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Microsoft Office remains top of the office suite pile. It is a difficult behemoth to shift for a number of reasons. However, there are challengers to the crown. Depending on your requirements, your office alternative can be free, open source, licensable, feature-full, or bare-bones.
OnlyOffice ticks some of the aforementioned boxes. It is free, it is open source and cross-platform, and it is relatively feature-rich. Let’s take a look at OnlyOffice, and see if it suits your office suite requirements.
Let’s Talk Features
OnlyOffice is a comprehensive office suite. The suite, formerly known as TeamLab Office, offers users an integrated platform with a core of document editors. OnlyOffice features Document, Spreadsheet, and Presentation editors, styled somewhat between Google Docs and recent OpenOffice versions. In that, the OnlyOffice aesthetic is clean, clutter-free, but can feel somewhat dated when compared to Microsoft Office 2016.
OnlyOffice expands on its core with third-party plugins, such as templates, integrated YouTube video insertion, and even a handy Chess game. You’ll find third-party plugins on the OnlyOffice Github, and there is handy video below detailing how to install them.
Microsoft Office dominates the office suite market. As such, competitors must ensure their software supports the full gamut of Microsoft Office document formats. OnlyOffice works with many of the most popular office formats, including DOC, DOCX, ODT, RTF, TXT, PDF, HTML, EPUB, XPS, DjVu, XLS, XLSX, ODS, CSV, PPT, PPTX, ODP.
OnlyOffice makes use of a tabbed document system. This means you can edit multiple document types from a single window.
While not a ground-breaking feature, it is certainly nice not having to scroll between multiple editors to find a specific document. Conversely, that scrolling also assists in keeping documents separate, so it is down to your personal preference.
What’s in the Box?
OnlyOffice is free, but what do you get? What makes it worth switching?
The OnlyOffice Document Editor is a pleasing work environment. The flat, black, white, and grey workspace offers little distraction. Adding to this, I found the toolbar extremely easy to navigate as well as featuring every tool you’d expect in a document editor.
The Document Editor also features a number of pre-installed themes so you can quickly style your document, as well as document styles we have become accustomed to.
OnlyOffice Spreadsheet is up against a tough opponent. Microsoft Excel remains an excellent piece of software. That said, the Spreadsheet Editor performs well. It features a wide range of pre-programmed functions that appear readily as you type. Similarly, there are plenty of charts and chart styles to choose from, along with options for pre-formatting.
Excel power-users might find the lack of the now integrated Excel power tools frustrating. To that end, OnlyOffice Spreadsheet caters to a slightly more casual user-base. But it will be an excellent tool if you’re part of that demographic.
OnlyOffice Presentation offers a robust slideshow experience. Similar in scope to OnlyOffice Spreadsheet, Microsoft PowerPoint 2016 power-users will find some features lacking. However, Presentation absolutely has all the tools to make an excellent slideshow. It is a more-than-competent replacement for PowerPoint.
Presentation comes with a number of preset slideshow themes, the ability to switch between standard and widescreen slides, and all of the standard presentation tools you’d expect: timings, awkward effects, and fade-ins.
Indeed there is!
Good to know, there is alternative like onlyoffice to MS office, Google docs.
— Abhijit A Prabhudan (@innovcommerce) November 9, 2016
OnlyOffice offer a free Community Server. This is a free open-source system you can install on your server. The OnlyOffice Community Server drastically increases the office suite’s functionality. Instead of just a Document, Spreadsheet, and Presentation editor, you’ll have access to:
- Integrated document management through the OnlyOffice portal
- Integration with Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, and OwnCloud
- Easier file sharing
- Document embedding
- Customizable CRM
- Web-to-lead forms
- Invoicing system
- Numerous project management tools, including Gantt Charts, milestones, task dependencies, and subtasks
Incredibly, that isn’t everything on offer. The OnlyOffice Community Server, Document Server, and Mail Server can be found here.
There are a number of small things that count against OnlyOffice. For example, merging formatting during a copy and paste. It just doesn’t happen. In that sense, OnlyOffice remains rooted to its online document editor past. Another example is save times. This review was written in OnlyOffice and only comprises 1,000-or-so words, yet the time taken to save my document feels extensive. There is also a definite lack of advanced options, relating to my first issue.
Wish LibreOffice looked as cool as OnlyOffice. Wish OnlyOffice were as stable as LibreOffice.
— Rodrigo Peñalba (@penalba) November 24, 2016
Confusingly, the OnlyOffice window size cannot be reduced below 800 pixels wide. Similarly, the height can only be reduced to 600 pixels. As I work on a single 24-inch monitor, I prefer my document editor to sit in the corner, relatively small, against a much larger browser window. Style presets disappear from the window at that size, without a button to scroll the toolbar and find them. I thought I was going mad, but found the same restrictions on my laptop.
These are just tiny gripes. Perhaps I am being finicky? Nonetheless, they made an impression on me during my test run.
Aye or Nay?
OnlyOffice gets an Aye from me. Despite the small list of gripes, OnlyOffice offers a robust office suite experience, further boosted by the Community Server. The OnlyOffice desktop client is entirely free and available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
As with most of the Microsoft Office alternatives, the real answer is to simply try it out yourself. Some aspects will suit you and/or your team perfectly, while the lack of certain tools will be a game-changer for others. However, it is certainly worth a look.
What’s your office suite of choice? Do you stick with Microsoft? Or are the free alternatives now simply too good to ignore? Let us know your thoughts below!