Now that you have your Nextcloud server up and running, you’re going to want to give various desktop machines easy access to that internal cloud. You could certainly install the desktop client (although you’ll be installing the ownCloud client, as Nextcloud has yet to produce one), or you could integrate Nextcloud directly into your desktop. This is not only possible with Ubuntu Unity, it’s actually quite easy, and the results will make interacting with your Nextcloud server much easier.

One caveat with the setup I am about to describe: It’s very GNOME-centric. Because we’re talking about Ubuntu Unity, an extra piece of software or two will have to be installed. More on that in a bit.

How do you pull this off?

There’s a tool in most modern Linux distributions (most often found in the Settings window), called On-line Accounts. This allows you to set up connections/integration with various on-line services. In recent versions of GNOME, you’ll find ownCloud listed in the online accounts that can be added. However, if you glance at Ubuntu Unity’s online account options, you won’t find ownCloud listed (Figure A).

Figure A

There’s no ownCloud or Nextcloud integration to be found here. What do you do about that? You install the settings tool from the GNOME stack that will add the extra online control. To do this, follow these steps.
  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Update apt with the command sudo apt-get update.
  3. Type your sudo password and hit Enter.
  4. Install the necessary software with the command sudo apt-get install -y gnome-control-center.
  5. Allow the installation to complete.

You now have the means to begin the integration.

Adding your Nextcloud account

Open up the GNOME Control Settings app (from the Dash, search for gnome control and then click Settings when it appears) and then click the + button. From the popup listing (Figure B), click ownCloud and enter the details for your Nextcloud server.

Figure B

The ownCloud integration will work seamlessly with Nextcloud.

You will notice, by default, Calendar, Contacts, Documents, and Files are enabled. First and foremost, the Calendar and Contacts integration will only work if the administrator has enabled those features on your Nextcloud server. Let’s assume those features have been added and see exactly where they integrate into Unity.

Files and documents

This is probably one of the most important features you’ll need to use for your Nextcloud server. Once you’ve added the Nextcloud account (through the GNOME Control Center) you will see a new remote service icon on your Unity Launcher. This icon is a WebDAV connection to your Nextcloud server. Click on that icon and the default file manager will open to reveal all available folders on your Nextcloud server (Figure C).

Figure C

Your Nextcloud cloud folders ready to serve.

That Nextcloud WebDAV icon will remain on your Launcher, even after a reboot. You can copy and paste files to and from those directories with ease.

Calendar and Contacts

This is where you must install another application. In order to gain access to both Nextcloud Calendar and Contact integration with Unity (without firing up a web browser), you must install the Evolution groupware tool. To do this, follow these steps.

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo apt-get install -y evolution.
  3. If prompted, type your sudo password and hit Enter.
  4. Allow the installation to complete.

Open Evolution, walk through the steps of setting up an email account, and once Evolution opens you’ll see that Nextcloud integration is already there. Click on the Evolution Calendar button, select the Nextcloud entry (which will be listed in the form USERNAME@IP_ADDRESS), and you will see your Nextcloud calendar events are displayed (Figure D).

Figure D

View, add, and remove Nextcloud Calendar events from Evolution.

The same thing holds true with Contacts. Click the Contacts button, select the Nextcloud entry (listed in the same form as the Nextcloud Calendar entry), and you’ll see all of your Nextcloud Contacts listed.

The one caveat to this is an issue that also plagues Evolution Google Calendar integration: You can only view the Default calendar and contacts. As of this writing, there is no means of adding secondary Nextcloud calendars or viewing Nextcloud Contact Groups from Evolution.

Why not install the client?

The desktop client is nice, but really all it gives you is the file manager integration. You will not find any means to access either Calendar or Contact with this software. In the end, if you only need file syncing between your desktop and your Nextcloud server, by all means just install the desktop client, it is a well-designed client. If, however, you need a more complete solution, I highly recommend walking through the steps I outlined here.