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Comparing Collabora with OnlyOffice

The facts you really want to know

Initially posted on 2019-07-19

Collabora Online is the most popular open source online document suite. Built on top of worlds most mature multi-platform office suite, LibreOffice.
Many people are interested in some of the differences here, and have asked us for some insights. Here we’ll present a few of the advantages we have found that make users and solution providers choose Collabora Online.
We look at the differences from the perspective of an enterprise wanting an on-premise office suite to deploy themselves.

Installation, setup and support

 

High availability, fault tolerance, upgrade-ability?



BeforeAfter

Clearly you want a high availability setup, not only to provide extra scalability, but also to provide redundancy against fault. Collabora Office has a clean and attractive architecture – which scales with your routing network:

  • Each document is served by a single node to which all requests and edits are sent for that document by the HA gateway: F5, HA proxy etc..
  • Each node is ultimately stateless and needs only limited local storage).
  • Collabora Online requires no third party services except of course it needs to connect to your existing file-storage solution.
  • Collabora Online regularly saves documents to your existing storage.
  • Collabora Online requires only a standard, basic Linux base-system to run on top of.

Contrasting the situation with OnlyOffice, we see a perplexingly more complex environment (in as far as we can understand the documentation):

  • OnlyOffice requires a separate Highly Available(HA) Redis frontend.
  • Each OnlyOffice node requires access to a shared, HA NFS server.
  • OnlyOffice requires access to a HA postgress database cluster.
  • OnlyOffice requires access to an HA RabbitMQ message bus.

It is unclear if Ascencio provide licensing and supported versions of Postgress, Redis, RabbitMQ – or if this must be purchased and provided separately. An HA setup can reduce the number of points of failure, but in the event of any failure having all of the servers coupled by so many shared protocols from database, to NFS, to a message bus – brings great potential for cascading failures.

 

Origin and Ownership

It is always a good idea to know your suppliers and where they are based. Where does your software come from? Is the development process transparent? Can you see the code you are installing? Here is a comparison table to help you decide.

Collabora Productivity is headquartered in the UK, with staff working in the open from around the world (but primarily in Europe), from home. This gives great distributed robustness against pandemics and political risks. OnlyOffice is created primarily by a team in Russia, development is done in-house and the open portion of this published periodically. Based in Nizhny Novgorod R7-Office is a Russian version based on the same software and shares development resource to meet Russia’s Import Substitution requirements. Based in Nizhny Novgorod.
All code is Open Source. Open Core i.e. open source code with opaque proprietary binaries. Proprietary – built with some Open Source components
Ownership: Collabora Productivity is controlled by Michael Meeks (UK) and Philippe Kalaf (Canada) Ascensio System SIA (registered in Latvia) has a single beneficial owner Lev Bannov (Russia) Founded by Lev Bannov (Russia)

As an interesting aside, the name R7 is derived from the world’s first intercontinental ballistic thermonuclear missile which also launched Sputnik.

 

Privacy and security

Collabora Online uses an adapted versions of the WOPI standard protocol, and we can use data stores which can provide their own policies. When your document data comes down into Collabora Online we isolate and protect your document in your on-premise server inside a series of concentric security onion
shells:

Keeping your documents on the server

OnlyOffice has a model whereby it distributes your document in its entirety to all editors of the document; whatever their permissions their browser has the complete content. Collabora in contrast keeps your document data on the server, and can send only tiled images to the client. These can also be watermarked with the viewer’s name. With granular permissions to restrict copy & paste, download, print and so on – Collabora protects your documents like no other.

With Collabora Online your content never leaves your server.
No control over restrictive access.

Collaborating on documents in the cloud quickly

 

Faster startup time


Performance and Responsiveness

Interactive co-editing

Real-time collaboration

All Collabora Online editing happens immediately, and each user shares the same document concurrently. That allows just one document to be edited interactively in real-time, with no extra lag or latency to see other users’ typing. It also avoids locking of paragraphs in text documents, giving a great freedom to all editors.

Fast spreadsheet core

Collabora has worked with AMD for many years to build some extreme performance, optimized for Ryzen into Collabora Online. This lets us take advantage of threading during document load, save, and importantly calculation.

