Introducing the emerging office suite, OnlyOffice Desktop Editor

A Question of Settings

OnlyOffice only provides rudimentary options for modifying the functions and appearance of the software. The settings are also spread across different dialogs.

The Advanced settings gear icon, which is found top right in the window in all three program modules, only gives access to basic customization options. But to customize the toolbars, you need to click on the tray icon above it for the View settings. This opens a small context menu where you can change the appearance of each module.

Options for text editing, on the other hand, are found in the Paragraph settings in the right corner of the application window. But you need to press the Show advanced settings button to open another window where you can actually configure the settings (Figure 3). Additional settings for the currently active file are found in the File dialog on the left border of the application window. Again, the options are limited to the absolute minimum.

Figure 3: OnlyOffice is miserly with the options it offers, even for simple things such as text formatting.

A speech bubble icon that activates comments is available on the left edge for collaborative work. Clicking on the icon reduces the document area. In the new view, you can then press the Add comment to document button to annotate the document. The Add response button then lets you add a reply in this part of the window. The comments are displayed clearly, one under another, so the recipient has an overview of the entire history.

Cloudy

OnlyOffice provides seamless interfaces to proprietary cloud services, as well as to the local server, which you can operate autonomously. In the desktop variant, the Connect to server menu item in the main window is the entry point to the portal entry and acts as a platform for collaborative work – assuming you have a matching account.

The office package then loads a web-based editor in the existing interface that has the same functions as the stationary modules. You can then edit documents in workgroups (Figure  4). In the overview screen, you can even configure multiple cloud portals. Alternatively, you can edit documents in the stationary desktop version and then upload them to the cloud. OnlyOffice thus implements seamless integration of stationary and web-based services in a single interface, thus consistently avoiding any unnecessary ballast.

Figure 4: OnlyOffice plays to its strengths in collaborative work with multiple users.

Ascensio offers several server variants for local installation, making it possible to establish a complete work environment for group services within your own IT infrastructure. The manufacturer supports Debian and Red Hat and their derivatives via repositories [6]. You will also find Docker images. See the detailed instructions for installing the server version via separate repositories [7].

The OnlyOffice Community Server is free of charge, but a one-off payment of US$1500 per server is required for the commercial Enterprise Version after a test period of 30 days  [8]. The Enterprise Edition provides a control panel and some other additional features, as well as support and updates for one year.

Foreign Language Support

Ascensio System advertises OnlyOffice as being fully Microsoft Office compatible. However, Microsoft tends to change its file formats regularly, which often compromises compatibility. Although many office suites advertise MS Office compatibility, experience shows that converting the current MS Office formats is anything but trivial, especially with complex documents. We put OnlyOffice to the test with some particularly complex .docx documents.

The results showed that OnlyOffice is the only office suite, apart from China's WPS Office, capable of reading documents that were originally created with MS-Office with virtually no errors. OnlyOffice also copes well with older MS Office documents in .doc format. The only docs that caused a problem in our tests were documents with very rarely used features such as placeholder attributes.

OnlyOffice, however, made a mess out of reading ODT files from LibreOffice: For example, it displayed boxes with input fields incorrectly, and graphic symbols partially appeared in the wrong places, making manual post-editing necessary (see Figure  5).

Figure 5: OnlyOffice opens documents in Microsoft formats without complaint, but it has room for improvement with ODF files.

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