Open-Xchange to launch open-source, browser-based office suite

The new online office suite is being developed by a team of former OpenOffice developers, the company said

Collaboration software vendor Open-Xchange plans to launch an open-source, browser-based productivity suite called OX Documents.

The first application for the suite is OX Text, an in-browser word processing tool with editing capabilities for Microsoft Word .docx files and OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice .odt files, the Nuremberg, Germany, company announced on Wednesday.

OX Text doesn't mess up the formatting of documents loaded into the application, said Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange. XML-based documents can be read, edited and saved back to their original format at a level of quality and fidelity previously unavailable with browser-based text editors, according to the company.

"We are not breaking anything and are leaving everything in place," he said. OX Text can edit about 80 percent of a Word document's elements, and 100 percent of the document survives with the formatting preserved, he said.

OX Text allows multiple users to edit a document at the same time, but there are some things OX Text won't be able to do that can be done in Word. "We don't do headers or footnotes, no smart art and we don't have a formula editor," said Laguna. But functionality like header and footer support will be added later, he said.

Users will be able to add new content, format a table and make bullet lists, Laguna said. "We do what most people do when editing," he said, adding that changes will be pushed to the server right away and that a full version history of the changes will be available. The service will sport an SSL connection as default to make usage more secure, he said.

OX Text is the first application of OX Documents and will be available under the GNU General Public License 2 and the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license from early April. This means the software is free to use for individuals and for businesses, but companies that want support from Open-Xchange will have to pay for it, the company said.

The software will also be available under commercial licenses that offer support-based subscriptions to telecom and mobile carriers, hosting companies and cloud providers among others, the company said.

Spreadsheet and presentation software as well as a second version of OX Documents are planned for later this year, Laguna said.

OX Documents is developed by "key members" of the original OpenOffice development team, said Laguna. These developers joined the Open-Xchange team to engineer a cloud-based office suite from scratch using HTML5 and JavaScript technology in early 2012. The suite with editing capabilities will therefore be available on a range of mobile platforms too, Laguna said. A preview of OX Documents was made available online.

The new cloud-based document suite will be available separately and as an extension of the OX App Suite, a Web-based personal desktop that provides tools for managing email documents, calendar and social network feeds, launched in February. Open-Xchange users are able to migrate to OX App Suite if they want.

At the moment, Open-Xchange has about 70 million users at about 80 service providers, Laguna said.

Commercial service providers will be able to offer OX Documents for about ¬0.10 (US$0.13) per user per year, said Laguna. "The numbers go down if you are bigger, and smaller companies probably have to pay a bit more," he said. Pricing will mostly depend on negotiations though, with the number of users, the duration of the contract and the amount of applications needed as important factors.

The 10 cents per user per year is the amount that has to be paid by service providers to offer the software freely to users. If service providers sell additional services on top of Open-Xchange, like more storage for example, Open-Xchange gets a revenue share of around 25 percent to 35 percent that is also negotiable.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Topics: open source, applications, Open-Xchange, software, internet, Rafael Laguna, cloud computing, Software as a service, Office suites
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