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Bug 133984 - Enhancement: Support for real-time and offline collaborative editing in LibreOffice (desktop)
Summary: Enhancement: Support for real-time and offline collaborative editing in Libre...
Status: UNCONFIRMED
Alias: None
Product: LibreOffice
Classification: Unclassified
Component: LibreOffice (show other bugs)
Version:
(earliest affected)
6.4.3.2 release
Hardware: All All
: medium enhancement
Assignee: Not Assigned
URL:
Whiteboard:
Keywords:
Depends on:
Blocks:
 
Reported: 2020-06-14 14:16 UTC by Gerry
Modified: 2020-07-06 10:14 UTC (History)
8 users (show)

See Also:
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Description Gerry 2020-06-14 14:16:31 UTC
Description:
Real-time or synchronous collaborative editing allows multiple individuals to simultaneously edit the same document. Collaborative real-time editing of text, spreadsheets, presentations (and databases), has become standard in the work environment.

LibreOffice Online provides collaborative editing, but LibreOffice (desktop) does not support real-time collaborative editing. This request relates to improving LibreOffice's capabilities for collaborative work, in all of its modules. 

Although this feature request is not new, there was no general bug entry for this. There are several related, but more specific bugs in the bug tracker. I link the following in "See Also":
Bug 73831 : Collaborative work for writer
Bug 97282 : Enhanced Change Tracking/collaboration proposal - immutable XML
Bug 125733 : iOS: Collaborative Editing with Nextcloud
Bug 131461 : Connexion to NextCloud and collaborative editing
Bug 83946 : (Track-Changes) - [META] Tracking changes issues

Sources for collaborative editing in LibreOffice:

https://listarchives.odftoolkit.org/dev/msg00021.html Email (Apr 2020) describing status quo of ODFDOM changes, with several links

https://libocon.org/assets/Conference/Almeria/Svante-Interoperable-Office-CollaborationwithNotes.pdf Presentation 2019 on Interoperable Office Collaboration (Svante Schubert)

https://github.com/svanteschubert/odftoolkit/raw/odf-changes/LibOCon2018%20%20-%20Interoperable%20Office%20Collaboration.pdf Presentation 2018 on Interoperable Office Collaboration by Svante Schubert (more detailed than 2019 presentation)

https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.1145/3342558.3345419 Paper "The Next Millennium Document Format" ACM Digital Library 2019 (Svante Schubert) 

https://odftoolkit.org/odfdom/index.html ODFDOM page on ODF toolkit (https://odftoolkit.org/)

https://www.oasis-open.org/committees/documents.php?wg_abbrev=office-collab&show_descriptions=yes Draft of ODF 1.3 specification by OASIS SC Advanced Document Collaboration 

https://www.oasis-open.org/committees/tc_home.php?wg_abbrev=office-collab Website of OASIS SC Advanced Document Collaboration 

https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Collaborative_Editing (outdated page on collaborative editing in the wiki)

Steps to Reproduce:
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Actual Results:
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Expected Results:
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Reproducible: Always


User Profile Reset: No



Additional Info:
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Comment 1 V Stuart Foote 2020-06-14 15:09:13 UTC
Whoa there fella! LO Online is the path for collaborative work--LO Desktop is not. Plain and simple!

Not worth the continued dev effort this would require--and this gets my immediate -1, with a strong push to set => WF

And, this really is a dupe of bug 73831 which likewise should be closed WF.
Comment 2 Gerry 2020-06-14 15:33:05 UTC
(In reply to V Stuart Foote from comment #1)
> Whoa there fella! LO Online is the path for collaborative work--LO Desktop
> is not. Plain and simple!
> 
> Not worth the continued dev effort this would require--and this gets my
> immediate -1, with a strong push to set => WF
> 
> And, this really is a dupe of bug 73831 which likewise should be closed WF.

Thanks @vstuart for looking into this enhancement request.

I do not agree with you simply referring to LO Online for collaborative work and disregarding LibreOffice desktop. 
(1) In a professional setting (e.g. working on complex documents in a team), users need a full-fledged/featured office suite *and* need to collaboratively work on such documents. The competition (MS Word, to a lesser extent Excel, Powerpoint) can do that and and this is an essential and very important feature for working groups.

(2) There are two use-cases for collaborative editing: Real-time collaboration and synchronization of changes (e.g. done offline). Both are equally important and IMHO it should be a goal to support both in LibreOffice.


