Roll Your Own Online Office With OpenGoo

Maybe you like the convenience and portability of Google Docs, Zoho, or any of the myriad other online office suites and scheduling applications out there, but you're not crazy about posting your documents and organizational data to Google or anyone who can guess your password. OpenGoo, a free office package that's easy to install on nearly any modern web space, gives you go-anywhere access to your own documents, calendar, contacts, tasks, and even email. We took OpenGoo through a test installation and grabbed a few screens to show off the suite's slick interface and features, so read on to see how you can test out your own web-as-desktop experience without pledging allegiance to any one web firm.

If you just want to take a peek around OpenGoo without any commitment, the team has put up a live demonstration where anyone can create, edit and delete anything, though it's cleared out every day. Be prepared for some files named LULZ, in other words.

If you really want to try it out yourself, the first step, as you might imagine, is heading to OpenGoo's web site and downloading the latest release in zipped format. If you're planning on installing OpenGoo on your own web space, it's simply a matter of un-zipping the archive and transferring the folder inside to your server, wherever you'd like to access it. I renamed the folder from opengoo_1.0 to simply opengoo for easy of access.

If you want to try out OpenGoo without posting it live online, you can easily do so with a package like the WAMP Server for Windows, MAMP for Mac OS X, or installing Apache 2, mySQL 4.1 or higher, and PHP 5 on your Linux system (here's an example guide for Ubuntu). Extract the OpenGoo folder to your "www" folder wherever your server package ended up installing.

Wherever you installed OpenGoo, head to that directory in your web browser—c:/wamp/www/opengoo would be a likely spot for WAMP installers, for example—and you'll be re-directed to an automated installation script page, similar to a WordPress installation:

Hit "Next," and OpenGoo will run checks to see if you've got all the required extensions and permissions to run. If you're on your own system or a modern web space you rent, this should be a quick pass. Hit "Next," and you're at the database setup:

If you're using a tool like phpMyAdmin, it's definitely a good idea to create a new database for OpenGoo and give it its own username and password. If not, at least give the root user a password, rather than leaving it as the default blank. If you've got the details right, OpenGoo will work for a few minutes, show you a "Finished!" page, then ask you to create an administrator account and password, along with an email address for lost or forgotten passwords. You'll have to supply a company name, but you can obviously put whatever you want in there.

Once that's all done, you'll be dropped at OpenGoo's main page (which I smooshed in my browser a bit to fit in a screenshot):

Here's what it looks like when it gets a bit busier than I'm able to fake, courtesy of the live demonstration:

The universal calendar view is pretty darn helpful, giving you a glimpse at all your events, tasks, and "milestones" (basically projects that organise tasks) in one view. As you add documents, notes, and web links to your workspace, they'll show up here as well.

Now to the basics—writing and saving documents. There aren't any spreadsheets in OpenGoo 1.0, but the editing tools for documents and PowerPoint-esque slideshows are pretty extensive:

If you're a fan of pre-2007 Word toolbars, OpenGoo's in your corner, seemingly. You can hide all those toolbars, though, by clicking the tiny little arrow in the left-most stripe. What everyone's going to notice first off, and likely call a deal-breaker, is that you can only save this document as a formatted HTML file. To download it as that, even, you have to head back to the main documents screen. I don't think it's necessarily a bird flipped in the direction of proprietary Word formatting, or even the ODF/OpenOffice movement, but an indicator that OpenGoo is where you go to work on documents, not pull off conversions. Copying and pasting my text in the screenshot into Word 2007 worked just as I'd hoped, with colours, formatting and sizes carried over.

One solid difference between OpenGoo and big-name online docs sites is its catering to multiple users and standard business practices. Check out what you can do with a document when selecting it in the Documents overview:

As you can see, you can download any version of a document (also in HTML-only), "checkout" the file to prevent others from editing temporarily, move it to another workspace, link it to other documents or notes and calendar appointments, and create "subscribers" who get notified when changes are made.

We spend a lot of time checking out brand-new calendar tools at Lifehacker (seriously). OpenGoo has some of the most robust features for a new launch we've seen, with Outlook-compatible invitation sending, tagging, smart repeating events, object linking, and custom "properties" to create super-smart searches later:

Rather than loading this page with even more huge-screen pics to slow down loading even further, I'll say that OpenGoo's notes, contacts, tasks, links organiser, and calendar tool share are all of an intriguing, if not quite newcomer-friendly, piece: They're all well thought-out, efficient, and powerfully connected, but getting data into and out of OpenGoo at this point doesn't seem intuitive. There's no clear import or export functions, certainly not for non-HTML formats, so it seems like OpenGoo is mostly a place to start fresh with a new project or team.

Having said that, one more cool feature of OpenGoo is its support for integrated email—POP for now, with IMAP to soon come. Setting up POP mail is a familar fill-in-the-blank game with usernames, passwords, ports and servers. I saw an option for enabling "Exchange compatibility" during setup, and the email writing interface is a decent rich-text affair, with (no surprises) tagging, object linking, and custom categorization.

Those are the basics of OpenGoo's roll-your-own online office suite, though you'll find a lot more by checking it out yourself, including the ability to back up your entire document space to an off-site file, support for multiple clients/companies/groups, and an auto-upgrade features to save everyone a lot of FTP headaches.

Tried out the live demonstration or fired up your own copy of OpenGoo? Like what you see, or see a lot of promise? Can't imagine working without Microsoft Office compatibility baked in? Tell us your take on OpenGoo in the comments.


    This is an interesting idea, but without a spreadsheet, it isn’t very useful for business users. I’ve been using eXpresso ( to work with my Excel spreadsheets online. It is very different from OpenGoo because it uses real Excel files.

    Last thing I knew about this application is that there's a team working on a spreadsheet. The alpha release is scheduled in two weeks or so, and it's aimed to support Excel and Open Office formats.

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