6 Free Easy-to-Use Online Collaboration Tools – Make Teamwork Simple
Last updated: September 30th 2013
Here at trendblog.net all collaboration happens online, as all 3 of us are currently living in 3 different countries. All this time we have managed to work together perfectly, even without seeing each other for a long time.
Since the initial launch of trendblog.net we had to get used to working together remotely, using only free online collaboration tools. These tools not only allow us to work from 3 different locations, but also to be more productive and organised.
Nowadays, more and more teams/companies are forced to work together remotely. But switching from a regular day-to-day work-flow to a complex and expensive project management software is very difficult to do.
Have you ever struggled to successfully collaborate online with your clients or suppliers?
Which Collaboration Tools Should You Use?
During the last 5 months we have successfully managed to work on several projects using only free online collaboration tools. Some of these tools might be already familiar to you. But still, we want to share them with you.
Dropbox is probably one tool that we use most for collaboration. With this little software, we are able to have access to all our documents, files, articles and everything else.
As we are all tech junkies, we own quite a few pieces of technology, including multiple notebooks, tablets and smartphones. And we can access our files from each gadget we own. Dropbox is compatible with all popular computer- and mobile platforms. There are native apps built for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Android, iOS and Blackberry. Also, you can access your Dropbox from the internet browser. Check out the Dropbox system requirements.
If you aren’t using Dropbox for teamwork, you should definitely consider doing it immediately. This tool allows you to create so-called “shared folders“, which will appear in every team member’s computer. Any file, which has been uploaded to those folders, can be accessed by every person with access to it.
Make sure to check out our post about unusual ways to use Dropbox.
Dropbox is a must-have for everyone. Seriously.
2. Google Docs
Sometimes we need to work on one document together at the same time. With Google Docs you can do that very easily; This tool allows you to create online documents, presentations and spreadsheets. You don’t even need to have any office software installed – everything happens right in your browser or via the mobile app for iOS and Android.
Just create a document and share the link with other people. Now you can edit the document together at the same time in live-mode.
Of course, every document you create online can be exported and be used offline.
Join.me is probably one of the handiest screen-sharing tools on the market. It is really easy to use.
Usually, when you want to share your screen with somebody, all parties have to install some kind of software to get access to your screen (like TeamViewer or Skype). With Join.me only the host has to have the software installed. And, after starting the application you will be able to share a regular link, which will allow other people to see what’s happening on your screen in every modern browser. Simple as that. No additional software required.
One neat feature I want to mention is that with Join.me you can give other viewers access to your mouse and keyboard, just by clicking two buttons. That comes in very handy if you provide technical support to your clients, or even help your friends and family to fix their computer. Now, instead of saying “click here” and “do that”, you can easily do it yourself.
If you happen to be in the same situation as us, Skype is probably an application, which you never close. For me it is the most used application on my computer.
All internal communication within the trendblog.net team happens via Skype, either through IM Messaging or video-calls. In spite of being separated by at least 1.500 miles (2.500 km) from each other it seems like we are sitting together in one office.
5. Google Hangouts
With Skype you can only video-chat with 2 people for free. And that’s the reason why we sometimes use Google Hangouts. This tool allows you to have a video-conference with up to 100 people for free.
The new Google Hangouts are great to keep all your communication in one place and synchronized. For the sake of testing the new Hangouts we have ditched all other online communication tools. Make sure to check out our review.
Over the last few months we have tested pretty much every free team/project collaboration tool out there, including popular ones like Asana and Podio. After trying them we didn’t really feel that these tools were making our lives easier. Instead, managing our projects has become a complicated chore.
But there is one tool out there which is different. Trello uses a card-based system for keeping your project overview as simple as possible. You can create custom columns like “To-Do” or “In Progress” which you will use to organize individual tasks. The tasks will be then added as a small card to the column. For each card you can set a due date, write comments, assign people to it and many more.
Asana, Podio and alike are made for managers. Trello is made for people.
One especially great thing about Trello is the user experience. The interface is very simple to use. For example, you can drag every card from column to column (i.e. after completing a task) and assign people to the card by dragging their profile picture onto the card.
Also, Trello probably has the best mobile and tablet collaboration app out there. The experience is exactly what you would expect from an app, with many features taken from the system it runs on. For example, you can delete tasks on your iPad by swiping them to the left, which will reveal a red “delete” button. This looks very much like the native iOS deleting feature. All of these combined make sure that your learning curve is as smooth as possible and you won’t get a headache while using it.
Check out the video below for a demonstration of how Trello works.
What tools do you use to collaborate with your team?