BTW, this bug is not a duplicate of bug 73831, as that one refers only to Writer.
Comment 3 Aron Budea 2020-06-14 16:26:50 UTC
(In reply to Gerry from comment #2)
> I do not agree with you simply referring to LO Online for collaborative work
> and disregarding LibreOffice desktop. 
> (1) In a professional setting (e.g. working on complex documents in a team),
> users need a full-fledged/featured office suite *and* need to
> collaboratively work on such documents. The competition (MS Word, to a
> lesser extent Excel, Powerpoint) can do that and and this is an essential
> and very important feature for working groups.
If there are features missing from LibreOffice Online that'd be important for certain kinds of professional work, wouldn't it make more sense to add those instead?
Comment 4 Gerry 2020-06-14 19:03:57 UTC
(In reply to Aron Budea from comment #3)
> (In reply to Gerry from comment #2)
> If there are features missing from LibreOffice Online that'd be important
> for certain kinds of professional work, wouldn't it make more sense to add
> those instead?

For complex documents and spreadsheets, online office suites (including LibreOffice Online) are no real option and will not be for a very long time (or maybe never). LO Online needed no less than all the features of LibreOffice desktop while having no time-lag, offline-working capabilities and full interoperability with files saved/opened locally. 

The following scenario is no future scenario, but everyday office life; actually it is a very typical case: A colleague uploads the draft of a report to MS OneDrive (e.g. 200+ pages with full layout, several tables of contents (headings, figures, tables), several chapters with dozens of tables, figures/drawings, cross-references and hundreds of bibliographic references), and annexes. Five persons collaboratively work in MS Word desktop on this same shared document: One person reworks some chapters and copies lots of prepared and layouted text into these chapters and partly works offline on the document during a train ride, syncing changes back later. The second person improves the figures and tables and has to copy lots of stuff from local MS Excel and MS Powerpoint files and several images from the local file system. The third person reworks the bibliographic references with Zotero. The fourth person works on layout and table of contents. The fifth person does proof-reading and adds comments and changes in the track changes mode. 

Therefore, I am very surprised that you don't consider collaborative editing an important feature for a desktop office suites. In the 2020s, IMHO this is a must for any desktop office suite to be suitable for enterprises and professional team work. 

These are typical requirements that need the fidelity and feature-richness of a desktop office suite:
* Working with large, complex documents or big spreadsheets.
* High performance and no time lag with such large documents and spreadsheets.
* Full interoperability with files (documents, spreadsheets, drawings, images) that are saved locally, i.e. edit with external program; import/insert & export/save; copy & paste.
* Ability to work offline on the shared document/spreadsheet and sync back the changes later when online.
* Navigating and copy & pasting between several sections of a document, but also from other documents or objects from other office modules (tables from Calc, drawings from Draw, etc.)
* Ability to use LibreOffice extensions such as the bibliographic software Zotero.
* Ability of open several windows of the same file showing different sections next to each other.
* Ability to collaboratively work with files that are hosted on file sharing systems such as MS OneDrive, MS Sharepoint or others (i.e. there is no LO Online).

LibreOffice desktop is perfectly suited for complex documents like that, but it unfortunately does not support collaborative editing. In this regard, LibreOffice desktop substantially lags behind the competition of MS Office. This is sad, because LibreOffice is superior in so many ways when dealing with complex documents.
Comment 5 Heiko Tietze 2020-06-15 10:20:46 UTC
"Real-time, synchronous collaborative editing" sounds a bit far-fetched and really covered by LOOL. But in other words you want CMIS and versioning with a git-like workflow, actually Svante's work. That would be definitely great (see also bug 86433), although I would expect the integration to be server-side aka Git. And there is bug 76318 requesting more or less the same. => DUP
Comment 6 Gerry 2020-06-15 18:32:42 UTC
(In reply to Heiko Tietze from comment #5)
> "Real-time, synchronous collaborative editing" sounds a bit far-fetched and
> really covered by LOOL. But in other words you want CMIS and versioning with
> a git-like workflow, actually Svante's work. That would be definitely great
> (see also bug 86433), although I would expect the integration to be
> server-side aka Git. And there is bug 76318 requesting more or less the
> same. => DUP

The core of this enhancement request is that LibreOffice desktop supports collaborative editing on a shared document, i.e. saved on CMIS (like Nextcloud, Onedrive, Sharepoint, Google Drive, Alfresco, Kolab, etc.). 

