ONLYOFFICE or Collabora: who proves better in collaboration

We got many requests for ONLYOFFICE-Collabora comparison update, so we will do just that. In this article, we will focus on collaborative work in both office suites.

ONLYOFFICE vs Collabora comparison vol2

Previously on ONLYOFFICE vs Collabora battle

We wrote this article comparing basic principles of the office suites performance. Here’s a brief round-up of what has already been said:
 

  • ONLYOFFICE is better at working with docx, xlsx, pptx, while Collabora’s native formats are odt, ods, odp.
  • As a LibreOffice’s successor Collabora has two big advantages. The first is purely ideological. How can any open source lover not admire LibreOffice? The second is technological – it already has all Libre functionality inside while we are developing the majority of our features from scratch.
  • Collabora is a visual representation of a server-hosted LibreOffice sent to your browser. With a new interface and collaborative features, of course. ONLYOFFICE editors indeed work in your browser constantly exchanging data with the server.
  • In Collabora, all actions are processed on the server, while ONLYOFFICE uses the client’s resources. Collabora is can be slow since the editor is remote from the user.
Counting [collaborative] features

We have already said that being a LibreOffice’s successor Collabora has all of its features. Even though the developers have to somehow accommodate them in a new interface and add the possibility to work on objects simultaneously, that’s already a lot by now.

And “Collabora” comes from the word “collaborate”, right? This means that the most important thing is what you can do together. So, let’s look at the collaboration capabilities of ONLYOFFICE and Collabora.

Real-time co-editing. Collabora has it Google Docs way – you see your co-author’s cursor as they are typing.

We decided that type of co-editing is not enough. We have it, and it’s called Fast. Yes, it’s cool and effective when it comes to brainstorming or making final changes to the document, but sometimes you need more privacy. For example, you don’t want to be distracted by your co-author’s changes or have to correct your misprints before anybody sees them. For such cases, we have the Strict mode – you can work on text fragments privately with all the changes shown after doc saving.

So, Collabora has one type of co-editing, and ONLYOFFICE has two for users to choose what will be more convenient for them in each situation.
 
fast and strict co-editing modes in onlyoffice
 
Comments. Both office suites have them. However, simultaneous work with comments in Collabora causes conflicts as each user takes over the focus and the cursor. Changes made to the comments window are scrolled up, and the cursor disappears.

Chat. Absent from Collabora, present in ONLYOFFICE. This is not a big deal, just that is so convenient to discuss the document contents without leaving the editor.

Review and Track Changes. Present in both office suites, but with differences. First, in ONLYOFFICE we have Preview in Review feature to see how the document looks like with all the suggested changes accepted or rejected.

Second, in Collabora switching to the Track Changes mode by one user activates this mode for all the other users. Just imagine, trying to work on the text, you are suddenly thrown to Track Changes. You didn’t do anything, but the way you worked changed.  Magic?

Collaboration convenience and user customization

Co-editing a doc in Collabora you have to be ready to lose your individual preferences and settings because if your co-author enables Track Changes, non-printing characters or spell checking, they will be enabled for you as well. How come? The answer is simple: you and your co-author are literally working in one and the same editor. In the same copy of LibreOffice with Collabora interface that runs on the same server.

non-printing characters in collabora

This is also the reason why you can’t hide table borders and ruler in the text processor and the presentation editor, as well as gridlines, and row/column headings in spreadsheets. We assume these things were excluded intentionally because if one of the collaborators applied them, they would come into force for others too.

Zoom might be the only individual preference available in Collabora. But, seriously, they have to do something with it in presentations: when you zoom your browser in or out, the slide size stays tiny like in the minimized window. You can return its natural size manually, of course.
 
small_slide_blog
 
Losing your preferences could never happen in ONLYOFFICE that relies on client resources. Your editor runs in your browser, and you fully control what is happening in it and how it looks like. You can choose whether you want to see non-printing characters and have your spelling checked as well as track changes all by yourself.

Undo/Redo

In collaborative work, clear algorithms of Undo/Redo are of utter importance. In ONLYOFFICE clear algorithms help to avoid conflicts. We assume that when you hit Ctrl-Z you want to cancel your own last move. We uphold this principle even in Fast mode – we mark the actions of each user so that they could undo their own moves without affecting their co-authors.

Unlike our solution, Collabora has a through-and-through algorithm. In other words, while we have separate lists of actions for different users, they have a list of all the changes made to the doc. So, in Collabora, the one who made the last change can cancel it, and the other just has to wait until it is their turn to Ctrl-Z. So, the scheme where you can’t cancel your actions with Ctrl-Z until someone cancels theirs.

The scheme is not convenient and has some bugs, so it’s not that hard to crash it. For instance:
 

  1. User 1 inserts a character.
  2. User 2 deletes the character.
  3. User 2 makes an Undo.
  4. User 2 makes another Undo (which they must not have, if we understood the scheme correctly, and we sure did).
  5. Critical conflict occurs, and the version needs to be restored.

 

Another example of Undo/Redo conflict in Collabora

Another example of Undo/Redo conflict in Collabora

Conclusion

Collabora has all the LibreOffice features but still remains raw having too many issues with working in browser and collaboration. We believe that many of its drawbacks can be fixed and that they will be fixed. But when?

ONLYOFFICE is not perfect either, although we work hard to make it ideal like a Swiss watch. It might also take some time for us to catch up with this vast inherited functionality of Collabora. But if you need collaborative online editors today, ONLYOFFICE is at your service.

 

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