Office productivity services remain abundant. Most Linux operating systems provide some variety of productivity software such as LibreOffice or OpenOffice in the default install. However as the onus on mobility increases, a move to the cloud is the clear trend. As such, cloud office software holds major promise — at this point, it’s almost a necessity for those working with documents.
There’s no shortage of cloud office productivity services, yet they vary greatly. Moreover, picking a cloud service for Linux further narrows the quest for the best cloud productivity program. But while certain cloud providers offer easy access, some services are tailored more for writing and editing documents. Learn what is the best Linux cloud service for office productivity.
Defining Office Productivity
Office productivity has a very wide definition. For our purposes, we’ll define cloud office productivity as:
- Writing and editing documents (file types, such as ODS for spreadsheets, ODT for documents, etc., don’t matter),
- In the cloud.
So to find the best Linux cloud service for office productivity, we’ll concentrate on applications that yield remote access to documents with writing capabilities. These services may be self-hosted or remote hosted. (If you need an offline office suite, check out these best Linux office suites.)
The Best Self-Hosted Linux Cloud Service for Office Productivity
What do we mean by self-hosted? Rather than a service such as Google Docs that’s ready to go, you host this variety of cloud office productivity service yourself. This requires either a server, or a cloud provider where you can set up and install your service. There are some pros, such as more customization, but a potential downside is this requires upfront configuration.
ownCloud is a self-hosted server solution. Using this file sync service, you have access to your data via a web interface. It’s similar to Dropbox with its intuitive user interface (UI). This option comes loaded with features. In addition to file sharing, ownCloud allows you to view and edit PDFs and other office documents out-of-the-box. ownCloud sports collaborative document sharing and editing, even for users without an account.
Unfortunately, ownCloud by itself is limited to editing DOC and DOCX files. There’s no spreadsheet or presentation support. However, ownCloud partnered with Collabra to deliver a cloud-based LibreOffice version. This does require a bit of setting up which might seem daunting for novice users.
And unlike DropBox or Google Drive, ownCloud relies on user provided storage. So you’ll need your own server or a cloud provider for ownCloud deployment. There’s a list of officially supported ownCloud providers where you can easily deploy. Many of these even feature free hosting. But a major draw of using your own server is you’ve got as much storage space as you like. Additionally, you can use essentially any computer for hosting. Unlike a media server, you shouldn’t need a beefy CPU as you won’t be transcoding video.
If you’re comfortable setting up your own server or deploying to a cloud provider, ownCloud is the best Linux cloud service for office productivity. ownCloud is cross-platform, offering desktop apps for Windows, macOS, and Linux as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS. However, these installers are purely for client access. Hosting is only available via Linux.
Why It’s Great
ownCloud offers as much storage as you need. There’s an abundance of features. Notably, document editing is key as an office productivity suite. However, ownCloud also features calendar and contacts support for total sync support. There’s LibreOffice integration as well, but as a warning this is a do-it-yourself (DIY) task.
The Best Remote-Hosted Linux Cloud Service for Office Productivity
Don’t want to deploy a cloud service on your own server or cloud host? Try a remote hosted solution. These are more intuitive and don’t require much if any install and configuration.
Zoho Docs is an excellent choice as a remote hosted cloud service for office productivity. There’s a native Linux installer, as well as sync software for macOS and Windows. Using Zoho Docs you can work on and offline and choose what you’d like to sync. As per the standard, this suite includes collaboration features for documents. In addition to desktop programs, there are mobile apps for Android and iOS to maintain cross-platform document access.
For office work there’s Zoho Office Suite. It’s pretty barebones, but functions really well. There’s writer, sheet, and show: documents, spreadsheets, and presentations respectively. Neat features of Zoho Writer include version control, mail merge, and a “mark as final” option to limit future changes. My favorite aspect is the WordPress integration which allows you to simply publish documents straight from Zoho Writer.
There’s a free tier which may be used by teams of up to 25 users. On this plan, each users has a 5 GB allotment, and there’s a 1 GB file upload limitation. You get Dropbox integration, Zoho Office Suite, and version control. However, versioning is only up to 25 versions. It’s comparable to Google Drive and Google Docs in some regards. But while Google Docs and Google Drive remain completely in-browser on Linux, Zoho Docs offers a desktop app for syncing files. This way you can work on your documents while offline.
But Zoho Docs offers a streamlined, intuitive experience. It’s similar to Google Docs, but supports a Linux installer for syncing files. While Zoho Docs might not be as comprehensive as ownCloud, it also doesn’t require as much effort to set up. Additionally, you don’t need your own server, or to set up cloud hosting.
Why It’s Great
Zoho Docs is similar to Google Docs and Google Drive. Getting started is much quicker than with a service like ownCloud and doesn’t require a server or your own cloud hosting.
Hey, You! Get Off My Linux Cloud Office Productivity Service!
If you’re looking for a Linux cloud service for office productivity, you’ve definitely got options. Although Zoho Docs and ownCloud remain the best for remote and self-hosted solutions respectively, OnlyOffice and Google Drive are decent choices. OnlyOffice also features an excellent cloud offering. But for the remote hosted version, you do have to pay. Alternately, OnlyOffice does feature a self-hosted option which is available as a Docker image and Linux installer.
While there’s not an official Google Drive Linux client, you may access it on a GNOME-based desktop. There’s a workaround which involves adding your Google account to your online accounts. Further, there’s a command-line tool for uploading and downloading files to Drive. However, this command-line tool doesn’t feature background sync. But you should overlook this, as Google Drive is one of the best cloud solutions on Linux.
Ultimately, which service you pick depends on what you’re most comfortable with. As a homelabber, I prefer ownCloud as I’m free to host as much as I’d like. But if you’d rather eschew any server or cloud hosting configuration, you’re better off with Zoho Docs, OnlyOffice, or Google Drive. Those in need of a simple notepad app can opt for one of these notepad apps that sync. However these lack more robust office productivity features like spreadsheets and presentation compatibility. Therefore it’s tough to recommend them as an all-in-one program.
Go Online With LibreOffice
There is another alternative: LibreOffice Online. Be forewarned that this is a major DIY project. Still, there’s an easy workaround for LibreOffice in a browser, which assumes familiarity with Docker. If you’re comfortable working with containers, LibreOffice Online is an excellent choice. You might consider Container Linux by CoreOS as a Linux container solution
Which Linux cloud service for office productivity do you recommend?