If you belong to those users who prefer Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online to co-author documents, spreadsheets and presentations in real time, it’s highly likely that you use such software by force of habit. Google Docs and Microsoft Office aren’t bad in nature; they just don’t give their users enough freedom by locking them up in their ecosystems.
Data privacy and security are also controversial issues when it comes to the tech giants. When you collaboratively work on documents in the cloud, you expect your personal data to be safe. However, who can guarantee that you don’t have to worry about that?
With this in mind, we would like you to pay attention to more affordable and secure office software. In this review, we are going to tell you about ONLYOFFICE Docs, an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office Online and Google Docs that allows you to co-edit documents without risks.
ONLYOFFICE Docs: summary
ONLYOFFICE is an open-source project that comes from Latvia and features a collaborative office suite and productivity apps. Its main product is ONLYOFFICE Docs, a self-hosted office package for real-time document editing and co-authoring. The creation of ONLYOFFICE Docs was inspired by the success story of Google Docs: the developers wanted to create something as powerful and collaborative as the Google software, but with emphasis on security and data privacy.
Over time, ONLYOFFICE Docs has evolved into something that combines the benefits of other office suites and offers some unique features that make it stand out in the market.
As an office package, ONLYOFFICE Docs lets you create, edit and collaborate on text documents, spreadsheets and presentations in various formats and guarantees the highest compatibility with Word, PowerPoint and Excel files..
Also, ONLYOFFICE Docs comes with a form creation tool that allows you to create and edit form templates — documents with interactive fields that can be filled out online.
When it comes to PDF files, ONLYOFFICE Docs is able to open and browse them, convert them to DOCX and some other formats and even turn your form templates into fillable PDFs.
In terms of online collaboration, ONLYOFFICE Docs is quite efficient due to the following tools and features:
- Fast co-editing mode with all changes being visible in real time and Strict mode for private co-authoring and editing;
- Advanced access permissions — Full Access, Commenting, Review, Read Only, Deny Access, Form Filling for form templates and Sheet View for spreadsheets;
- Restriction of the printing, copying and downloading options for files;
- Document comparison with the Track changes feature;
- Version history;
- Comments and user tags;
- Communication in real-time.
To sum up, ONLYOFFICE Docs has a must-have tool kit allowing you to work with documents online with other users.
According to the developers, ONLYOFFICE Docs is secure by design. As a self-hosted solution, it can be deployed both on Linux and Windows servers giving you full control over your personal data and information. If no unauthorised person has physical access to your hardware, your data is safe.
Moreover, ONLYOFFICE servers don’t store anything related to you, each bit of your information is securely kept within your network.
ONLYOFFICE Docs is an open-source office suite, so you can always take a look at its source code, which is freely available on GitHub, to make sure it has no vulnerabilities.
When it comes to document protection, ONLYOFFICE Docs uses the JSON Web Token technology that is enabled by default. JWT protects your documents from unauthorized access by generating automatically a random secret key.
Another security feature in ONLYOFFICE Docs is the ability to switch to the HTTPS protocol. HTTPS encrypts your traffic in transit when you collaborate online or share something with other users.
Finally, there is a security feature that you hardly find in other office suites. What is meant here is Private Rooms. A Private Room in ONLYOFFICE is a secure workspace where you can edit, share and store documents in encrypted form using an AES-256 encryption algorithm. You just open and edit documents like you do normally but you need to connect the ONLYOFFICE desktop app. Yes, you can access a Private Room via the desktop app but you don’t have to create and memorize passwords or access codes. Encryption works automatically, and no one can access your confidential files.
Desktop and mobile apps
ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors is an offline version of ONLYOFFICE Docs built on top of the same engine. It’s not only necessary for Private Rooms. You can download the desktop app and edit documents locally. The app is free and works on Windows, macOS and Linux.
The desktop version of the ONLYOFFICE editors supports some cloud storages. You can connect ownCloud, Nextcloud, kDrive, Seafile, Liferay and the ONLYOFFICE cloud itself. When connected, the desktop app makes it possible to open and edit files from your cloud storage.
Also, you can make use of the official mobile apps for Android and iOS that are absolutely free and have no ads.
In comparison with other office suites, ONLYOFFICE is a very flexible solution that can be built into almost any web platform or DMS system. At the moment, there are more than 30 integration apps that are designed for integrating ONLYOFFICE Docs with WordPress, Nextcloud, ownCloud, Redmine, Jira, Plone, Seafile, Drupal, Alfresco, Confluence, Nuxeo, Seafile, SharePoint, Chamilo, Moodle, etc.
ONLYOFFICE Docs offers a free community edition that has no restrictions when it comes to its editing functionality. The only limitation is that you can open no more than 20 documents for simultaneous editing. Nevertheless, this is a great option for personal use and small teams.
There is a special enterprise version of ONLYOFFICE Docs that supports clustering and multi-tenancy, regular updates and tech assistance. Pricing starts from $1.200 for 50 simultaneous connections.
For software developers, there is another version — ONLYOFFICE Docs Developer Edition. It allows you to enable document editing and co-authoring within your own software by integrating the ONLYOFFICE online editors.
Pros and cons
In conclusion, let’s have a look at the main advantages and disadvantages of ONLYOFFICE Docs.
- Complete office suite for collaborative work;
- Full compatibility with the Microsoft Office formats:
- Free desktop and mobile apps;
- Advanced security and data privacy;
- Integration with other software;
- Regular release of new versions;
- Trial period in the commercial editions.
- On-premises deployment requires technical knowledge;
- No PDF editing functionality;
- Some features that are available in Microsoft Office are missing;
- Compatibility with ODF formats sometimes leaves to be desired.
All in all, ONLYOFFICE Docs is a serious player in the office software market. It has its own advantages and can easily replace Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online for daily office tasks.