Whether you use a smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer, once you link your device to the internet, you can work with almost anyone else through different collaboration tools and software. These types of apps make it possible for groups of people to type, talk, draw, video conference and work together in many other ways.
SEE: Use our project manager hiring kit to find the best person to lead your project teams.
While the software below represent a diverse set of collaboration solutions, they share one thing in common: Each makes it possible for people to work together in real time on a shared file or in a shared virtual space. Now, let’s dive into the best digital collaboration tools for business and personal use.
Best online collaboration tools compared
Here is a feature set comparison table for the best digital collaboration tools for 2023. We have picked the core features to consider when choosing a team collaboration software or app.
Please note that some applications on this list don’t have certain features not because the feature is missing but because the feature may not necessarily be applicable to the app’s primary function.
|Software||Cloud-based||File sharing||Team messaging||Mobile app||Free plan||Starting price for paid plans|
|Google Docs||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||$6 per user per month (annually)|
|MindMeister||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||$6.99 per user per month (annually)|
|Miro||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||$8 per user per month (annually)|
|Onshape||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||$1,500 per user (annually)|
|Be My Eyes||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Free|
|Night Sky||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||$5.99 per user per month (monthly)|
|Flat||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||$4.08 per month (annually)|
|JackTrip Labs||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||$8.25 per user per month (annually)|
|Inko||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||$1.99 per user per month (monthly)|
- What is collaboration software?
- What are key features of online collaboration tools?
- What are the benefits of online collaboration tools for remote teams?
- How to choose the right collaboration tool for your business
- Review methodology
Google Docs: Best overall
Google Docs is an outstanding real-time collaboration app that you can connect from any device from any location. All you need is a browser and an internet connection to create and edit collaboratively. There is no need to save anything, as whatever changes you make are saved in real time. In addition, you can see version history, and if you want, you can easily restore to any of the earlier versions.
- Business Starter: $6 per user per month billed annually, or $7.20 per user per month billed monthly.
- Business Standard: $12 per user per month billed annually, or $14.40 per user per month billed monthly.
- Business Plus: $18 per user per month billed annually, or $21.60 per user per month billed monthly.
- Enterprise: Contact sales for pricing.
- Real-time collaboration: Create, edit and collaborate on documents with others from your computer, phone or tablet with the Google Docs app (Figure A). With Google Docs, everyone can work together on the same document simultaneously.
- Formatting options: Fonts, colors and formatting options allow you to customize your documents to suit your needs.
- Voice typing: Use Google Docs voice typing for an alternative (and possibly more accessible) way to get content into the document.
- Google Sheets integration: Access, edit and collaboratively work on Google Sheets spreadsheets from within Google Docs.
- Version history: Track changes to your documents and view versions from days, weeks or months ago. You can also check which users made which changes.
- Easy sharing and collaboration.
- Connected with Google Drive.
- Supports various formats, including .doc, .pdf and .ppt.
- Tracks change easily.
- No dedicated desktop application.
- Limited templates.
MindMeister: Best collaborative mind map app
MindMeister is a cloud-based, collaborative mind mapping tool used to create and display connections between concepts. The software includes all of the standard features you’d expect in a mind map app: Start with a central concept, add related ideas on different branches and then add additional branches as desired. You can customize each node by adding a note, link, media or comments.
- Basic: Free for up to three mind maps.
- Personal: $6.99 per month.
- Pro: $11.49 per month.
- Business: $18.99 per month.
- Create, share and collaborate on mind maps: Create colorful and structured visual mind maps for brainstorming, organizing and decision-making (Figure B).
- Real-time collaboration: MindMeister allows multiple users to collaborate on mind maps from anywhere in the world.
- Task management: Set deadlines and assign tasks to yourself or collaborators directly from the mind map.
- Mind map templates: Choose from a wide range of professionally designed mind map templates to start mind mapping immediately.
- Export: Export mind maps to several popular sharable file formats, including PDFs, image files, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations.
- Intuitive user interface.
- Real-time collaboration.
- Integration with an extensive list of third-party applications.
- It offers multiple options for exporting.
- Mobile app is difficult to use.
- The free trial lasts only seven days.
SEE: Check out how Miro compares to our list of the best mind mapping software.
Miro: Best visual collaboration app
Miro offers an enterprise-friendly solution that, at first glance, seems like a whiteboard app. But, Miro serves as much more than a collaborative drawing board, thanks to its number of third-party app connections, breadth of tools and depth of community sharing. In addition to drawing, Miro includes tools for specific tasks, such as diagramming and mind mapping, along with advanced features like voting on boards.
- Free plan: Unlimited team members with up to three editable boards.
- Starter plan: $8 per month per user billed annually, or $10 per month per user billed monthly with unlimited boards and users.
- Business plan: $16 per month per user billed annually, or $20 per month per user billed monthly with unlimited boards, team members and security features.
- Enterprise plan: Tailored to each customer’s specific needs.
- Collaborative whiteboard: Miro’s whiteboard enables remote teams worldwide to brainstorm, design and collaborate on real-time projects (Figure C).
- Remote team management: Manage remote teams with Miro’s integrated project management tools, including project timelines, task boards and Gantt charts.
- Visual project planning: Create visual project plans with Miro’s Agile boards, user stories and sprint boards.
- Design thinking: Utilize Miro’s design-thinking templates to drive innovation, solve complex problems and develop creative solutions.
- Ideation and brainstorming: Use Miro’s digital sticky notes, mind maps and brainstorming tools to generate ideas and collaborate on them.
- Prototyping and testing: Create interactive prototypes, run usability tests and collect feedback with Miro’s flexible canvas.
- Enterprise-grade security.
