Collaborative online office solutions

Many Cooks

Chat

The Onlyoffice chat function is activated via a separate entry in the Collaboration menu. The software then opens a column to the left of the document view; at the bottom it displays an input field for text messages. The latter sorts the messages in the column by submission time, including the responses submitted by the other members of the team. To end the chat and make the column disappear again, press the Chat button at the top right in the ribbon bar again.

Conclusions

All of the office suites looked at here offer the typical set of functions for collaborative working (see Table 1), but they serve different target groups.

Table 1

Collaborative Work with Documents

  Collabora Online Etherpad  /  Ethercalc Google Docs Onlyoffice
License MPL Apache 2/MPL SaaS AGPLv3
Functions
Modules Text, tables, presentation Text, tables Text, tables, presentation, drawings Text, tables, presentation
Web-based client Yes Yes Yes Yes
Native client No No No Yes
On-premise server Yes Yes No Yes
Externally hosted cloud solution Yes No Yes Yes
Integration into groupware Yes No Yes (Google services) Yes
Third-party formats PDF, RTF, HTML, DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, ODT, ODS, ODP, TXT TXT, HTML, CSV, ODS, XLSX PDF, RTF, HTML, DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, ODT, ODS, ODP, TXT PDF, RTF, HTML, DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, ODT, ODS, ODP, TXT
Collaborative Functions
Comments Yes Yes Yes Yes
Chat No Yes/no Yes Yes
Version history Yes No Yes Yes

Etherpad and Ethercalc focus on user data sovereignty, whereas Google Docs, as an integral part of the Google universe, also uses its cloud storage and, due to its close integration with other Google services, is not a genuine option for privacy-conscious users.

Collabora Online and Onlyoffice, however, appear to be solid all-rounders, with the Onlyoffice package offering a more structured interface for collaborative functions.

All packages still show weaknesses when converting third-party formats. In many cases, after importing and exporting from and into other file formats, manual rework is required to put the document back into shape on the target system. Although simpler texts and tables can usually be converted without problems, more complex documents usually require intensive post-processing.

Macros pose a totally different problem. They are usually limited to a certain office format and cannot be used in others. Therefore, companies and organizations need to mandate a file format, if possible, even in heterogeneous environments.

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