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Frank Karlitschek

ownCloud Documents: Open Source competitor to Google Docs, MS Office 365, iWorks launched

ownCloud, a Germany based company, has announced the release of ownCloud Community Edition 6 which comes with a killer feature – ownCloud Documents – which may make ownCloud the Firefox, VLC or Chromium of the online editing world. ownCloud Documents is an online collaborative suite which works just like Google Docs, MS Office 365 or Apple’s iWorks. The only difference is that ownCloud Document is purely open source and natively supports the ISO approved ODF format.

I was really impressed to see how well it works given this is the first release of the software.

KDE community at work
ownCloud has very strong ties with KDE community and Frank Karlitschek is an ardent supporter of free software and free standards, so there were no surprises that ownCloud Documents use open source technologies developed by KO GmbH – the same company which works on KDE’s Calligra Office Suite and Krita software.

While ownCloud offers the cloud infrastructure, KO GmbH offers WebODF, a document viewer and editor that runs completely in a web browser. ownCloud Documents use WebODF to load, save, share and distribution of the document changes.

“ownCloud and the WebODF technology fit perfectly into each other,” said Frank. “ownCloud provides the server framework and WebODF provides the document manipulation. Together they further the ownCloud vision of a self-controlled free and open source cloud.”

How to do collaborating editing?
One of the coolest features of ownCloud is that once you set-up your server you can create as many users you want. The documents on this server can be shared with all the users on that server. You can also share the documents publicly and password protect them to restrict access.

owncloud-documents-3

Coming back to collaborating editing, you can simply click on the share option on top of the document and select the user on the server with whom you want to share the document.  You can also select what kind of permissions you want to give to that user – ‘can edit’, ‘update’ & ‘share’. I don’t quite get what it means by update as if that user can edit the document, it also means he/she can update it.

So once you share the document with a user it will start appearing in the account of that user under a newly-created ‘shared’ folder. That user can now view and edit the document in real time.  I opened the same document residing on my ownCloud server from two different machines – Arch Linux and Mac OSX and was impressed to see how fast the changes were appearing on each machines.

Minor glitches
The suite is in its early stages so there are some minor glitches which will be improved over time. One bug is fonts. If I select a certain font in the document when someone else opens the same document on another machine, it won’t take the font and it would do the editing in default font on that machine. Given that this is first release it’s just impressive.

The work done by ownCloud team is commendable as we now have a pure ‘Open Source’ solution which offers the same capabilities other non-free solutions offer.

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We are publishing a guide on how to install ownCloud on a cheap server so keep an eye on this space.

Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

5 Comments

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