Homeworking and the Role of Open Software in 2022


As most will agree, it’s been an unusual two years as the Covid pandemic has transformed society and ushered in new approaches and attitudes to the way we work, such as homeworking.

Impact of the Pandemic and Homeworking

In this blog we talk to Michael Meeks, General Manager of Collabora Productivity, to get his take on the business impact of the pandemic, the rise in homeworking and the ongoing pressure on organisations to enable and support effective distributed team collaboration and secure data sharing.

Discussing how the pandemic directly impacted Collabora Online, Michael explained that Collabora had always been a very virtual business so homeworking was nothing new.

“We utilise the skills and expertise of people from around the world, so distributed working is a necessity for us. Similarly, from a sales perspective, the pandemic, fortunately, has not been disruptive as it has for many other businesses. In fact, our sales over the last two years have increased significantly, which is possibly a direct result of organisations needing to respond to homeworking.”

Michael explained that they’d seen a growing number of businesses turning to Collabora Online as a way of solving urgent operational gaps brought about by the closure of offices.

“For many organisations, simply extending office-based solutions into the homes of their staff was either too expensive or technically too difficult.”

Tried and Tested Collaboration Solution

Collabora Online presented a tried and tested alternative to the commonly used office document solutions. Not only did it offer a familiar ‘desktop’ look and feel, which is important when trying to maintain productivity levels, but it was easy to deploy within a web/browser-based distributed environment, so it answered many of the issues business decision makers were asking when extending the working environment into a less-controllable domestic setting.

Michael said:

“We regularly talked with decision makers who recognised the urgency of homeworking, but were, understandably, concerned about operational implications, such as productivity, data security and legislative compliance.” He continued: “Given the way Collabora Online is built on the LibraOffice common core, we could provide a feature-rich, distributed office document collaboration solution that was tried and tested, and already optimised for the demands of the homeworking environment.”

Throughout the pandemic, and beyond, Collabora Online was, and is, being used by serious, tech-savvy organisations that need a document collaboration solution that not only provides more control over every aspect of its operation, such as the servers and networking it is hosted on, but greater security over the, often sensitive, data exchanged and stored in office documents.

Collabora Online, Office Productivity Market and Open Software in 2022

So as we move towards greater levels of ‘normality’ what does 2022 look like for Collabora Online, the office productivity market and open software in general?

“I think homeworking is here to stay,” suggested Michael.

“This long-term transition has clearly been accelerated by the pandemic, but you could argue that as the search continued for a better work/life balance, it would have come about sooner or later. As such, more and more organisations will be looking for solutions, such as Collabora Online, that are already optimised for a distributed working environment. Homeworking can come with its own challenges, especially when problems arise. In these circumstances, businesses need to be confident they can quickly and easily get the support they need, when they need it, which they can from us at Collabora.”

With regards to the open software market, Michael was very positive:

“Open Source software is everywhere now and is dominant in new product development, and although a tension can occur with commercial drivers that sometimes encourage bad practices, such as a reluctance to contribute back to the overall open software community, most of those involved get it and understand the huge benefits working with Open Source can deliver”

So 2022 looks like an exciting year for Collabora Online as it continues to respond to the evolving needs of a distributed, increasingly security-aware market, with end users keen to protect their flexibility and avoid getting tied to one dominant supplier.

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Collabora Online Shines at the Nextcloud Conference

#nextcloudconf2020

 

The Nextcloud Conference 2020 took place on October 3rd and 4th – typically for this year as a virtual event. Participants were able to follow the compact presentations in the livestream and then ask questions to the speakers online. On behalf of Collabora Michael Meeks spoke about all the latest developments for Collabora Online.

Watch Michael Meeks Talk at the Nextcloud Conference 2020

Showing some highlights

Documents always stay on your server, and on your server alone

Data security is one of the top features of Collabora Online. The application lets the edited document never leave the server; only images of the documents, pixels, are transmitted to the viewing and editing parties. This differs from other approaches for online cooperation and editing, where centralized keys or even the sending and receiving of the actual file at all devices are used. On top of that, the use of watermarks make the handling of the content of your documents even more secure.

New UI – Experience options

An absolute novelty is the new user interface, which was presented only a few days before in Collabora Online Development Edition release 6.4. The new intuitive NotebookBar arranges the most important functions in clearly arranged tabs, and can also be folded up to maximize the workspace. The user interfaces can be selected in the admin area. For Nextcloud users, the classic toolbar is currently the default setting.

Collaborating with annotations to PDF files

Collabora Online offers more features for PDF files. When a PDF is opened in Collabora Online, from the three dots menu of the file, users can now search the text and also add annotations. Allowing easier cooperation on PDF documents.

Questions from the Nextcloud Community

After the streaming of the talk viewers of the Nextcloud conference had the possibility to address questions to Michael Meeks. We give you the (slightly shortened) answers below with timecoded links to the full answer in the recording of the stream.
Michael Meeks answering questions from the Nextcloud community

How to you get the new NotebookBar?

There are two answers to that. We are working on putting a UI into Nextcloud to make that extremely trivial through a check button so that it will become really easy for people to check on it, play with it and see if they like it. This is to be incorporated soon with the stable release. Currently, you can edit your loolwsd.xml file – soon to be renamed into coolwsd.xml. You’ll find the UI settings in there. All the details are available in the announcement post of Collabora Online Development Edition 6.4. (watch full answer)

Can you use custom colour pallets and corporate design colours in documents?

In terms of documents, we have a very powerful style engine in the ODF file format to create all kind of elements in different colours. You can drop that into a template and use it in Nextcloud right today. In terms of UI colours it is quite an easy thing to push elements into the iframe. We invite people to get involved on GitHub & Telegram and play around we can help you extend the range of what is possible there. (watch full answer)

When will CODE 6.4 turn into an enterprise version?

That depends on the feedback. We want to make sure that it is really ready and fully baked. I’m seeing Collabora Online 6.4 released in a matter of 3 to 4 weeks. (watch full answer)

Thanks!

We’d like to thank the Nextcloud team for the invite and the community for the awesome work it is doing in the project. Since Nextcloud Hub 19 there is an easy to install built-in server option available in Nextcloud. Of course, you can also check on the quick try-out with docker. Fancy a closer look at the slides? Please find the download link below.

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