By Michael Ansaldo
Freelance contributor, PCWorld |
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OnlyOffice is a business-class productivity platform designed for internal team collaboration. While most of its products are targeted at small and enterprise businesses, it also offers a Microsoft Office alternative for home use. It’s unique in that it includes document, spreadsheet, and presentation editors in a single desktop app. It works with most popular file formats including DOCX, ODT, XLSX, ODS, CSV, PPTX, and ODP, and is free to use on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
The familiar Office-style interface makes it easy to get started working.
Like most Office alternatives, OnlyOffice hews to the Microsoft ribbon interface. The tabbed toolbars are uniform across all three editors. Home is where you’ll find editing and formatting tools; Insert allows you to add images, shapes, and other elements to your document/spreadsheet/presentation; Layout tools controls page margins, orientation, and size; and so on. Each editor also includes tool tabs specific to its document type—the document editor’s References toolbar includes options for adding a table of contents, footnotes, hyperlinks, and image captions, while the spreadsheet editor has tabs dedicated to formulas, data, and pivot tables.
All three editors include Collaboration and Protection as top-level navigation items. The first lets you track editing changes and add and review comments when connected to a cloud solution. With the second, you can add your signature to a document or encrypt the file with a password. Several plugins are included to extend the functionality of each editor, as well. You can embed a YouTube video into your document or presentation, translate text into multiple languages, email files directly from the editor, and more.
OnlyOffice faithfully formats all Microsoft Office file types.
Working with documents is exceedingly easy. Each file opens in its own tab, similar to a web browser; and because OnlyOffice is a standalone app containing three editors rather than three discrete apps, you can have a document and spreadsheet open next to each other, for example, and easily toggle between them. The editors use the same color coding as Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—blue for documents, green for spreadsheets, and red for presentations—so you can know at a glance what type of files you have open. All three editors were able to faithfully reproduce Office-formatted documents in my testing.
OnlyOffice supports a few cloud solutions to enable real-time collaboration. OnlyOffice’s proprietary cloud would seem the best choice for most users, but if you already use Nextcloud, ownCloud, or Seafile, you can connect with those as well. In addition to co-editing and commenting on documents, connecting the desktop editor to one of these cloud services also allows user to interact using chat.
You can work on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations side by side.
Users who like the customizability that an open-source product affords will find a lot to like in OnlyOffice. You can extend OnlyOffice with a range of existing plugins for popular apps such as Box, DocuSign, WordPress, and loads more. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the vast app directory, you can create your own plugin using OnlyOffice’s API. Anyone nerdish about productivity should find the OnlyOffice appealing, too, as it really saves on desktop space and CPU usage to work on all your documents in a single app.
OnlyOffice is a free and customizable document, spreadsheet, and presentation editor that provides an excellent Office-like experience in a single app.
Michael Ansaldo is a veteran consumer and small-business technology journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive and writes the Max Productivity column for PCWorld.
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By Michael Ansaldo