Web-based office productivity applications such as Zoho Office and Google Apps enjoy significant deployment and collaboration advantages over their older, desktop-bound cousins. These Web-based apps are accessible through most browsers, there’s no software to install on client machines, and, as Web natives, online office applications tend to make documents and events easy to share and to edit collaboratively.
However, the best-known online office applications also tend to suffer from certain Web-related liabilities. Not every organization is comfortable with housing its data outside the company firewall. (And some companies can’t for legal and/or regulatory reasons.) In addition, binding a Web application to a single hosting provider means giving up the option of firing that host while continuing to use the application.
Enter OpenGoo, a Web-based office productivity suite that, as its name suggests, is intended to deliver the online collaboration benefits of Google Apps but in a more “open” manner. Specifically, where the source code for Google Apps is proprietary and hosting is limited to Google’s own data centers, OpenGoo is distributed under an open-source license and can be run from any LAMP server.
In addition to the open-source, host-it-yourself OpenGoo, there’s a commercial version of the suite, called Feng Office, that is available in hosted and on-premises versions. Both versions come with technical support and are priced starting at $10 per month, with the per-user fee dropping to about $5 per month for five or more users. The hosted version of Feng Office also includes about 300MB of storage space per user.
Usefulness That Belies Age
I tested the suite in both its hosted and do-it-yourself incarnations, and found that while OpenGoo lacks some of the functionality of online rivals such as Google Apps and Zoho Office, the suite exhibits a level of usefulness that belies its young age.
Much of project’s polish is due to the fact that OpenGoo is sort of a distribution of other office productivity-related open-source projects. By tapping pre-existing components, such as the widely used FCKEditor for document creation and editing, OpenGoo has managed to progress much more quickly than if the project had been built from scratch.
OpenGoo needs more work before it can pose a major challenge to existing online office options, but the suite is worth further evaluation for organizations in search of an inexpensive way to improve collaboration without limiting deployment or customization options. If nothing else, the project is worth keeping an eye on for the way that it showcases up-and-coming open-source office components.
Probably the easiest way to take the software for a spin is to peruse the live demo at: http://demo.opengoo.org/en/index.php?c=access&a=login.
OpenGoo in the Lab
OpenGoo in the Lab
I tested OpenGoo 1.5.2 in a virtual machine running Ubuntu Server 9.04 with the LAMP server role enabled. As with many other LAMP-based applications, installation of OpenGoo was fairly simple. I extracted the archive containing the OpenGoo source into the Web directory of my test server, and then visited a setup page to complete the setup-configuring the database, creating an administrator account and so on.
Once OpenGoo was up and running, I could create additional user accounts, as well as company accounts for my organization and for client organizations. However, this process could have run much more smoothly if OpenGoo supported LDAP directory integration.
OpenGoo manages permissions for the documents, contacts, calendar items, projects and tasks that live in the system through a series of workspaces. Each user gets his or her own personal workspace, and workspaces can be created for projects or teams. I could assign rights to create, modify, view and remove objects within given workspaces to particular users, and could manage rights for a hierarchy of workspaces by nesting them.
The document editor in OpenGoo (which I used to write this review) offers the typical range of rich text editing options, but the document editor is a bit thin on supported file formats. By default, the editor stores documents in HTML, although I was able to install an optional module to download my documents in PDF. I could upload HTML or text documents for editing within OpenGoo. I could also upload other document formats-such as .doc, .docx and .odt-and manage them with checkout and versioning controls. However, I couldn’t directly edit these documents from within OpenGoo.
OpenGoo includes a basic presentation editor and viewer application, which also taps HTML as its file format. I was disappointed to find that I could not export my presentations in PDF, as I could with the word processing component. The suite also does not include a spreadsheet component, but this capability is on the project’s road map.
Alongside its document and presentation tools, OpenGoo offers a basic e-mail component that supports receiving mail from IMAP and POP3 servers and sending mail through external SMTP servers. Somewhat annoyingly, the e-mail component pulls down only 10 messages at a time, but I could remove this limit through the suite’s admin console. At this point, I couldn’t see using the OpenGoo e-mail application as a primary mail client, but it could come in handy for pulling down messages from a shared project-related account.
OpenGoo’s calendar component is fairly similar to Google’s calendar application, with the important exception that OpenGoo’s calendar doesn’t handle subscriptions to calendar servers. I was able to import events from an uploaded iCal file, but to keep my events up-to-date, I would have to set up some sort of cron job to pull down the import files.
Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.