The future is coming ready-or-not

Open Source document management missing

with 10 comments

OpenOffice has been gaining momentum in the wider world, but document management is an important piece of the jigsaw that's missing. Every office produces a mountain of documents that need to be managed, and commercial systems are often far too expensive. A Free Software alternative would be a great opportunity to make headway amongst small businesses.

There are lots of great revision control systems in the free software world, in fact there seems to be an overload of options. All the same problems that something like Subversion solves exist for knowledge workers who use Word and Excel. Just one example is that often the largest part of project co-ordination is document management. It's a constant stream of boring administration ensuring that team members can:

  • Access the documents they need
  • Have added all their project documents to the repository
  • Are using the latest version of a document
  • Integrate all their changes into the documentation

If you can't afford a proper document management system there aren't that many options. Wiki systems such as Writely and Jotspot can be useful but aren't a complete solution. It's difficult for users to learn a completely new program and they often resist. Wiki syntax is fine for straightforward document but can't fully replicate the capabilities of an office suite. And the users have to be on-line to edit the documents.

Searching today turned up lots of ways to publish office documents through a Content Management System (CMS). But I couldn't find anything that was designed for keeping documents synchronised and doing real revision control. There are some references in the OpenDocument applications wiki page, but none were very promising.

Ideally the user would use a document management system from within their office suite. So in OpenOffice when you checked in a new version of a document it would tell you if there was a later version and show you any conflicts. The downside to this sort of integration is that it limits the content types you're managing, and means that each office suites would have to implement a different system. Perhaps a system could be based on something like iFolder, and then plugins could be written for each individual application – potentially any application could provide a form of revision management.

I'm really surprised that there isn't anything out there for doing this. What do you think, would document management be a good free software application? Are there any that I missed? And why do you think there aren't any well known options?

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Written by Steve George

May 12, 2006 at 18:52

Posted in Free Software, Linux

10 Responses

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  1. Check out Knowledge Tree Open Source version – http://www.ktdms.com/

    Also, DocMgr seems like it might work for some organizations, but doesn’t have the userbase of Knowledge Tree – http://wiki.docmgr.org/index.php/DocMGR


    May 15, 2006 at 19:15

  2. Bill,

    Thanks for the link. Knowledge Tree Open Source looks like an interesting product and appears to have the key features such as document versioning. From what I could see you checkout-lock-checkin documents. It doesn’t know about alterations in the documents itself, so you’d have to track changes in openoffice, but this does mean you could use it with any media. And the commercial version has some nice additions.



    May 16, 2006 at 12:10

  3. I briefly tried out the knowledgetree demo. Right now my office uses standard windows shares on a server. It’s unorganized and difficult to locate documents (I have my google desktop crawling the share to find things). However, the plus side is that we can easily open and edit documents directly from the shared folder(s) as well as make shortcuts to the files/folders.

    Web based document management systems seem to lack this simplicity since most offer click and save type donwloading and browse for file type uploading.


    June 19, 2006 at 11:39

  4. hello,

    i’m inclined to agree, have been looking a while for an open source DMS that can help organize all documents using tags – users in a team then can quickly share & search documents rapidly. if the UI comes wiki-enabled and with thumbnails capabilities, think it’ll be great…

    if you know anything, please advise. thanks!



    July 27, 2006 at 16:12

  5. Hi,

    You can also check out http://docmgr.sf.net.

    In essence it has the same capabilities as Knowledgetree but the interface is much cleaner IMHO.

    We use both knowledgetree and docmgr in production at my company. Don’t ask why but has something to do with mergers & acquisitions. 🙂 The general opinion is that docmgr is easier to use and knowledgetree has more capabilities on storing meta-data of documents.

    Best regards,

    The Netherlands


    August 2, 2006 at 23:47

  6. Robert,

    Thanks for the comment DocMGR looks like an interesting project. And it looks like it’s under active development which is definitely an important part of selecting the right Open Source project. Thanks for the tip.


    Steve George

    August 9, 2006 at 17:24

  7. In a previous life I implemented the Hummingbird DM product in some of the worlds largest law firms.
    I have been looking for an open source equivalent for a couple of years (I wanted to develop my own but have not had time). I found Knowledge Tree some time ago but it has really come on in the last 6-12 months, mainly with the move (as with most Open Source products) to a commercial and community edition.
    I think that features like Knowledge Tree explorer are key as, it would appear, it integrates right into windows explorer as a network share equivalent.

    Jay Greasley

    August 10, 2006 at 22:13

  8. Hello

    I am planning to present a project with an aim to minimize the internal circulation of documents in paper format, in a intitutions
    For that, i think that will be need a system that can generate/archive documents (we use the openoffice) an interact by introduction automatically references and the name of the documents (for example taking in account the profile of the user, and the type of document that the user will edit), and associate a workflow if need.
    I think that a property also important is, after the document editor close it, from that moment the document can not be edited no more, and it will be place at the archive.
    Sorry to explain all these……
    So, may questions are:
    What aplication can be use to support this kind of project?
    Can I find developers to implement all the setting that will be need?
    Is possible to have an idea of how much it will be need of investment?



    October 31, 2006 at 17:53

  9. Try Alfresco


    commercially developed and supported, available under their own variant of the MPL i.e. brand protected.



    November 28, 2006 at 17:08

  10. […] Hey, thank for the tip. I found this page during my google search for "Knowledge Tree": Open Source document management missing Futurile That blog some other packages to try as well: Alfresco DocMgr iFolder I think all 4 (including […]

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