Whether collaborative editing is real-time or synchronized when saving the file, is more of a detail. For example, MS Word 2019 (desktop) supports real-time editing, while MS Word 2016 (desktop) supports only synchronization when saving the file. Both approaches generally work fine. Synchronized editing is very similar (or identical?) to Svante's approach.

In terms of server-site support, it makes sense to support at least those CMIS that LibreOffice Online already supports (e.g. Nextcloud, Alfresco, Kolab, Zimbra, etc.). I don't know whether it is feasible to support collaborative editing on Onedrive, Sharepoint, Google Drive, etc.

Bug 76318 is an interesting approach, but it is not a duplicate of this bug report. The request is very different, because it is about adding git as just another CMIS protocol. BTW, In office settings, git is often neither available, nor used nor wished. Files are typically stored in CMIS.
Comment 7 johnks 2020-06-28 12:00:57 UTC
I use a simple windows network file share for all the office work. Its not perfect but for a majority of people, using a shared folder in windows works. while i personally access the same from my ubuntu, i would love to having three people work on a calc file /writer file at once. 
The software could implement a constant saving feature so that all the online users are up to date and anyone going offline automatically gets the latest version. 

So, IMO before working on online sources which has a tonne of issues on its own, the team could implement the feature on local folders/shared folders where issues like latency and availability are lower
Comment 8 Svante Schubert 2020-06-28 14:18:44 UTC
I might come back with a better answer mid of next month (after some releases), but allow me to just give a quick status update:

Within the TDF, I am working on parallel collaboration by adding the concept of changes (or operations) to our ODF Toolkit, see https://tdf.github.io/odftoolkit/docs/odfdom/operations/operations.html

To define changes is important, as when you are working in parallel you are working on local copies like when working with GIT. You have to be able to ask your coworkers for their changes to be able to merge them into your copy.

I have explained this in the earlier mentioned ACM paper the end of last year. It had been uploaded for free access at:
https://github.com/tdf/odftoolkit/blob/master/docs/docs/presentations/2019%20-%20ACM%20DocEng%20-%20The_Next_Millennium_Document_Format.pdf  

If someone is curious, I have even made the effort to summarize all my painful experiences and resulting ideas in two talks at the XML conference in Prague this year (I was lucky I was able to attend FOSDEM and XML Prague before Corona).
The first talk is about improving XML in general and is more about my painful journey in the past 20 years (started 1999 at StarOffice), while the second talk builds on top of the first, drafting a solution for the named problems:

* #1 Slide: https://www.xmlprague.cz/day2-2020/#xmlpp
* #1 Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLwH4q-R55M
* #2 Slide:https://www.xmlprague.cz/day3-2020/#nmdf
* #2 Video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkTflH3yQZE

Regarding the upcoming work on the ODF Toolkit, Sebastian and I, have written in 3 days an "experience report proposal" - but we drafted only the problem to have a short talk at their conference to ask for feed-back instead explaining a full solution like in a real paper.
In other words, it was refused - it was indeed a bit shallow ;-) -  but might help to outline what we have in mind. NOTE: Only the third part is related to ODF, you might want to skip the first two: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BZhOHgH58w2WWeyOdJc1M5o_Mz1MxjXR/view?usp=sharing
Comment 9 Gerry 2020-07-01 19:53:14 UTC
I changed the title of this enhancement request to „real-time and offline collaborative editing“ to not confuse with the terms used. Here are the terms used for collaborative editing:

*Collaborative editing* (synonyms: co-authoring, parallel editing) means that multiple users can work together on a document, spreadsheet or presentation, over the inter/intranet (e.g. saved in a CMIS). This term comprises *real-time* and *offline* collaborative editing.

*Real-time collaborative editing* (synonyms: real-time parallel editing, real-time co-authoring, simultaneous collaborative editing) means that multiple users can simultaneously edit the same document. If anyone else is working on the document, the user sees their presence and the changes they're making in real-time.

*Offline collaborative editing* (synonyms: offline parallel editing, asynchronous collaborative editing, synchronised collaborative editing) means that the user can keep working on the shared file, independently whether he/she is connected. When the user goes offline, the application switches from real-time collaborative editing to offline collaborative editing. If there are others editing the same document, they won't be able to see the changes while the user is offline. When the user goes back online, he/she will be notified of any changes that are available, and other users will see the changes made by the user.