Summary:

OX Text, which comes from former OpenOffice developers, will emerge in a couple of weeks as part of Open-Xchange’s app suite for service providers, although it will also be free to use under open-source licenses.

OX Text laptop

The German software-as-a-service firm Open-Xchange, which provides apps that telcos and other service providers can bundle with their connectivity or hosting products, is adding a cloud-based office productivity toolset called OX Documents to its OX App Suite lineup.

Open-Xchange has around 70 million users through its contracts with roughly 80 providers such as 1&1 Internet and Strato. Its OX App Suite takes the form of a virtual desktop of sorts, that lets users centralize their email and file storage accounts and view all sorts of documents through a unified portal. However, as of an early April release it will also include OX Text, a non-destructive, collaborative document editor that rivals Google Docs, and that has an interesting heritage of its own.

OX Text iPadThe team that created the HTML5- and JavaScript-based OX Text includes some of the core developers behind OpenOffice, the free alternative to Microsoft Office that passed from Sun Microsystems to Oracle before morphing into LibreOffice. The German developers we’re talking about hived off the project before LibreOffice happened, and ended up getting hired by Open-Xchange.

“To them it was a once in a lifetime event, because we allowed them to start from scratch,” Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna told me. “We said we wanted a fresh office productivity suite that runs inside the browser. In terms of the architecture and principles for the product, we wanted to make it fully round-trip capable, meaning whatever file format we run into needs to be retained.”

This is an extremely handy formatting and version control feature. Changes made to a document in OX Text get pushed through to Open-Xchange’s backend, where a changelog is maintained. “Power” Word features such as Smart Art or Charts, which are not necessarily supported by other productivity suites, are replaced with placeholders during editing and are there, as before, when the edited document is eventually downloaded. As the OX Text blurb says, “OX Text never damages your valuable work even if it does not understand it”.

“[This avoids] the big disadvantage of anything other than Microsoft Office,” Laguna said. “If you use OpenOffice with a .docx file, the whole document is converted, creating artefacts, then you convert it back. That’s one of the major reasons not everyone is using OpenOffice, and the same is true for Google Apps.”

OX Text will be available as an extension to OX App Suite, which also includes calendaring and other productivity tools. However, it will also come out as a standalone product under both commercial licenses – effectively support-based subscriptions for Open-Xchange’s service provider customers – and open-source licenses, namely the GNU General Public License 2 and Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License, which will allow free personal, non-commercial use.

You can find a demo of App Suite, including the OX Text functionality, here, and there’s a video too:

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