If you want to save cash, but need a reliable space to store and manage documents, join us as we share some of the best free options available in the world of document management systems.
If you need a digital home for all your documents but don’t want to splash the cash, we’re going to share with you the best free document management software around. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re not up to par. We would happily use all the services we recommend ourselves.
Of course, any service that’s free comes with limitations. If you’re a medium-to-large-sized business looking for an all-singing, all-dancing document management software, the options below may not be enough.
However, if you’re a personal user or a small company looking to effectively manage your digital “paperwork,” the selection below will help you keep your documents in order.
For ease of use, features and versatility, OpenDocMan is the best free DMS.
Yes. OpenDocMan offers a free version. However, paid plans are also available.
We believe Egnyte is the best overall document control software. Read our full Egnyte review.
Open source software is free-to-use source code that gives users the ability to modify and redistribute the code, often to improve the software.
The best free document management software offers as many quality features as possible, without asking for your money. Despite being free, we still expect to see an industry standard level of security, a well-designed platform and basic document management features like search and organization functionality.
These products offer many key features one would want to manage documents. The open source options outdo private companies offering free plans, but even they have features that are ideal for certain users. Read our document management best practices to learn how to make the most of each feature.
All the options below offer a full, long-lasting free plan. While many services offer free trials, they typically only last up to one month. With the selections below, you can trust you’ll have a free account for as long as the service is active.
More details about OpenDocMan:
OpenDocMan is one of the few open-source document management solutions available, and is a popular choice within the open-source community.
You can add custom metadata-like tags to categorize documents, making it easier to search for a particular document. It’s also possible to create temporary documents that will be deleted on the expiration date of your choice.
The user interface looks better placed on Web 1.0 due to its outdated design. However, if you prioritize functionality over form, you won’t be too concerned with how the platform looks as it works well.
File versioning is available, and users can access any and all revisions made on a specific document. You can also add decision makers who are authorized to review and accept new or edited documents.
Users can set up automated emails each time a document is created, viewed or edited. Moreover, users can set automatic file expirations. Such automations put OpenDocMan on par with paid services.
In the free market space, OpenDocMan is certainly the leading option for those working with digital documents. It comes with many of the key features we look for in a leading DMS, and despite the dated design, it functions extremely well and will give you most of what you need.
More details about OpenKM:
The OpenKM document management software is fantastic for managing documents. It comes with automations that make life easier. Automations include but aren’t limited to automated file transformations (to change Word documents to PDFs), automatic file security and automated file movement based on the file description and metadata.
Other features include digital signatures, file versioning, reporting and a built-in task manager. These features make OpenKM more of a workstation with a DMS built into it, something that helps users manage all areas of their business.
Optical character recognition (OCR) allows you to edit and search data from paper documents, PDF documents and images. Users need to take a photo of the document and upload it to OpenKM. OCR technology scans the document and makes it possible to edit and search for it inside the DMS.
OpenKM is one of the best free document management systems available. It may take a little time to grasp, and the training tools could be better, but once you get used to it, it will function as a highly reliable document management system.
More details about OnlyOffice:
Developed by Ascensio System SIA, OnlyOffice is a free-to-use service that can serve as a DMS and workstation. The platform is an open solution, which often leads to a better product, more flexibility and improved security. You also don’t have to worry about a private company having the ability to snoop around your documents (we see you, OneDrive and Google.)
In terms of functionality, OnlyOffice has a built-in document creator that lets you create Word documents, forms and spreadsheets, as well as audio and video files. It’s extremely basic, and personal users on the free plan don’t have access to document templates like those on a paid subscription.
OnlyOffice is only free for personal use. If you work in a team, you’ll need to look elsewhere or try one of the paid plans. The free version is a bare-bones document management system, so it may not be enough for users with a specific set of needs.
OnlyOffice lets you integrate an external cloud storage solution like Dropbox (read our full Dropbox review) with the platform, letting you access documents and other file types without taking up any of your free 2GB storage space.
We feel OnlyOffice could offer a little more than the bare bones of a space to store and create documents. It’s a good option for anyone who doesn’t want to use mainstream services; however, with only 2GB of space, you may need to use them anyway.
More details about Hightail:
Like OnlyOffice, Hightail is limited as to what it can do when compared to a paid service. The free Lite plan offers only 2GB of storage and 100MB file-upload sizes. However, we like its usability and some of its unique features.
With regard to DMS features, Hightail enables you to create documents, file them in unique projects and share files with others. While the platform does have more intelligent features to organize documents, most of them are only available on the paid plans, which lets the free service down.
Although this article is predominantly targeting users looking for a space for documents, we would be remiss not to mention some of Hightail’s better features that pertain to video and images.
In addition to documents, you can upload videos and photos to your space, and the impressive part is that you can highlight specific sections of a video or image and leave real-time comments for another team member.
Those looking for a standard document management system that offers templates galore and helps you track your critical business documents should go with a different option. However, for those who want a little bit of everything, Hightail is worth your consideration.
More details about Confluence:
Confluence is a document management software that provides a space for small teams to create and store documents that pertain to specific projects.
There’s a basic word processor where you can create original documents, or if you’re looking for something specific — like a performance chart — you can select from the many templates available inside the platform. There’s also a search bar that allows you to easily locate specific documents.
The free Confluence plan allows for up to 10 members, all of whom can contribute documents to the space you create. As a group you share the 2GB of cloud storage, so this service is only suitable for light use.
Confluence has made it possible to integrate third-party apps into the service. Users can integrate Google Drive (read our full Google Drive review). This allows users to embed Google Docs and Drive files directly into content created within Confluence.
Confluence lacks many of the smart and organizational features you’d get with a premium document management system, but remember, it’s free.
With that in mind, we believe the platform has created something that has enough character to entice those on a low (or no) existing budget. With the addition of the app integrations, what we have is a more than capable document management system.
Finding the best free electronic document management system isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Just because you’re not handing over your cash doesn’t mean you have to settle for less in terms of the features available — and we believe the selection above proves that.
For us, OpenDocMan and OpenKM are the perfect free options. They both offer intelligent automations, and they have fantastic search and categorization functionality. If they were to update their UI designs, they’d be close to offering the perfect DMS.
The other options, although a little thin on features, will also help you keep your documents in order, while offering some cool features to give you a better user experience. Either way, whichever service you choose, we’re confident none of them will let you down.
While still at it, read our document management vs content management guide to learn how they differ.
Which free DMS do you use? What do you think is the best option out of the selection above? Is there a DMS you would like us to review? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading.
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