ownCloud 7, the latest version of the open source file-sharing and storage service for building private clouds, debuted this week, bringing with it major end user experience updates and an innovative way to share files between clouds.

On July 23, ownCloud announced the general availability of version 7 of ownCloud Community Edition, which first appeared in beta form earlier this summer.

Now, as then, the biggest update that makes the software stand out from other cloud services is a server-to-server sharing feature, which allows users of one ownCloud cloud to share files with those on a completely separate instance, without having to use file-share links. That's a big deal because it means ownCloud users can exchange data as easily as they would using a public cloud, but without the security and privacy concerns of traditional public-cloud platforms.

ownCloud 7 also brings key enhancements to the software's user interface, which now features lazy loading to save bandwidth by loading files as users scroll down the page, as well as more robust ways to sort files. In addition, a new file-notification feature makes it possible to track changes to or sharing of a particular file in the cloud.

Also notable—particularly in light of Google's (GOOG) recent introduction of native support for editing Microsoft Word documents in Google Docs—is a similar feature in ownCloud Documents that allows users to convert Word documents on the file to edit them through ownCloud, then save them back to Word format. That's not quite the same thing as native Word support (and ownCloud doesn't exactly have the same resources as Google to implement a massive feature like that), but it achieves a similar effect, and keeps ownCloud competitive as a cloud-based document-sharing and editing platform.

These are only the highlights from the latest ownCloud release. The full details are available here, direct from ownCloud.