details. Use the Name field to enter a title for the shared workbook.

    screenshot of the Excel Share window
  7. Select the Place menu to choose where you’d like to share the file, such as your OneDrive repository. In most cases this will be your selection, unless you are utilizing a SharePoint library or an internal network location. 

    screenshot of the Excel Share window
  8. Select Save.

  9. The file will now be uploaded to the repository chosen in step 7. Select Share once again.

  10. A new set of Sharing Options should now be displayed in the pop-out window. Select Invite People.

    screenshot of Excel sharing options

    If you’re not interested in sharing the workbook for collaboration purposes but would like to share a read-only version instead, click Send a Copy.

  11. The Invite People dialog should now be visible. Type the email address(es) of anyone you’d like to share this workbook with, each separated by a comma.

    screenshot of Excel Invite People window

    You can opt to type names from your contacts in place of email addresses, but will be prompted to grant Excel access to the corresponding application in order to do so. 

  12. Enter a message for the recipients in the optional field, if desired.

  13. The Can’t Edit option, accompanied by a check box, is enabled by default for precautionary purposes and dictates that the recipients cannot make any modifications to your Excel file. To remove this read-only restriction, select the box once so the check mark is removed and the setting is disabled.

  14. Select Share. Your recipients will now be notified that a workbook has been shared with them.

How to Share a Workbook in Excel Online

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

  1. To get started, navigate to Excel Online in your web browser and open the workbook you wish to share.

  2. Select Share, located in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window.

    screenshot of Excel Online
  3. The Invite People dialog should now be visible, overlaying the main Excel interface. Type the email address(es) of anyone you’d like to share this workbook with in the To field, 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 recipient(s).

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

  6. Two drop-down menus will now appear, with the first containing the following options. Select either Recipients can edit (default) or Recipients can only view. If you choose the latter, your recipients will receive the workbook with read-only restrictions attached.

    screenshot of Excel Online Invite People interface
  7. The second drop-down menu dictates whether or not your recipients require a Microsoft account in order to access your document. Select the option that meets your individual needs.

  8. Select Share. Your recipients will now be notified that a workbook has been shared with them.

How to Share a Workbook in Excel 2016 

You can follow the Office 365 instructions above for Excel 2016, as the co-authoring feature was first introduced in that version and the steps to utilize it are very similar.

The main difference is the Share button itself, which still appears in the upper right-hand corner, but is represented by a head and torso alongside the word ‘Share,’ as opposed to the right-facing arrow utilized in later versions.

However, you can also use the somewhat antiquated Shared Workbook feature if you wish. To do so, you’ll need to 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, we recommend using co-authoring instead.

Add Shared Workbook Buttons in macOS

  1. Click Excel > Preferences.

  2. The Excel Preferences dialog should now be visible. Click Ribbon & Toolbar, located in the Authoring section.

  3. Select Quick Access Toolbar.

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

  5. A list of options should now be provided. Select Share Workbook (Legacy) so it's highlighted.

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

  7. Click Save to complete the process. You can now begin the sharing process from Excel’s main toolbar.

Add Shared Workbook Buttons in 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) so it's highlighted.

  4. Select Add.

  5. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for each of the following options, one at a time: Track Changes (Legacy), Protect Sharing (Legacy), Compare and Merge Workbooks.

  6. Once each of these items have been added, select OK to return to the main Excel window. You can now begin the sharing process from Excel’s main toolbar.