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Is libreoffice online a viable alternative to gdocs?
120 points by rlvesco7 on Mar 26, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments

The only thing keeping me with google is gdocs. But I'd rather not keep my private data with them. Libre office online does not appear in google search an an alternative and hn has mostly ignored it. Is it not ready for prime time?

Surprised noone has mentioned OnlyOffice here: https://www.onlyoffice.com/.

We use it via the integration I wrote for Alfresco: https://github.com/cetra3/onlyoffice-alfresco

FYI they do not support RTL languages yet https://github.com/ONLYOFFICE/DocumentServer/issues/19

Never heard of OnlyOffice! They had a good comparison between them and libreoffice/collabora: https://medium.com/onlyoffice/onlyoffice-vs-collabora-a-crit...

That's not a good comparison. It's just an advertising piece bashing Collabora.

If it had been a good comparison, it would have listed pros and cons of both solutions, rather than only pros for one, and only cons for the other.

The "comparison" really only points out three issues:

Collabora runs an instance of Libreoffice on the server. This must be taken into account when considering resource limits when scaling, and latency and bandwidth to the client(s).

Collabora's handling of OOXML (.docx/.xlsx/.pptx) is much worse than OnlyOffice's. You must take them at their word for this!

For collaborative editing, modes (bold/italic/font sizes etc), Collabora uses the same state for all clients. You must take their word for this. I also tested Collabora very briefly (using NextCloud's demo[1]), and the toolbar is client side, which means it could very well be that modes are not shared.

Of course, none of this is particularly surprising considering it was posted by OnlyOffice themselves.

[1]: Instant trial on https://demo.nextcloud.com/

OnlyOffice is pretty good.

LibreOffice Online is a viable alternative in my opinion. It integrates with NextCloud and allows you to easily share and collaborate. You can even get a "share link" for your documents like in Google Docs. There are some caveats though. Latency is unacceptable. Google Docs renders documents client side allowing characters that you type to immediately echo to the screen. LibreOffice renders documents server side with a noticeable lag. LibreOffice has the benefit of better interoperability with MS Word than Google Docs has.

I would also recommend trying OnlyOffice as some have recommended.

"Viable alternative" with its "unacceptable latency" amounts to being just a viewer, which are dime a dozen, including most phones doing that out of the box, countless JS libraries and browser extensions, and every storage service like Dropbox having, if not basic editor, then at least very competent viewer.

I guess it's a start…

I am willing to put up with the latency because I really do want to do anything with Google. And I only recently learned about OnlyOffice which seems a more viable solution going forward.

You should ask reddit's /r/selfhosted. HN crowd is not much into self-hosting

Heh, isn't this where Sandstorm was introduced...?

Sandstorm is popular as a technology but most people here don't use it. Most sandstorm users hang out on the irc.

Apparently google search is also what's tying you to google. I say that to say google will have measures to stifle competition (no matter what they say otherwise). Also, what's the issue with just running LibreOffice on your computer? They also have portable versions which you can just put on your thumb drive

> what's the issue with just running LibreOffice on your computer

The key advantage to Google Docs, an otherwise ordinary if not fairly lightweight word processer, is the ease of sharing (even if only with yourself on multiple devices) and collaborating with others.

I've never heard of LibreOffice online, but depending how well it does those things, it might or might not be viable.

As a word processor alone, Google Docs is nothing special and LibreOffice probably has more features.

Ease of sharing is precisely why it's so powerful. I can send a link to a shared spreadsheet without the person having to login. Very little friction. Also, being able to co-edit in real time is very powerful. I think libreoffice offline is great, but for 80% of my use cases, gdocs is more convenient and useful. But I'm no longer comfortable with google having so much of my personal and business life.

Have you considered G Suite? If you are going to stick with Google Docs, at least you can get a legal agreement that bars Google from mining or otherwise using your documents.

What legal agreement? It's not like they won't weasel out of it anyway. I'm fairly certain they were scanning emails for ad targeting up until the past year or so.

GSuite is ok when it works most times, when it doesn't it's a nightmare. Google is literally the worst company I've ever done business with. In fact, over the past decade I've had to reach out to various support levels on different products and can say they stand at a remarkable 0% solve rate. (Chromium's bug tracker I've had some success with but it's not 100% a Google product)

The latest contract breech I've had with them is regarding their SLA agreement. We had a client's account become inaccessible for a week. This caused them 2 days of work downtime as their quotes and business correspondence were all tied up in the account. The SLA defines a Downtime as:

"Downtime" means, for a domain, if there is more than a five percent user error rate. Downtime is measured based on server side error rate.

We wrote about the issue, figured out the cause was likely due to an error in the half-assed rollout of the new admin panel (they currently have two in production), and yet we were not granted a half-month credit for the downtime as the SLA stipulated.

> "What legal agreement?"

This is the agreement that I was referring to: https://gsuite.google.com/terms/dpa_terms.html

Specifically, see section 5.2.

Also, Google advertises this as a feature to G Suite users: https://support.google.com/googlecloud/answer/6056650?hl=en

> I'm fairly certain they were scanning emails for ad targeting up until the past year or so.

Not a great source (it's a while ago), but I was at a talk from I think a Google AI researcher once (he might've been a VP). I remember him saying that Google hasn't actually been scanning emails for a long time now, because they're processing too many emails for even Google to parse. Too big data.

Dropbox does file sharing better than anybody, I think. Share with yourself and others. Pay a small fee for a better product and know it they have an incentive to please you. You can use any software products when sharing with Dropbox. I have been happy with it for many years and have never had any problems, knock on wood.

