Calls: Send in your ideas. Deadline October 1st, 2022.

Collabora Online and LibreOffice

Improved visual document search for cloud service

Today it’s usually easier to use a search engine for information than find it locally, which is not optimal from a digital sovereignty point of view. Part of the problem is that we lack good open source tools to provide context and graphical search of local documents. These tools present plain-text lists for search results, which means people with good graphical memory find information slower. We think it’s a huge opportunity to show the context of search hits in a graphical form to find information faster. Technically, this will mean taking an existing file synchronization and sharing (FSS) solution, hosting your documents on-site. Then improving LibreOffice to index content in documents with their context. We will build a secure REST API on top of this in Collabora Online which provides good performance. Finally we will integrate with a search engine, e.g. Apache Solr to create a proof-of-concept search page that allows searching in all documents hosted in a FSS solution. This will serve as an example how to integrate our solution to other projects like Nextcloud.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

We have come to associate search and discovery of digital content with online search engines. But how about the files and documents that populate our phone, laptop and (work) servers? I a constantly online world it might be easy to forget, but a lot of personal and sometimes very sensitive information still resides offline. One of the reasons we instead try to search for answers online is that, unfortunately, this works better. Searching through files, documents and texts is still somewhat of a painful, counter-intuitive process.

So what if we would have the same ease searching offline as online? Not only would this make our search experience simpler, quicker and less energy-intensive, it can also help us move away from centralized cloud and online service providers who neatly organize and index our information, but also process it for their own commercial needs (and often on their own, non-negotiable terms). That is what this project intends to contribute to: adding easy, visual and intuitive search capabilities to text files and documents. This is all done using open document standards and widely used (online) text editing and file synchronization software, enabling countless people around the world to suddenly search through their own files with their own technology in a user-friendly way.

Run by Collabora Productivity

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This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.

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