The main reason real-time document collaboration software is popular these days is that it allows multiple users to work on the same file together for the purpose of creating a single final version. During the collaborative editing process, all changes made by co-authors are immediately synchronized and the original file is automatically updated. Therefore, there is no need to create separate document drafts, which allows collaborators to save time and stay more productive.

Some of the most prominent examples of such software are Google Docs and Microsoft Office Online. These document collaboration tools are widely used by teams and businesses of all sizes. However, there are lesser-known alternatives that are collaborative like Google Docs and powerful like Microsoft Office but are more affordable and reliable.

In this article, you will learn about ONLYOFFICE Docs, an open source office suite, and how real-time document collaboration is made easier with this software tool.

What is ONLYOFFICE Docs?

ONLYOFFICE Docs includes a complete online office suite with collaborative editors for text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and fillable forms that can be accessed through a single user interface. It also comes with a simple viewing tool with format conversion capabilities for PDF and DjVu files.

The editing experience that ONLYOFFICE Docs offers its users is similar to the one you get when working in Microsoft Office. All functional tools and editing features are divided into 8 tabs in the top toolbar. For example, the File tab allows you to download, print or rename your document and gives you access to advanced settings. Overall, getting familiar with the ONLYOFFICE Docs interface doesn’t take much time as it is very intuitive and easy to use.

When it comes to format compatibility, ONLYOFFICE Docs natively supports OOXML (the file extensions DOCX, XLSX and PPTX) and is compatible with non-OOXML formats via conversion to OOXML. This allows you to work with any Word document, Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation, as well as open and edit files created with other office software.

It should be noted that ONLYOFFICE Docs supports Microsoft’s WOPI protocol and offers an open API, so it can be seamlessly integrated into any IT environment. It can be integrated into multiple DMS and CMS systems, file sharing platforms and e-learning solutions for educational institutions.

The integration with ONLYOFFICE Docs works through connectors. At present, there are more than 30 connectors for software such as Nextcloud, ownCloud, WordPress, SharePoint, Confluence, Strapi, Seafile, Nuxeo, Chamilo, Alfresco, Jira, etc. If you are using one of these platforms, it might be a good idea to extend its functionality by enabling document editing and collaboration with ONLYOFFICE Docs

The web-based version of the ONLYOFFICE suite also has a free desktop app for Windows, Linux and macOS, as well as free mobile apps for iOS and Android, so you can easily work with your documents on any device, online or offline.

Unlike most other office suites, ONLYOFFICE Docs is completely free and open source although there are scalable commercial versions. Another difference is that ONLYOFFICE Docs is a self-hosted solution, giving you total control over your data.

Main collaborative features

Since ONLYOFFICE Docs is designed for collaborative work, it has many features for successful co-authoring of documents, including:

  • Fast and rigorous co-editing mode. When you start co-authoring a document in ONLYOFFICE Docs, Fast mode is enabled by default. It allows you to see all the changes that other contributors are making to the document in real time. If you switch to Strict mode, you can lock a paragraph for editing privately. In this mode, all changes are not visible until you click the Save button.
  • File Access Management. When you share something with other users, you can choose from various permissions. You can allow others to edit, view, review, comment, and fill in interactive fields in digital forms. It is also allowed to limit the copy, download and print options if necessary. Public sharing via external links is also possible.
  • Track changes. With ONLYOFFICE Docs, you can keep track of all changes made by other users and decide what to accept or reject.
  • History and version control. This feature is useful when you want to revert to an earlier version of the document. You can browse through all available versions and see who made this or that change.
  • Comparison of documents. In ONLYOFFICE Docs, you can compare two text documents with the Track Changes mode applied.
  • Real-time communication. While co-authoring a document, you can leave comments, tag other collaborators, and exchange text messages in the built-in chat. ONLYOFFICE Docs also allows you to connect a Telegram account and communicate with other people within the editor interface. Other third-party plugins, such as Jitsi and Rainbow, even allow you to make audio and video calls, which is very important for teamwork.

Final takeaway

Collaborating on documents in real time requires choosing the right software. If you’ve always used Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online, it’s time to look for workarounds, like ONLYOFFICE Docs, and try another approach to real-time co-authoring. ONLYOFFICE Docs has all the tools and features you need to make things easier when you work collaboratively on documents with your colleagues.

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