For me, the key point of sharing documents in google docs is that it solves the simultaneous editing problem, which simple file sharing (Dropbox and others) does not.

You can easily have three people editing the same paragraph in google docs; whether libreoffice online is a viable alternative depends on how it handles that.

When I search Google for "collaborative online word processor" Google Docs doesn't appear on the first page; it's mostly sites with comparisons of available systems, along with Zoho, Etherpad and Office.

A full suite of SaaS open source tools there : https://framasoft.org/

Other options include Zoho Writer, Apple Pages (has web-based version), MS Word Online. I seem to remember an OSS effort to make one (other than libreoffice online) but can't remember what it was.

One specifically negative thing about gdocs ... well ... gsheets ... is that if you create a document with many (e.g. > 5 or so) charts on a single page ... it will slow waaaaaaayyyyy down. Multi second latency/response times for things like scrolling, cell interaction, etc. It becomes effectively unusable.

Gdocs as a whole are ok, though you are giving Google the right to read your docs as I remember (in their terms of service).

Gsheets is utterly useless for importing and browsing a several MB size CSV file. Where the same file imported into native x64 libreoffice is totally smooth.

Gdocs also slows down massively when opening something past a dozen MB.

For Google Docs-like tasks I prefer a combination of Org and git.

Org is a powerful-but-easy-to-learn document structuring language. You ca write it in any editor, but in an Org-aware editor your document really comes alive. The oldest, most feature-complete implementation is in Emacs. Org documents can be exported to virtually any final format.

I don't specifically recommend git so much as any distributed VCS, to share changes with collaborators in a controlled and structured way. I find it much easier to catch up on other's work when it comes as a self-contained, clearly labeled commit in the correct branch rather than a jumble of tiny edits here and there.

If you are working with lazy people who don't want to learn stuff, you may want to consider whether you'd be okay with keeping your private data with GitHub instead. If your Org document lives in a repo there, anyone with commit access can edit it in the GitHub web editor, with a formatted preview available.

This is assuming that the people you're collaborating with know how to use git ... That's a big assumption to make

Barely any git knowledge is required to cowboy commit onto the default branch on GitHub using their web editor. The result is no different than what it would be using Google Docs.

(Though, every person on the team who wants to learn git is a strict incremental improvement – both over Google Docs and cowboy committing on GitHub.)

Having gone down a similar path with a team "Barely any git" is still a stretch for non-programmer types.

Your comment implies that there are other editors, besides Emacs, supporting Org mode...

Could you please elaborate on this?

I intended that implication, but I don't think I have a whole lot more to say about it, unfortunately.

- On my Android phone, I use Orgzly to capture notes, tick off finished tasks, and see various filtered views of my agenda.

- I see there are implementations in Vim, namely Vim-OrgMode and VimOrganizer.

- If you want to embed something on the web, org-js is supposed to be good. There is also the GitHub editor, of course.

- Further out of my comfort zone, there is something for IntelliJ IDEA called org4idea, and I saw you should be able to get orgmode support in Sublime Text. I also found Organized for Atom, but that appears to be a sort of Markdown-Org mashup, so not necessarily the right thing.

- Then, as unwelcome as this last point may seem to some, it's worth pointing out that Emacs is not an editor in singular. If you don't like the default editor that ships with Emacs, there are other editors to choose from which all run in Emacs. This includes the seriously fantastic Vim port called Evil. From what I can tell, the AutOrg project is even specifically packaging Emacs+Org in a way to make it more approachable to beginners.

Note that many of the options have not successfully replicated the full Org feature set yet. However, in the context of this discussion I have limited myself to the features that are also supported by Google Docs, which are... not many.

(I'm not looking, but) I would work for you in a flash if that's how you do things. I'm the only Org user in my team, and I wish they'd see the light!

Softmaker Office is pretty good. And works on all platforms (including Linux). http://www.softmaker.com/en/softmaker-office

No. GDocs is one of the best pieces of software in existence. Each component is very capable on its own. The sharing turbo charges it past all others. You’d have to really be a google hater to choose not to use it.

What? The only thing I like about Google Docs is the sharing part. The rest of it is a slow, bloated web app that is limited in the number of features it has.

The best pieces of software is Office 365. GDocs just free but vendor-locked.

How is gDocs more vendor locked than Office?

Maybe if you’re a chrome user. But using Firefox I hate Google docs.

Or just need a good spread sheet program.

Not sure if anybody mentioned Zoho Writer (https://writer.zoho.com)

I find it has more formatting features than Google Docs. Best of all: no Ads and document reading bullshit.

It's had considerable development in the past two years.

Why does the title not contain a link as normal hn posts?

The link below is not clickable, must be copied and pasted manually... no fun on mobile...

This is intentional:

How do I make a link in a question?

You can't. This is to prevent people from submitting a link with their comments in a privileged position at the top of the page. If you want to submit a link with comments, just submit it, then add a regular comment.

Honest question, can you just run simple symmetric encryption on your data before uploading to gapps?

OP's use case for Google Docs seems to be editing. Encrypting your document would mean that you wouldn't be able to edit it using Google Docs.

There's also NextCloud, although you'll need to pay for it or host it yourself.

just use graphitedocs.com

LibreOffice is one of the software I like the least.

It's super-ugly, doesn't have hidpi support on Linux, it's slow, it has a confusing UI.

Google Docs is about 100 times better.

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