Nextcloud Hub 4 is here: new SharePoint alternative, significantly more performance
With the Hub 4, Nextcloud expands its cloud collaboration software with end-to-end encryption, many AI functions, native talk apps, a universal smart picker and many other functions. The new security functions can be found in Files, where users can now assign a passphrase and then decrypt the files on another device with the same access code. In this way, they remain protected from attackers even if the server or data traffic is successfully accessed. On the other hand, users can now sign and encrypt their messages in the webmail client using S/MIME.
Smart Picker – access to all content anywhere
The Smart Picker, which users can call up anywhere in Nextcloud with a / , is completely new. It then presents content from other Nextcloud services or third parties that can be inserted at the appropriate place. An example of this would be files, photos or Kanban cards from Deck, but GIFs, videos from Peertube or maps from OpenStreetMap are also on board. Templates, for example support text blocks, can also be quickly inserted in the text editor or in e-mails. Developers can use the Smart Picker to refer directly to GitLab and GitHub, for example to insert links to repositories or pull requests directly into the chat with colleagues.
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AI functions can also be used via the Smart Picker, including translations via DeepL, image generation from Dall-E and text generation with ChatGPT. For this purpose, users can store their access data for the services, otherwise only the free quotas are available. However, Nextcloud explicitly points out that these providers do not necessarily meet their requirements for ethical AI: it must be open source, freely and locally available, and the training data should also be transparent. For orientation, Nextcloud assigns a rating in the four colors red, orange, money and green – depending on how well the AI software meets the criteria. More information can be found on an overview page on ethical AI.
Away from the hype: important updates for companies
Much more boring, but at least as important: Nextcloud introduces a SharePoint alternative with Tables. With it, users can structure their company’s data like with Microsoft’s software – for example, to build a holiday administration or a customer overview. Templates are available for this purpose, but you can also create tables yourself. Text, links, numbers, progress bars, ratings, yes/no boxes and times are available as column types. In Files, old versions of files can now be given any name, which Nextcloud then always keeps regardless of automatic backups. For example, you can simply store drafts of a file without having to copy them manually.
Another completely new feature is that the macOS app for files will soon support virtual files: they are available locally as usual, but are located on the Nextcloud server. If desired, files can still be stored completely locally. The function is currently in a preview phase. The developers promise improvements for document scanning in the next update of the Files apps for Android and iOS. The desktop apps for Talk, Nextcloud’s chat and video conferencing software, are completely new. They appear as beta versions at launch. In addition, Talk will receive breakout rooms and a recording function for calls.
For better cooperation, the project extends the editor text with a real-time view of the employees: Users can thus understand where their colleagues are currently writing. Collabora – the developer behind Nextcloud Office – has also improved knowledge management with Collectives. This should make it easier to move pages, and users can also access files directly. In addition, the Office applications now offer watermark-protected documents and character management by the end user himself.
Performance improvements and new developer program
Finally, the developers have screwed on the speed of Nextcloud: Talk in particular should load up to 99 percent faster in many cases. But the project claims to have accelerated the reading of folders and files by up to 20 percent. Nextcloud also wants to make it easier for third parties to write apps and extensions. A developer program has been launched for this purpose, which offers tutorials and central access to the documentation. Developers can find all the information on a specially set up page.
Hub 4 is available now, all information about the new release can be found in the announcement. Nextcloud is available as free software under the open source license AGPLv3, companies can operate it themselves or obtain a preconfigured version including support with the enterprise license.