Tuesday, 14 May 2013

5 Free collaboration tools

Everybody in business collaborates now whether they want to or not. It's all about multiple people working on the same project or task at the same time, not jut their own part of the larger project.

Here are my 5 quick pics for online collaboration tool that everybody should know:

1. Dropbox

Everybody should know of Dropbox by now, it's a fantastic and simple way to sync files between multiple workstations and devices, but it also lets you share folder with others syncing any changes you make in those folder to other people instantly (or as fast as bandwidth allows). One of the features that often gets forgotten is the "previous versions" function that keeps each version of your files going back 30 days. 

You get a free dropbox account and have it set up in seconds here 
(yes it's a referral link and I get extra space if you use it)   

2. Wunderlist

For a simple task list management tool, it's hard to go past Wunderlist - currently in version 2 . Easy to use, you can use it in a browser or as a stand alone app for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows or Mac. Beyond simply managing your own tasks and having it synced to all your devices, you can create multiple lists and share lists with others, letting them create tasks, set dates, add notes, sub tasks etc. This is not a full project management tool and it never tries to be, it focusses on the features you'll want to use all the time, instead of the features you'll probably never get around to.

Again Wunderlist is free takes a seconds to sign up for here

3. Google Docs

Ok, this one is kind of a given. Google docs lets you create edit and share word processor, spreadsheet and presentation docs online, and the number of apps out there to allow you to view and edit those on mobile devices is quite frankly embarrassingly large. Still free for a base user account after all this time, the paid commercial licences offer a lot more but mainly in scale rather than core functionality. I know more than one entrepreneur who has successfully run a company on nothing more.

You'll need a free Goolge account but again, sign up is easy.

4. Hackpad

I'll admit it took me a while to get round to trying Hackpad (despite my wife telling me to very early on), but if you haven't already you should give it a try, it's a fresh take on the wiki idea allowing multiple people to edit the same online page in real time, you can see what others are writing as they write it and they can do the same to you. It's quick and searchable but dont expect to download an app for this as it's a realtime web app no-offline mode possible. It is however quick, easy and searchable. It handles multiple editing really well and provide visibility on who wrote what so it's perfect for groups of people trying to capture and share knowledge.

And of course it free to sign up for the service.

5. Meeting Burner

When you absolutely need to see another human face you can use Meeting Burner this is an online video meeting tool that offers features like screen sharing, Mac and PC compatibility and in meeting chat... all for free - not even any advertising. It's also in browser so no downloads are required to get people to join the meeting. This is my ace in the hole when I organise online meeting - I have a free account and people are always impressed at how fast and simple it is to use.

Best of all, the base service is free and sign up is quick.


Wrap up

So those are my pics, I've omitted a calendar deliberately as group calendars can be more pain than they are worth for small projects or people who are trying to work with lots of different groups because not everyone uses online calendars. I've also avoided specific IDEs, and source control systems because they are development specific. However this set of tools provide just about all the collaboration support most people will ever need without having to spend a cent.


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