Usage of ownCloud and its Apps
ownCloud comes with a rich collection of apps. These are basically plugins that can be used to enhance ownCloud’s functionality for a particular task. If we want to keep our ownCloud installation lean and simple, then we can just turn off all the apps, but then we will be losing a lot of things that ownCloud can do. We can see a list of available apps, along with the ones that are activated, by clicking on the drop-down list from the upper-right corner, and then selecting Apps from the menu. Here we can enable or disable any app by clicking on it, and then choosing the right option. We will now discuss some basic usage of ownCloud along with some very common apps.
Uploading a file
Uploading a file is the most basic functionality of ownCloud. We need to login before uploading a file. Once logged in we will see the New button with an upward arrow:
Clicking that arrow will show a system dialogue box for selecting and uploading files. We can choose multiple files, and upload them in one pass if we want by keeping the Ctrl key pressed. A status bar also appears next to the files that are being uploaded.
Syncing and sharing a file
ownCloud has great syncing clients and capabilities. Desktop clients exist for Windows, Linux, and Mac. Android and iPhone clients are there to make sure that we can always access data even on the move. ownCloud supports two-way syncing, which means that changes done anywhere will propagate across all the devices associated with a particular account.
Installing and configuring ownCloud sync clients
Firstly, we need to download appropriate sync client for the platform from the following link:
To install the Linux client, we need to add ownCloud client repository first, and then install the client command line.
Ubuntu users can install the ownCloud sync client by following the given commands in link.
Once we have installed the client, we need to run it on the terminal, which will produce a system dialogue box, as shown in the following screenshot:
ownCloud Connection Wizard on Ubuntu
Once we fill in the details, such as the Server address, the client would be up and running. Server address is the URL which we use to access ownCloud web interface. By default, the sync directory is created in the home directory of the user who ran the ownCloud setup. Anything placed in this sync directory will be propagated to the ownCloud server as well as other devices associated with the same ownCloud user account.
Windows and Mac
For Windows and Mac, we just need to download the setup and run it. A dialogue box similar to the one in Linux will appear, and will install the sync client quickly.
At its core, ownCloud uses the CSync syncing engine that reads file metadata, and the modification timestamp in particular, to determine the last changes and propagate it through all the devices. CSync is lightweight, and does not need a specialized server component, which makes it ideal for all the platforms ownCloud supports.
Creating and editing text files
ownCloud makes it really easy to create and edit text files. We don’t have to install any plugin for this, because editing is supported out of the box. Let us now create a file. We need to click on the familiarNew button and then click on Text file. The Text file option will get converted into a field where we can enter the name of the file.
The file creation menu
Once we write the name of the file, and click on enter, the file will be created. Now to edit the file, we need to click on the file created, and it will open in a text editor. It is a simple and lightweight editor.
The ownCloud Text Editor
Sharing files using ownCloud
Sharing files with ownCloud is quite a simple process. We just have to hover over the file we want to share and the options will appear. If we want to share with an ownCloud user, we can just enter the user ID of the person, and the invite will be sent. In case the person is not on ownCloud, we can just create a link, and then share it using further options. ownCloud also allows us to password protect the files we want to share. We can also set an expiration date, after which the shared document will automatically become private again. All these features make the sharing experience very secure and ideal for confidential files.
ownCloud file sharing menu
Using ownCloud calendar
The following screenshot shows the ownCloud Calender app:
ownCloud Calendar app
At left side of the owncloud screen you can find all the apps.
ownCloud comes with a great calendar app. It runs a CalDAV server, such that any CalDAV compatible application can access and synchronize with ownCloud. CalDAV is an extension to WebDAV that usesiCalendar format for the data allowing multiple clients to access information easily and simultaneously. This means that events added on the ownCloud calendar can be easily synced with other apps, such as Apple Calendar app or Android CalDAV-Sync apps. The app can be accessed from the left side bar by clicking on the Calendar link. Once we click on it, ownCloud will ask the permission to track our location. This is used to set the time zone, and it is absolutely fine to deny the permission, and then set it manually using the small gear icon on the right corner of the interface. A default calendar is already created for every user but, of course, we can create more. It is generally a good idea to organize our calendars as personal and work. This way we can share our work calendar with our colleagues and our personal calendar with our friends and family members.
Let us create a calendar and name it as work. We have to click on the gear icon at upper right corner. This will display a menu where we can put the name of the calendar and choose a color for highlighting the tasks. Click on the Save button and a new calendar will be created. Now we can add events to it by clicking on any date.
ownCloud Calendar creation menu
With ownCloud calendar we can do the following:
- Add events for the whole day.
