Image de la bannière : Why did I choose Collabora Online ?

Why did I choose Collabora Online ?

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by Jérémie Lesage/ on 23 Mar 2023

Why did I choose Collabora Online ?

We are often asked why we chose to integrate Collabora Online into Pristy (and Alfresco) instead of choosing OnlyOffice.

Here are my answers:

1. The technology

OnlyOffice is in part based on Microsoft’s .Net technologies, and being a librarian by nature, I have a lot of difficulty working with the technologies of a company that has always sought to reinforce its monopoly.

Collabora Online is developed in C++ (it is the same software base as LibreOffice) which allows me to contribute (modestly) if I find a bug.

Scaling up is easier on Collabora Online, you just have to put a load balancer and increase the number of instances. For OnlyOffice it’s more complex, because you have to duplicate the Postgresql, the Rabittmq, the Redis … it’s a big architecture in the end.

Finally, Collabora Online natively supports LibreOffice files, but also Microsoft Office files, whereas OnlyOffice converts files in free formats (odt, ods, etc.) to Microsoft format (docx, xslx, etc.) before being able to edit them.

2. Security

The choice of implementation is radically different between the 2 solutions.

On the one hand, OnlyOffice behaves like an office application deployed in your browser. It downloads the file, then opens it on your computer and synchronizes the changes with the server. The advantage is that browsing the file is faster, but the initial loading takes longer. The risk is that in the event of a network failure, you will lose your changes. :grimacing:

On the other hand, Collabora Online runs an instance of LibreOffice on a remote server, it loads the file only on the server and sends to your browser only a view of the display (a bit like a VNC or a Citrix but more powerful). It is much faster to load, but it requires a good internet (or intranet) connection. The advantage is that you don’t lose your changes if the internet goes down because they already exist on the server.

Another difference in terms of security is that OnlyOffice downloads the entire file to the user’s computer, whereas Collabora Online only displays the parts that are consulted. Hence, OnlyOffice enforces document security policy in Javascript in the browser, Collabora Online enforces it securely on the server ; enforcing policy on the client is, I think, not the good option.

3. The values

Both solutions are free (libre) software - OnlyOffice is in AGPLv3, Collabora Online in MPLv2.0 - but OnlyOffice Enterprise is proprietary software, the sources are not free (libre)!

Another blocking point is that although the company’s headquarters are based in Latvia, OnlyOffice is a subsidiary of the Russian company “New Communication Technologies”. OnlyOffice is sold in Russia under the brand name P7-Office. On LinkedIn, many of the developers of OnlyOffice are Russian.

Strangely, this information is present on the [English Wikipedia] page (, but absent from the French version.

Meanwhile, Collabora is based in the UK developed in the open all over Europe and is based on LibreOffice Technology - developed collaboratively by a large community of developers supported by The Document Foundation based in Berlin.

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