Circles or Groups

For a professionnel group of persons is it better to use the Circles or the Groups ?
What are the pro/con on these tools ? Are they able to be used together ?
Thanks sharing experience :grinning:

Circles are more versatile, but sadly poorly supported by apps.

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Hum,thank you @lars-becker, how would compare Circles with the concept of Project that seems to be used by certains apps as Deck ?

There are things only groups can do

  • Activate some apps for some groups only, no question of circles here.
  • Use ACL controls

Isn’t the main difference that groups can only be created and managed by admins, while circles are something every user can create only for oneself?

So it makes sense that any permissions/apps/admin related things can only be applied to groups, while circles can be used by each user to sort other users, share certain files/dirs/events/… to all users of a certain circle at once etc.

So IMO both apps make sense together and they do not overlap in their abilities/tasks.


Thank you @MichaIng and @livier1 to react to @lars-becker. You bring all different points + I also questioned the use of project. This show that is an important issue toward a new phase of NC.
A clarification on the distinct uses and possibilities of Circles, Groups and I add Project seems needed for the users (and the respectives developers ?). The quality and the ease of interaction that these Apps within ND would be a break-through in the professional workflow. This is about rebuilding the real process. This way NC would be more that ever, more than other (GDrive or the complex aggregation of Slack, Wetransfer, Dropbox, Skype, etc) making the communication at the right place : starting from the files and in phase of the workflow. Not the other way around : the communication about files and workflow that is a method of the past.

I haven’t seen anyone using Projects. The interface seems a bit clumsy to me as it is cumbersome to add many files, chats, decks etc.

Regarding the other comments: to me it makes a lot of sense to have groups and circles because of the aforementioned reasons, but my experience is that most users get confused by the semantics and that circles aren’t really used since there is no consistent support for circles in other apps. Until recently you only could use them for files and most people don’t know that you can now use them for deck also. But even if we would mention this fact to them there’s the problem that they don’t work with contacts, calendars, talk… You name it. The semantic confusion and the bad support together seem to be they reason why practically no one I know really adopted circles.

I think I will try to promote them in two years when one of these two problems have been adressed. Until then they aren’t of much in groupware context. (if you only work with files things might be different.)

I do use Projet :slightly_smiling_face:. No the truth is that I try to use Project :upside_down_face:.
For the 16 version of NC, there were great announcement about Project. Yes it is difficult to create the first Project. It is absolutely awkward, that’s right. But the concept to link the related files, conversation to a Project is an obvious need in a workflow. I hope that it will not die early if no one use this app.

EDIT @lars-becker Would you thing that in achieve more or less what I expect of Project, I would be better off using Circles for projects ?

The lack of relation for Circle is impressive. This (like for the Project) really too bad. To have these secure relation of Group added to an organic Circle (plus being really Project related would make NC the must for collaboration and workflow. Let’s see that in 2 years. That will be the time when WeChat takes over everything left in Europe :dizzy_face:

We could collect the major facts about groups vs circles here and contribute them as part of the circles app description, what you think?
The clearer things are, the more admins/users might consider to use it and the greater the interest to extend support from other apps.

This is how I understand it:

  • Groups are a Nextcloud core feature. As such support from other apps is mostly present right from the beginning.
  • Groups are valid and accessible throughout the whole Nextcloud instance, which inherits that they can be used to grant global permissions of any kind and as such they can be used by admins to apply a general organisation structure.
  • Circles on the other hand are a grouping layer only on user level. Thus every user can create them, but they are only visible/valid for the particular user. This inherits that they cannot be used for instance-wide/global permissions of any kind.
  • Users may use their own circles for sharing, e.g. if the instances-wide groups don’t fit their needs, e.g. they want to exclude particular users of one group and/or include particular users of another group for their shares.
  • Since circles are a separate app and no core feature, it is expected that they are not supported by all other apps.

Although for usability it would be great if every app that uses the group API, did add the circles of the current user just into the same list. This should be not too hard to implement and we might want to open feature requests for that, where missing.
Another option would be to just add circles to the groups API, so that every request to show groups for selection, would add the particular users circles to the same list, as long as it is about user-level and not admin/global-level permissions of any kind. This would render all coding for apps obsolete to add circles support, but it would add code to core that is not require for all instances that don’t use the circles app.
Not sure which is best, but both options are worth to consider.


Well there are apps that don’t know groups. From the user perspective this description is not helpful since the only difference is that more apps support groups than circles and that users can create circles and that there are four different types of circles…

That’s not true. If an app doesn’t support groups they won’t give rights. The notion that groups are global while circles are not doesn’t fit, since both could be global if apps supported them. And both aren’t global when there are apps that doesn’t support them.

That’s not true either. There is a type of group which only the user can see, but there are types which more users can see or which are public.


Ah sorry this was not meant as a description example, just to collect some facts. This part I mentioned since you guys talked about 3rd party app support. Possibly not all apps support groups, which is why i wrote “mostly”. Which one does not support groups btw. if it accesses the user list to do things that can also be done with multiple users at once meaningfully?

