At a time when there are so many online office suites for every need and budget, ONLYOFFICE Docs is the most reliable and safest document collaboration tool. Using it, you can create, edit and even co-author text documents, spreadsheets and presentations with other people in real time without any hassle. The tool is ideal for everyone who is involved in electronic document workflows. Bearing that in mind, here is a brief overview of ONLYOFFICE Docs and the things that you can do using this software.
What is ONLYOFFCE Docs?
ONLYOFFICE Docs is an open-source office suite created by Ascensio System SIA, a software development company from Latvia. Inspired by the example of Google Docs, the Latvian software is designed to be more secure and flexible without locking the users into its own ecosystem.
ONLYOFFICE Docs includes a word processor, a spreadsheet app and a presentation editor that are completely compatible with the OOXML formats making it possible to open and edit any Word, Excel and PowerPoint files right in your browser. The suite also supports the Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF) and the old Microsoft file extensions, such as DOC, XLS and PPT.
Being a self-hosted solution, ONLYOFFICE Docs allows you to create an online collaborative environment via integration with multiple document management services and file-sharing platforms like Nextcloud, Seafile, ownCloud, SharePoint, Confluence, Alfresco, Liferay and others.
Share documents with various access permissions
Using ONLYOFFICE Docs, you can easily set up the required level of access while sharing your documents with other people in real time. By default, the following access permissions are available:
- Full Access – the user can view and edit the document without any restrictions;
- Review – the user can suggest changes in the Track Changes mode, and the owner of the document has the right to accept or reject each change, one by one or all at once;
- Form Filling – the user can change certain elements in the document;
- Comment – the user can only leave comments in the text;
- Read Only – the user can open the document for viewing without being able to edit it;
- Deny Access – this option blocks access to the document on the part of the user.
Moreover, there is a special access level for spreadsheets called Custom Filter. Using this option, you can hide some data, and the other users won’t be able to change the applied filter. All they can do is work only with the specified fields.
To provide someone with the required access permission, open your document, go to the File tab and click Access Rights… on the left. Choose Change access rights, add the user you need and select the required option by clicking Read Only, the default one.
Switch between two co-editing modes
To make the collaboration process as effective as possible, ONLYOFFICE Docs comes with two co-editing modes. The Fast mode is activated by default and shows all the changes made by the users in real time. If you type something, your co-authors will immediately see your inputs.
The Strict mode is designed for more private co-editing. This option makes it possible to hide the changes made by the other users so that they don’t distract you. When you click the Save button, you will not only save your own inputs but also accept those made by your co-authors.
When a document is edited by several users in the Strict mode, the edited text is marked with colorful dashed lines. If you hover the mouse cursor over any word, you will see the name of the user who is editing the text at the moment. In the Fast mode, all the actions and the names of the co-editors are displayed while they are editing the text.
You can activate the required mode in the Advanced settings of the document that you can access via the File tab. There is also a possibility to switch between the modes if you open the Collaboration tab and click the Co-editing Mode icon.
Track and review changes
Another useful collaborative feature in ONLYOFFICE Docs is Track Changes. When activated, it allows you to control the changes made by other users. As the owner of the document, you can turn this feature on or off not only for you but also for everyone.
If a user has access to the document as a reviewer, they can change sentences, phrases and other page elements, correct spelling mistakes without editing the document. All their changes are recorded and shown to the owner of the document who has the right to accept or reject them for some reason.
To activate and configure the feature, you need to go to the Collaboration tab, click The Track Changes icon. Here you can also choose the required display mode:
- Markup – you can view all the suggested changes and edit the document. In this mode, the changes are highlighted and displayed in balloons.
- Simple Markup – you can view all the suggested changes and edit the document but the changes are displayed in the text only, and the balloons are hidden.
- Final – this mode displays all the changes as if they were accepted. Document editing is not possible.
- Original – this mode displays all the changes as if they were rejected. Document editing is not possible.
Navigate through the previous versions of your documents
If you collaborate a lot, there are usually several versions of the same document. The Version History feature helps you keep track of all the changes and restore the required version if necessary. Thus, you can see when the document was changed and who changed it.
If someone made a mistake in the current version of the document or if you simply like one of the previous versions more than the current one, you can replace the current version with the one you like. In this case, the restored version of the document becomes the new current version.
At the same time, you can view any previous version without overwriting the current one. To see all the available versions of the document you are editing at the moment, open the File tab and click Version History. After that, you will see a list of all the previous versions with the name of the author and the time when the last modification was made. Select the one you need and click Restore to replace the current version of the document.
Compare documents online
Document comparison is a must-have feature when you need to find missed or added symbols, words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs in similar documents. Manual cross-checking may take a lot of time and effort, so automatic comparison is much better and more convenient.
To compare two documents in ONLYOFFICE Docs, open the original one, go to the Collaboration tab and click Compare. Here you need to choose one of the following options:
- Document from File to open a document stored on your hard disk drive;.
- Document from URL to enter the link to a document stored in a third-party file storage;
- Document from Storage to open a document stored on your ONLYOFFICE portal.
After the second document is selected, the comparison process will start and the document will be displayed as if it was opened in the Review mode. All the differences will be highlighted, and you be able to accept or reject them. Thus, you actually merge two files into a new one with custom changes made.
Communicate in real time
Communication is the key to the successful collaboration process. While co-editing a document within a big team, it’s vitally important to be able to explain to someone else what you are doing and what changes are needed.
ONLYOFFICE Docs allows you to communicate with your co-authors in real time right in the document by leaving comments for each other. To comment on a text passage, select it with the mouse, right-click and choose Add comment. Type what you need and click Add. You can manage your comments by editing or deleting them as well as resolve the comments left by the others.
ONLYOFFICE Docs also allows you to attract the attention of a certain user by using the “+” or “@” sign in a comment. In this case, the user will get a corresponding notification.
Comments and tags are not the only features when it comes to communication. There is also a built-in chat that you can use to change text messages with your co-authors without using any third-party apps. All the messages are saved as long as the current co-editing session is active. When the last user closes the document, the messages are deleted automatically and the chat history becomes empty. To access the chat, click the corresponding icon on the left sidebar or go to the Collaboration tab and select Chat.
If you want to create, edit and collaborate on documents in real time with other people, you can always rely on ONLYOFFICE Docs. This open-source software makes it possible to accomplish multiple collaborative tasks and makes the whole process more seamless. Apart from its free community version, you are also allowed to upgrade to a commercial version with access to professional editing features. The commercial version comes with a 30-day free trial, so you will have enough time to decide if ONLYOFFICE Docs suits your needs.