When planning a SharePoint site, you will need to plan check-in and check-out. Each document library allows you to check-in/out documents and this feature cannot be turned off. On the other hand you can control if check-in/check-out will be required to edit documents.
The average end user might have a problem understanding the entire Check-in/Check-out concept, so while educating them do not forget to mention this topic. As site administrator you need to define if it will be required.
To make such a decision you will need to know the key benefits of the check-in and check-out concept in SharePoint Document Libraries:
1. Avoid confusion while editing documents
When a file is checked out to you, you are the only one allowed making changes to it. The file will remain locked (checked-out) until you release it. Site admins with correct privileges can discard the checked-out lock made by a user.
(Without check-out it will be released after 15 minutes on XP and 60 minutes on Vista, and you might encounter numerous problems while trying to find the person who locked the documents and releasing it)
2. Control version numbers and metadata
With check-in/check-out enabled you will be able to control the version number with each save. You can also use the check-in form to provide additional comments about changes you made.
When you are not using check-in/check-out every time* a new version will be created. This might lead to uncontrolled increase of versions, increase of your SharePoint database size and other unwanted side effects.
3. Find out who is currently editing a document
‘Checked out to’ column always displays the name of the person currently editing a documents. It can be very useful for filtering or simply knowing which documents are currently being edited. Each document currently checked-out gets a small green icon with a white arrow (see figure below).
4. Draft documents
While file is checked-out the changes you make are not visible to others. So if you are making and an important change to an important document you might want to hide the changes till you are finished.
In case you do not like the changes you made simply discard the changes and revert to previously stored version.
5. Offline availability
When document is checked-out from an Office 2007 program, a local copy is stored My Documents/Drafts folder. You can edit this document while offline.
Office 2007 allows you to easily check-in/out documents from Office clients (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio), but this feature is not available for Office 2003.
The check-in/check-out feature is one of the key features of SharePoint document libraries. It has it’s benefits but you will probably face resistance and lack of understanding from end-users.
There is no simple solution for this dilemma, but you should enforce check-in/out policy if your library meets some of the following criteria: very official documents, a lot of people collaborating, minor and major versioning enabled, approvals enabled…
For simple custom lists requiring check-in/out in most cases is just overkill.
- * – if you are saving document as maniac, every two seconds, SharePoint will not save each change as new version