Indeed I totally forgot about the different circle types. Long ago that I last had a quick view on this:

  • The public circles of course cannot be used for ANY kind of permissions, since everyone can freely join or leave.
  • The closed circles indeed double with what groups already provide, mostly. The fact that not necessarily an admin is required to have users joining them, and that users can leave them, as well make them unusable for any kind of of permissions.
  • So the above two kinds circles are more a social media alike feature, so users can share their stuff with a fluent base of other users, e.g. “join this circle to see my files, if you are interested”, but they cannot be used for any organisational task, where no user must be able to join a grant or leave a deny.

The kind of global/admin level permissions I meant are e.g.:

  • Enable apps for certain users only.
  • Who has access to admin panel.
  • Grant permissions to impersonate other users.
  • Group folders or File access control apps permissions.

So it is not about apps support, but about if the grouping list (with whatever of both methods) is valid and accessible via some API for all users, apps and Nextcloud features or not. Even if all apps would support circles, if some non-admin user creates its private circle, this must not have an effect on anyone else’s shares or the above mentioned admin level permissions. And of course no non-admin user must be able to influence anything but its own shares. And the other way round, even if some app does not support groups, the API is available and groups valid globally for all users and apps, whether they make use of it or not. So it CAN be used for all kind of permissions that must be true across the whole instance.

In addition to what I mentioned about the other two kind of circles, another strong argument is that it is an app and no core feature. And disabling an app must not destroy any kind of admin level permissions, as listed above.

So it stays true, that circles can only be used for user level shares, but not for global/admin level permissions. For a community public and closed circles open some social media alike sharing feature, for where the targets of their shares are oriented on interest and not on permissions and privacy.


Thanks @lars-becker and @MichaIng for your articulated interventions. They concern particularly the ‘permission’ point of view of Groups and, indeed, you point out the ‘organic’ life oriented on interest that Circles offers to users.
Then I just noticed –and starting to test it– that Circles can be linked to Groups (through settings in Groupware). Would this increase the ease of Circles making this organic way of sharing more mainstream among NC users ?


Linking groups to circles makes sense to make the interface a bid simpler for users, so they don’t have to take care/manage two different interfaces. However, depending on if group members are only added additionally to a circle, or circle members are strictly only the group members, the clear difference between the two features stays and IMO the difference should be pointed out more clearly instead of mixing both more together.

If you are in a home/family/community environment, all these permission things do not play a role that much (usually). Having a feature that allows everyone to create circles based on e.g. interest, where users can join/leave or be invited by members is totally okay and makes it flexible instead of having to ask an admin every time to adjust the static group structure.

However in a company or other public organisation, where it is also about legal rules/rights, company secrets, private conversations/data exchange within the company, with customers or members of another company, a very strict, centrally managed groups/permissions structure is absolutely essential. Mixing this together with organic public circles makes it IMO in-transparent and dangerously unclear, especially when those circle names can be freely chosen and one matches a group name closely. So “making this organic way of sharing more mainstream among NC users” IMO is not a goal, but it highly depends on the use case and users should know exactly what kind of grouping feature they are sharing with and how the rules/permissions are set for it.

@MichaIng so I understand that the issue remains complex. You rightly pointed out the differences for e.g. home/family/community environment ~ company/public-organisation.
That would mean for now that the organic ease of Circle would not fit well with the security of organisations brought by Groups.
Then, you are heading toward a more visual reflexion :

I like that.

And still for me the very first use case would be a project. There is then this app Projects that already connect very nicely to Talks.
In the workflow approach this proposal Projects~Talk is certainly yet basic but already very useful.
I would love to see a project linked to the files and documents that belongs to a group.

UPDATE : I am not sure anymore if Project is an App or it is in NC core.

Hey, jumping in with my .02

  • Circles are great, because users will just figure them out and not need admin rights to create and manage them.
  • Group Folders app is too buggy, so I recommend just carefully laying out a folder system that makes sense to your group so everyone can benefit from Trash, Version Control, Workflow Automation + File Access Control app. Adding Retention policies is also helpful if you are concerned with random files clogging up specific folders over time. I found these apps were all useful for my organization.

Right now these systems address different issues, but will not integrate. :frowning:

  • Projects will group files and folders to Deck cards and Talk conversations. It is part of the core Files app.
    • No other functionality supported yet. Will not display comments, does not support Activity feed, cannot be assigned to circles or groups. … what you see is what you get.

Discussed on the forum with lots of links here.

  • Circles allow users to create their own ad-hoc groups. Instead of permissions I can simply create and control my own circle of sharing.
    • Federation to remote users simply doesn’t work… I’ve tried over and over, but something is busted.

In-depth review of Circles app from a year or so. The app is almost in the exact same state now.

  • Group Folders is an app that allows admins to create all their groups + set specific permissions from one admin page. Great idea, but problematic implementation
    • This app has a lot of problems. Honestly, it is garbage since it is so broken. Be very careful as even deleting the app completely will still cause problems if you attempt to use the same folder names again. I found I had to delete Nextcloud itself rather than just the app.

Hope these links help you!

Thanks @just : this is clear about Circles and frightening about Group Folders.
After I went through these links, I checked :
I have about 1T of data on a Group Folder :anguished: I will find an easy way to transfer the data out of the Group Folder.
I am so glad to see that the future is going Project. This seems to be the best way to make a clever use of NC. :yum: