How To Share Excel Workbooks And
Track Changes Easily

Written by co-founder Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist.

Collaborating with your colleagues on spreadsheets is often necessary. But with recent changes to Excel, it isn’t as easy as it used to be.

We’ll look at two different ways of sharing your workbooks, as well as how you can track changes in both.

First, we’ll go over the difference between coauthoring and sharing.

*This tutorial is for Excel 2019 for Windows. Got a different version? No problem, you can still follow the exact same steps.

Coauthoring vs. sharing

Microsoft has deprecated the traditional types of workbook sharing that you’re used to. They’re still available—and we’ll get to that in a moment—but they recommend coauthoring.

Coauthoring is simply sharing via Microsoft’s cloud products. If you use OneDrive (which you can use for free) or have an Office 365 subscription (which isn’t free), you can coauthor.

The first step you’ll need to take for coauthoring is to upload your workbook to OneDrive. Sign in to OneDrive, then click Upload > Files:

upload-files-onedrive

Browse your file, then click Open.

Your workbook will now be saved to OneDrive.

You can also click the Share button in the top-right corner of your workbook. This will bring up an option to save it to the cloud:

save-to-cloud

Once you’ve uploaded the file, you can click the Share button and enter the email addresses of people you’d like to share the workbook with.

share-workbook

Enter an email address, choose edit or view privileges, and click Share.

The person you share with will be able to edit the document (if you gave them edit privileges) either in the browser-based version of Excel or their own desktop copy.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Unfortunately, Excel can’t track changes on coauthored documents.

If you’re working simultaneously, you’ll be able to see the changes your collaborator is making. But there won’t be any highlighting.

But because the older method of sharing isn’t supported by default anymore, you might be better off using coauthoring.

As of this writing, though, there are ways to enable the old method of change-tracking.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Sharing with tracked changes

Because the traditional method of sharing is no longer supported by default, enabling it can be a bit complicated.

But if you’re dead-set on using this method, it can be done. Here’s how.

First, right-click on the Ribbon and select Customize Quick Access Toolbar.

In the resulting window, select Commands Not in the Ribbon from the Choose commands from dropdown:

commands-not-in-ribbon

Now you’ll need to find a few different commands to add to the Quick Access Toolbar. Scroll through the list and find the following:

  • Compare and Merge Workbooks (Legacy)
  • Protect Sharing (Legacy)
  • Share Workbook (Legacy)
  • Track Changes (Legacy)
legacy-qat

Click OK, and you’ll see four new symbols in the Quick Access Toolbar:

new-items-qat

To start the sharing and change-tracking progress, click the Track Changes button, and select Highlight Changes:

highlight-changes

In the resulting window, Track changes while editing will be checked. Make sure that When and Who are set to All and Everyone:

highlight-changes-options

Once you click OK, your spreadsheet will gain the [Shared] tag in the title bar.

Click the Share Workbook button and make sure that the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time checkbox is checked:

multiple-users

Finally, click the Protect Sharing button, and make sure that Sharing with tracked changes is turned on:

sharing-track-changes

After all that, you can save and send your spreadsheet to your collaborators. Both sending the document via email and sharing it via OneDrive will work.

We recommend sharing via OneDrive, as it’s easier to keep track of who has copies of what.

If you share via OneDrive, your collaborators will need to download the spreadsheet and edit it in their Excel client.

To be safe, it’s a good idea to ask them to go through the same process to turn on tracked changes.

And when you get the spreadsheet back, you may need to click the Track Changes > Highlight Changes button again.

As you can see, using the traditional method of tracking changes requires a lot of work.

Coauthoring doesn’t track changes, but it’s a lot easier.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Merging shared workbooks

If several collaborators are making changes at once, you’ll probably want to take advantage of Excel’s compare and merge functions.

Once you have all the copies of the workbook back, save them in the same folder, and give each of them a unique name.

Then click the Compare and Merge Workbooks button, and select each file you want to compare and merge. Click OK.

From here, Excel will show you the changes and let you decide which ones to keep.

Tracking changes is still possible

While Microsoft has made it more difficult to track changes in the way you’re used to, it’s still possible. It takes a few tweaks, but it can be done.

On the other hand, coauthoring is much easier. You can see what your collaborators are doing if they’re working at the same time, but you can’t track changes over time.

Is the convenience worth the loss of tracking abilities? You’ll have to decide!