One of the most important things I do as a writer is collaborate. Whether this is with my editor, with another writer, or with a team, the ability to collaborate takes my work from pedestrian to professional like no other aspect of writing. But to gain those benefits, I need to use collaboration tools that enable me to work successfully with others. Here are a few online tools that will let you collaborate without having to leave town, host a face-to-face meeting, or run up your phone bill.
Note: This list is based on an entry in our 10 Things blog.
1: Google Docs
That's right. The mighty Google has finally added a level of collaboration to its documents. Google Docs now has a discussion feature, which allows the creator of a document to invite participants to collaborate on (discuss) it. What's nice about this feature is that it is in real time and can be saved for later reference.
TextFlow is an online document comparison tool. It allows you to generate change reports from Word and PDF documents. You can compare up to seven documents at once, see the changes in context, view the changes in a summary report, and even view the change history. Although the layout of the changes can take a bit of acclimation, the benefits of using such a tool far outweigh the somewhat awkward layout.
Kablink is a set of open source, online collaboration tools. It consists of Teaming, iFolder, and Conferencing. Teaming includes document management, workflow, expertise location, federated search, and a custom Web form generator. ifolder is a secure storage solution similar to Dropbox, but it also allows you to invite other iFolder users to share your folders. Conferencing is a real-time meeting solution that allows application sharing, whiteboards, presentations, and more. All three Kablink tools are cross platform.
Zoho is an incredible Web-based collaboration tool. With Zoho, you can collaborate via chats, discussions, email, meetings, projects, wikis, and more. In fact, Zoho helps you to collaborate in so many ways, it would be serious feat to actually use them all for a single project. Although Zoho has a free plan for its service, you get only 1 GB of space for files. But its premium service is only $5 per month, so if you are a frequent collaborator and you're looking for a great Web-based tool to facilitate collaboration, Zoho might be the perfect fit.
Campfire is another Web-based collaboration tool, but it's aimed at the corporate or enterprise-level crowds. With plans that reach all the way to 100 chatters and 25 GB of storage (a plan that costs $99 per month), Campfire can enable collaboration in larger settings or even classrooms. Campfire also packs in other enterprise-friendly features, such as searchability and an iPhone app for mobile collaboration. An extra benefit of the pricier plans is that they incorporated SSL for higher security.
If you've used any of the apps on this list, how well did they work for you? What other online tools have helped you collaborate on your projects?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.