PowerPoint handling of large multimedia files when co-authoring
Our customer has experienced a number of issues with co-authoring in PowerPoint. Issues such as the application freezing in the middle of a co-authoring session of 5 or more people, the ‘Auto-save’ switch at the top turning itself off, issues with files being duplicated on SPO with the system hostname appended to the filename.
The customer is a creative agency so they’re working with large, high quality multimedia elements in their presentations.
From the conversations we’ve had with our customer, it transpires that they aren’t the only company to have issues with PowerPoint co-authoring – so much so a number of firms have decided to stay with Google’s G-Suite product as it handles co-authoring far more gracefully.
In the end the customer left the O365 platform and moved back to G-Suite after 6 weeks of disruption and issues.
A very kind Microsoft engineer and I have been trying to troubleshoot some of the issues this customer faced so that they don’t reoccur in future. Through the course of these efforts we both came to the same eureka moment:
What if the issue here is the way that PowerPoint is handling the synchronisation of PPT files with large multimedia elements embedded?
For example. If I am co-authoring with 5 other people in the same office and then I add a 500MB video, co-authoring tries to sync that change immediately and show the full video on everyone’s device. This will no doubt lead to eventual file consistency issues as the file can’t be synced fast enough before further changes are made.
To resolve this, PowerPoint should instead show a placeholder instead of the actual content on other users systems.
In the case of the 500MB video above, the first frame of the video could be shown – this would sync much faster and reduce the likelihood of consistency errors.
In the case of high-res images, perhaps a lower res copy could be shown?
Then once the co-authoring session has finished the full synchronisation can occur.
Oliver Nash commented
@Niharika Mukherji - That's a good point! But given how 'different' it will appear to users I feel like they should be given a choice. Obviously some users will only co-author with one other person over a very fast fibre leased line, so the maybe the issue wont appear. But with 5+ co-authors over a slightly slower connection (or when editing very large PPT's) the issue can occur. By giving the user the option to choose we're not limiting functionality for those who currently use it without issue with smaller files.
It's a bit like the toggle option within the OneDrive Business sync client - 'Use Office Applications to sync Office files that I open'. Obviously that could be dealt with in code but instead it's presented as an option to the user.
I hope that makes sense?
Niharika Mukherji commented
@Oliver Nash - Would it be better to keep the toggle button in the code instead of giving the user that power ? For example: Placeholder would be displayed for large downloads like videos and high quality photos and do a complete download for smaller media. I believe a similar approach is followed while opening a cloud file in powerpoint that is incremental open of files and could be well handled automatically by the code.
Oliver Nash commented
@Anonymous - No, but this relates to co-authoring not the actual saving of the file.
'That doesn't really fulfill the definition of a fully duplicated save in all locations' - It's not a duplicated save in all locations. It's saved in one location (usually SPO) then all users changes and synced (merged) with this copy during a co-authoring session.
The problem here is that if a user adds a large multimedia element to a PPT file. With the current behaviour, that file would then be downloaded to each co-author when ultimately in many cases they don't need it immediately, as long as they can see that it's been added. This obviously puts strain on the network and has in our case led to delays in synchronisation, leading to file consistency errors and in turn, co-authoring session errors and file duplication on SPO with the machine hostname appended to the filename.
Perhaps this should be a toggle option? - So if you want to force sync of the full multimedia elements you can do. But if you experience issues because you're using large videos, 4K images etc, you can select the option to force the application to behave as suggested above. This would allow the software to work as it does currently for organisations who are only putting together basic presentations but would assist those in the creative industry and others who are producing very large PPT's.
So would you want them to consider the sync a "success" even if the other 4 participants only received a video poster frame or a reduced size image? That doesn't really fulfill the definition of a fully duplicated save in all locations.