New major versions of open source cloud service software Nextcloud have been frequently released during the last two years. In July 2021, Nextcloud 22 was introduced with a number of improvements and new features. One of the new features, Collectives, has potential to become a key application for Nextcloud users who are looking for collaborative document creation features. We took the Collectives app for a spin to see what it can do.
These are the major improvements and new features in Nextcloud 22:
- Collectives app provides a shared, structured document creation and management environment for Nextcloud users. You can group documents into tree-like structure and embed documents into other documents. Nextcloud calls it “knowledge management”, but at the moment, document management describes it better.
- Circles feature allows users to manage groups where you can share files or assign tasks to circles. Users are still created by the admin, but circles are something all users can make use of.
- Chat and task management lets you, for instance, share a deck card into a chat room or turn a chat message into a task.
- Workflow app has gained easier workflow management. For example, an administrator can define a new approval workflow for a document.
- Electronic documents, like PDFs, can now be signed with DocuSign, EIDEasy, and LibreSign.
- Nextcloud Mail has improved threading, message tagging, and Sieve message filtering capability.
If you are planning to upgrade to Nextcloud 22, here are a few tips that may help.
Nextcloud describes the Collectives app introduced in version 22 as knowledge management, a new way to share handbooks with other users. I would like to describe the first version of the Collectives app as collaborative document management that allows users to create new documents consisting of other documents, images, and written text. This is not like a folder, but you can embed other documents inside a Collective document, and create a tree-like structure that consists of documents under a main document.
At the moment Collectives app is extremely simple. It is extremely easy to use, but there is not much functionality. You can bring images and documents into your Collective only from Nextcloud Files. If you have a photo, or PDF on your hard drive, you have to upload it to Nextcloud Files first, and after that you can bring it into a Collective.
The Collectives app requires the Text app and the new Circles app to be enabled in the Nextcloud system. We have enabled both of them, but Circles functionality is nowhere to be found. We can’t share Collective documents to colleagues, but the user who owns a Collective can work with it. In any case, the purpose of Circles is to provide users the capability to create ad hoc groups who can access and work with Collective documents. The documentation is practically non-existent at the moment, so we are not spending time on solving the problem with Circles, but waiting for the next version.
The app automatically saves new Collective documents into Nextcloud Files (a Collectives folder is automatically created). New text files are markdown (.md) documents.
The functionality of Collectives is very limited at the moment, but this is a start. It is still early days for the new feature, but the concept has plenty of potential. Perhaps one day Collectives allows collaboratively managing, searching and creating documents flexibly so that it becomes a key feature in Nextcloud.