This allows your small mobile device to load, edit and re-calculate complex spreadsheets in the cloud quickly, while saving your battery-life.

Proper document handling

Opening a letter head file

Collabora Online does a great job in handling all sorts of files and file formats. More than any other office application. And still improving – thanks to a great community customers world-wide. We know we’re not always fully perfect, but look at this Word document, of which header and numbering shows as original in Collabora Online, but broken in the product that promises 100% compatibility..



Fonts, images, comments…



On the left, there is the original document as shown in Microsoft Word. It has embedded fonts, image wrapping, comments and more. On the right side: use the slider! You’ll see how Collabora Online handles the lay out, fonts, image wrapping, comments and how Only Office does that.

 

BeforeAfter

The above Word document shows how Collabora Online nicely handles embedded fonts, image wrapping, and more. Look how that compares!



Chart data



This word document with a chart, misses the charts legend in Only Office. Here the same file in the three applications.

 



Complex Word doc



In this legacy Word document, images, frames, tables combined, you’d be pleased to work with Collabora Online.

 



Transparency in presentations



Details are important in attractive presentations. So you surely want image transparency to be shown!

 

Getting the basics right

In Collabora Online filling cells behaves as you expect

Showing the green ticks at the proper position



OnlyOffice doesn’t show these bullets as they were created in Powerpoint. Furthermore, upon saving and opening again it modifies it from circles to asterisks

The following image shows that Only Office fails to show the rotated text in this PowerPoint properly.
The height of the water mark in Only Office is clearly stretched.



The following Excel document has vertical text. Which is correctly rendered in Collabora Online whereas Only Office fails to do the proper thing.



Rich in features, nice to work with

User Experience

Collabora Suite offers powerful features combined in one place. A myriad of common actions are available and easy to access both online and on Desktop while keeping your document visible and centred. As is shown in the example of formatting spreadsheets.

The following image shows the page formatting of a spreadsheet. Collabora Online offers the same workflow that you know, borrowing from the desktop and keeping the same user experience paradigm across different applications and different devices.
Collabora Online allows users to easily set all footer information in presentations. The user can change that directly if for example title, place or date of the presentation have changed.


Using documents with VBA

Spreadsheets with VBA code can perform nice tasks. Look at this example of Collabora Office and a program that doesn’t handle it.

 

BeforeAfter

 

BeforeAfter

Proving reliable

Ensuring correct user input



You expect that users can work with Microsoft format forms, and are not allowed to enter protected part of documents..

 

Presentations and other documents can be saved as ‘finalized’, as read-only documents. Whereas Collabora Online nicely obeys this, OnlyOffice fails to handle these documents securely.




Presentation and animations

 

Collabora offers a wide range of cool slide transitions!
Collabora Online showing the attractive formatted bullets.

 

Unlimited Tabs, unlimited connections

 

Unlimited Tabs, unlimited connections

Truly open source and built alongside a strong community

Collabora Online is based on the active, successful and open LibreOffice project. Collabora contributes all of its developments and changes to the LibreOffice as part of our ‘Open First’ philosophy. Collabora is a major contributor to the LibreOffice project, which is nonetheless a diverse and active community.
OnlyOffice is produced by a single company with a small engineering team. In recent times Only Office opened some parts of its code – while keeping some of their work proprietary as a typical open core approach. The absence of public commit activity is a cause for concern – having a clear stream of individuals committing differentiated and self-contained improvements is a vital function of people’s confidence in the sustainability of the project.

Community Analysis

 

A numerical view can help to contrast the trajectory of these two code-bases. (Numbers correct at time of writing.)

Github statistics

Translations

Events

    • LibreOffice: has and attends many community events from conferences to hack-fests each year. LibreOffice is backed by The Document Foundation – a vendor neutral non-profit (Stiftung) incorporated in Berlin, Germany. You can read about all the good things we’re doing around the world from Japan to Brazil and everywhere in between: in the annual report. Collabora plays an important part at these events, giving talks at many and sponsoring some.

  • OnlyOffice: There are no known OnlyOffice community events, the project rarely attends traditional Open Source gatherings or presents outside of business conferences.