- Add events for a particular time slot
- Categorize the events in different calendars or within the same calendar
- Set up location and description of the events
- Set up recurrence of the events. This is useful to remind birthdays and periodic events such as taking medicine.
- Everything mentioned can be done just by clicking any date on the calendar.
Event creation dialogue box
In case we have to synchronize the events on the computer, we can easily do that using the iCalenderlink that can be obtained by clicking on the gear icon on upper right corner. Once we have the link, we can use any desktop or mobile app, such as Mozilla Sunbird, Mozilla Thunderbird, Evolution, Kontact, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Calendar, and so on to synchronize the events. Let us try using Mozilla Sunbird, because it is available for all the major operating systems, such as Linux, Windows, and Mac, and it is open sourced under various licenses.
Download Sunbird from http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/sunbird/ and install it. Once installed, on the left side of the application, there will be a tab displaying Calendars. Right-click on the empty area there, and navigate to New Calendar, and then select the On the network radio button. It then asks for the format, select iCalnder, and it provides the URL obtained from the ownCloud’s gear icon. We have to name the calendar in the next screen and we are done. All the events will be downloaded, and any changes made on the ownCloud calendar will reflect on this calendar, keeping us updated about the events.
In case we do not want to subscribe to the calendar in the way we just did, we can download the entire event list in the form of iCal, and then import it in any calendar application, such as Sunbird. To download the calendar from ownCloud, just click on the small calendar icon next to the gear icon in upper right corner, and then hover over the calendar title. Here we can click on the down arrow button, and download the calendar that can be used to import any desktop app or any other ownCloud instance.
Using ownCloud contacts
ownCloud comes with a feature-packed contacts app. It lets you manage your contacts very easily, still giving you the capabilities to sync and import data. We can find contacts on the left sidebar of ownCloud. Contact app has a few pre-built groups that help in organizing our contacts from the very beginning. More groups can be added easily by clicking on the New Group button, and then filling in the name in a text field. A special group name, such as All, holds all the contacts of the address book. Let’s create our first contact. We have to click on the New Contact button at the top of the page. A form for a new contact will appear where we can start by entering the name, e-mail, or phone number. We can set an image for the person. Additional fields, such as birthday, organization, and website can also be added by clicking on the Add drop-down menu at the bottom of the form.
Adding a new contact
Alternatively, we can import a .vcf file to add a number of contacts instantaneously. This enables us to export contacts from popular e-mail providers, such as Gmail, and import them to ownCloud.
It is also possible to export all your contacts in .vcf format and use it in other applications, such as Gmail and Kontact. All we need to do for this is to click on the small gear icon, and then click on the downwards arrow link to download. The downloaded .vcf can be uploaded to Gmail by clicking on the Export link in the contacts section of Gmail.
Syncing with smartphones is also easy with the in-built CardDav server provided by ownCloud. CardDAV is based on WebDAV, just like CalDAV, and is used to access the address books on remote servers. It uses .vcf format to handle contact data. For ownCloud installations, the CardDav URL looks like the following link:
We can get the full URL easily by clicking on the CardDAV icon, next to the download icon, visible after clicking on the gear icon. If we want to synchronize to Apple devices, we have to use slightly modified version of the servers exposed athttp://owncloud.example.com/remote.php/carddav/principals/username.
Viewing and sharing photographs
ownCloud lets us upload, and share images and photographs with our family and friends easily through the in-built photo gallery. All we have to do is upload the photographs and share the links to them. Let us try the same in a more practical manner. Let us first create a directory named my awesome trip, and upload some photographs there. Once this is done, we can go to the Pictures section by clicking on the left sidebar. A new collection called my awesome trip will appear there. We can click on this collection, and then on individual photographs. We can use arrow keys or a mouse scroll wheel to navigate through the photographs. Alternatively, we can watch a slideshow of all the photographs by clicking on the slideshow button on top left.
Sharing this collection is also easy with help of ownCloud. We have to basically share the folder. Just hover over the folder, and click on the share button. The familiar sharing interface will appear. We can choose the sharing parameters, such as sharing with a URL, setting a password, or setting expiration date to the share. Anyone can use the URL, and see the photographs. ownCloud also gives an option to download them as a .zip file, which is great for people who don’t have an ownCloud account, or haven’t synced their existing accounts locally.
Listening to music and watching videos
We can store and play songs and videos directly from the ownCloud interface and password protected link which we share. We just have to upload the songs and click on them. ownCloud music player will immediately play them, and you can see the player controls in the Music section in left sidebar. If the video and music apps is enabled by the admin then only you can use this feature.
More usage information can be find from help in user menu section.