Fast cloud storage for in-house hosting


Seafile offers desktop clients for Linux, macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS. A client can connect to multiple Seafile servers. The Linux client can be found in the repositories of many distributions, but these are often older versions. In Ubuntu 20.04, for example, the version counter has only reached 8.0.7. To fetch an up-to-date version of the client, run the commands from Listing 4 on Ubuntu 20.04. For Ubuntu 22.04, change focal to jammy in the first command, and for Debian 11 change focal to bullseye.

Listing 4

Installing the Client

$ sudo bash -c "echo 'deb [arch=amd64 signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/seafile-keyring.asc] stable main' > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/seafile.list"
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install -y seafile-gui

Seafile can also be integrated directly into file managers such as Dolphin (KDE Plasma) or Nautilus (Gnome) via WebDAV instead of using a client [10]. Clicking on the IP in the client will take you to the web interface in the browser. The client can also be operated in the terminal emulator after installing the terminal client on servers without X or with the seaf-cli package [11].

Seafile's specialties are file synchronization and content sharing (Figure 4). After installation, the client synchronizes all data stored in the Seafile/ folder with the server. Seafile detects even the smallest differences and synchronizes only the changes. Changes to files also trigger very practical versioning (Figure 5).

Figure 4: The Seafile client is available for both desktop and mobile devices. The desktop client shown here reveals its options in the context menu when you press the right mouse button.
Figure 5: A library's context menu lets you save different versions of a file permanently or for a certain period of time. Use the Set up versions menu item for this.

This proves to be very useful, especially when several users are working on one file. Much like Git, this makes it possible to track who made what changes and when. Upgrading to a new version of Seafile is done in a separate folder, so that you can switch back to the old version in case of problems.

Content sharing relies on file shares that can be restricted to individual Seafile users. File and folder shares for third parties rely on public links like in Nextcloud. To collaborate on documents with other users, you may want to integrate OnlyOffice's online editors [12] or connect to Collabora Office [13] (Figure 6). If you don't need a full office suite, you can use the built-in Markdown editor for composing.

Figure 6: For collaborative work on documents, Seafile integrates the OnlyOffice and Collabora Online office suites.


If you're more concerned with file storage, synchronization, and content sharing than collaboration, Seafile is probably the right choice for you. However, collaborative work also works well, even though integrating the Office programs is more complicated than with Seafile's competitors. The documentation is detailed [14]. If you speak German (or can work with YouTube's auto-translate function for captions), there is a 10-part YouTube series in German [15] where you can also learn more about the program.

The biggest advantage of Seafile over Nextcloud or ownCloud is its superior speed for synchronization and access. This is mainly due to the memory model used. Unlike its competitors, Seafile uses block storage [16] instead of file storage. On the other hand, Seafile does not have any additional apps like ownCloud or Nextcloud do. So if you need to integrate a calendar, email, and other components, you will need to opt for a different solution. Otherwise Seafile is a good option.

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