OnlyOffice Desktop Editors 5.5.1 - Good but can be better

Updated: May 23, 2020

Several months ago, I wrote my review of OnlyOffice Desktop Editors, a free, cross-platform office suite. This turned out to be a nice, fresh product, with lots of goodies, solid Microsoft Office compatibility, plus a range of unique and useful points like plugins, encryption and such. In between the costly but powerful Microsoft solution and the somewhat tenacious but occasionally erratic LibreOffice, this comes as a nice, flexible compromise, a sort of best of both worlds.

Recently, I got an email from the company, asking me, pretty please, to do another review of the product, and I decided to go for it. There's a new version of the office suite, some improvements, some bug fixes, so maybe this could be the version that makes it into my production setup. Maybe. Let's examine.

Teaser

Setup

Last time, if you recall, I struggled with the Fedora installation. This time, I decided to spice things up a little, and try OnlyOffice Desktop Editors on CentOS 8. This didn't go smoothly. First, on the official site, the free version of the suite isn't openly advertised. You need to go into the Download section to find it. Second, the available installation formats include Deb, RPM, Snap, and Flatpak. The last two offer distro agnosticity, but what made me curious was that only CentOS 7 was listed under RPM, and not CentOS 8.

Well, I tried anyway - and I got a dependency problem. Some fonts were missing, and there was no way to provide them, not even with the extra repos I was using. I've encountered a similar issue when trying to set up LyX in my second article on how to turn CentOS 8 into a perfect desktop. It would seem the availability of lots of "casual" software is less than what it was in the previous version. Perhaps it's just the general waning of the Linux desktop popularity, and people are no longer interested in helping package software. Or something else.

Error:
Problem: conflicting requests
- nothing provides dejavu-lgc-sans-fonts needed by onlyoffice-desktopeditors-5.5.1-78.x86_64
- nothing provides dejavu-lgc-sans-mono-fonts needed by onlyoffice-desktopeditors-5.5.1-78.x86_64
- nothing provides dejavu-lgc-serif-fonts needed by onlyoffice-desktopeditors-5.5.1-78.x86_64
(try to add '--skip-broken' to skip uninstallable packages or '--nobest' to use not only best candidate packages)

These fonts are available for CentOS 7 or Fedora 31+, but not CentOS 8. So I had to abort, and try something else. I went with the KDE neon as the host, and here, there were no issues getting OnlyOffice to work. But this is my second attempt at using it, and both times, I had these errors. Not good.

Getting underway

OnlyOffice Desktop Editors 5.5.1 is almost identical to the previous version. The interface is a bit slow to respond, especially when you want to open files. Indeed, the open file function is very clunky. There isn't an interface button - you need to go back to the main menu and choose open local file. This breaks the workflow. The gray-on-gray font thingie isn't good for your eyes; the font contrast can definitely be better.

Main

There's Open location inside the document space, though - but then it minimizes the main program and opens (or focuses on) the file manager. However, it does not seem to work if a file you're currently working on hasn't been saved. Please note that this is separate from Open local file in the main interface. Needs rework.

Open & save deadlock

Anyway, I went about doing my officy work, and it was mostly fine. The document part is the most well-developed piece of the suite, naturally. I also created a basic presentation, to see if there are any major differences from my previous attempt. Not bad, but you are somewhat limited in making templates, which can be more than useful for large (consistent) slide decks. The responsiveness was also a little bit wonky.

The only thing I found sorely missing are shortcut buttons to increase and decrease font size. I don't recall seeing those anywhere in the interface. Also, when working with Presentation, for some reason, the UI went full screen (not via F11), and the only way to get rid of it and be able to see the full suite interface was to start a slideshow and then kill it. Maybe some sort of presentation background thingie bug?

Document, using

Presentation

Microsoft Office compatibility

From what I can see, this remains identical to the last time I tested. As usual, I loaded a couple of Word templates from the Office 365 online gallery, and they rendered reasonably well. The color is off (transparency) in one of the files, but this ain't a new thing. Better than LibreOffice, but anything less than 100% compatibility is a risk for anyone who must share (serious) work with people who exclusively expect Microsoft Office. That's the simple cruel reality of our world.

Template 1

Template 2

Styles management

Again, no change from last time. Fairly rudimentary. You can make new styles from selection, but you can't make them from scratch, and the existing list is pretty slim. When it comes to this, Microsoft Office is way ahead.

Styles

Extras

OnlyOffice comes with a lot of useful helper tools. You have OCR (based on the Tesseract engine), pretty solid translation (based on Yandex), and then, there's a really cool and powerful Photo Editor. This is a nifty utility.

OCR

Photo Editor

Settings

Not much here. You can't really customize the program. You do have an option to use advanced settings in each document, but to me, this sounds like convoluted hierarchy.

Settings

Document settings

Conclusion

OnlyOffice Desktop Editors 5.5.1 works okay. It's not a revolutionary version, more of a soft, logical increment of an established product. It works well, and has some rather unique features and tools, but then, the font clarity, the messy open file functionality, and not-stellar responsiveness can't be ignored. Similarly, there should be better Microsoft Office compatibility, and most important of all, the setup should be spotless for everyone. That's where you start, and if that doesn't work, that's where the experience ends, badly.

My impression from last year remains. This is a solid product, with a potential to be really cool, but at the moment, it's still not sharp enough to take on the Office. It comes down to ergonomics really. How easy and convenient the product is - on your eyes, your efficiency, your creativity. If you are limited by bad fonts or missing styles, well, those are critical elements that translate into valuable time, especially for people who use office suites extensively. The free price tag is enticing, so there's nothing to lose really, but I'm thinking long term. It's about superior usability in all aspects, and OnlyOffice Desktop Editors isn't quite there yet. That said, you should test and explore, because it fills a pretty sweet spot between the ends of the office spectrum.

Cheers.

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