- Variety of templates.
- Supports multiple languages.
- Real-time collaboration.
- Steep learning curve.
- Prone to technical glitches and slow loading.
Onshape: Best collaborative cloud CAD app
Onshape is a cloud software-as-a-service design system that supports both collaborative computer-aided design and product data management. You and your colleagues can work on a 3D design simultaneously within a browser or the Onshape mobile apps for iOS or Android. Design branching and merging lets teams experiment with different approaches and solutions, and built-in data management and bill of materials systems ensure content is always up-to-date.
- Free plan: Free for non-commercial projects; all user data is stored in a public workspace. They also offer a 14-day free trial.
- Standard plan: $1,500 per user per year.
- Professional plan: $2,500 per user per year.
- Enterprise plan: Custom pricing.
- CAD modeling: Onshape offers powerful tools that enable users to easily create and edit 3D parts and assemblies of any size or complexity (Figure D).
- Collaboration: Onshape enables users to collaborate with colleagues, customers and suppliers in real-time.
- PDM and release management: Onshape’s built-in release management system keeps track of all changes and helps you to collaborate with colleagues.
- Administration and security: Onshape provides administrators with control over user access and data security. Administrators can customize user roles and set data security policies.
- Cloud storage capability.
- Browser-based, so no desktop installation is needed.
- Parts can be modeled together.
- Rendering performance is limited.
- Limited tools for adding surface texture or text.
SEE: Pair Onshape with a top cloud-based project management software for enhanced remote team collaboration.
Vuforia Chalk: Best remote troubleshooting app
Vuforia Chalk makes it possible for people to make virtual chalk marks during a live video conferencing session. Unlike in a standard video conferencing session, the stream pauses when a participant starts to draw, ensuring they can leave their mark exactly where they want it. The augmented reality app ensures each mark made stays in the appropriate place — seemingly “sticking” wherever it was drawn, even as conferencing participants move devices and screens around. The app is an excellent way to make practical expertise available to people remotely.
Vuforia Chalk is a subscription-based service offered by PTC, so pricing is determined case-by-case. Potential customers must contact the PTC sales team directly to get a quote. Those interested can also try the 30-day free trial.
- Augmented reality technology: Vuforia Chalk provides advanced AR technology that allows users to draw virtual objects on real-world surfaces and share them with remote experts (Figure E).
- Seamless collaboration: Vuforia Chalk enables remote collaboration between the user and an expert, allowing them to communicate in real-time, draw annotations on the user’s screen and collaborate on the same AR view.
- AI-powered annotations: Vuforia Chalk leverages AI-powered annotations to provide users with a quick and easy guide.
- RealWear: Vuforia Chalk supports RealWear HMT-1, HMT-1Z1 and Navigator 500.
- Mobile app: Vuforia Chalk lets users connect with remote experts through an intuitive mobile app.
- Direct interaction through an audio and video connection.
- Easy to use with no training required.
- Some users have reported lagging issues.
- Compatibility issues with some cell phones.
SEE: Pair Vuforia Chalk’s troubleshooting capabilities with a developer project management software for improved issue tracking and handling.
Be My Eyes: Best visual assistance app
The Be My Eyes mobile app lets people with low or no vision connect with sighted people via a live video call. The app shares video from the back-facing camera of the person who seeks help, so the remote, sighted person may offer assistance with the task at hand. The app offers versions that work on both iOS and Android devices and is free to use for blind and low-vision users as well as sighted volunteers.
Be My Eyes is a free service with no pricing options. The organization relies on donations and volunteers to provide its services.
- Video-call collaboration: Connects blind and low-vision people with fully sighted volunteers through video calls (Figure F).
- Accessible support for blind and low-vision individuals: The app offers blind and low-vision people support and assistance with everyday tasks.
- Compatible with various mobile devices and operating systems: Be My Eyes is available on iOS and Android systems.
- Global and linguistic accessibility: The app is available in more than 150 countries, and has over 6 million volunteers and over 450,000 blind and low-vision users. It also offers access to a wide range of languages.
- User-friendly app.
- Ability to freeze the video at any time.
- Supports multiple languages.
- Can not choose a particular assistant.
- Data hungry.
Night Sky: Best collaborative astronomy app
Astronomy enthusiasts who use Apple devices are likely familiar with Night Sky, an app that lets you point your phone or tablet toward the sky to identify planets, stars, satellites and more. It’s a personal planetarium app that relies on location and the positioning of your device to calculate what to display. Night Sky also provides a forecast to let you know the best stargazing time for the upcoming night. Many core features of the app may be used for free.
- A Night Sky free version is available.
- Night Sky+ monthly: $5.99.
- Night Sky+ annual: $39.99.
- Night Sky+ unlimited: $229.99.
- Constellation finder: Night Sky offers an interactive tool that helps users identify and learn about constellations in the night sky (Figure G).
- Moon phases calendar: This calendar provides a visual guide to the moon’s current phase, the dates of upcoming full moons and the lunar illumination percentage.
- Meteor showers calendar: Night Sky offers a list of upcoming meteor showers and the dates when they are expected to peak.
- Spatial audio object navigation: Night Sky will “chirp” to help you find any star, planet or constellation you’re looking for.
- Astronomy news: Night Sky provides a regularly updated news feed with the latest news and discoveries in astronomy and space exploration.
- Fully compatible with Apple iWatch.
- Well-designed user interface.
- Virtual models that allow users to circle around the view.
- Limited tutorial and in-app tips on how to use the app.
- Pop-ups to get paid subscriptions can get annoying.
Flat: Best collaborative music composition app
Flat provides a cloud-based music app that lets you compose in a browser. You can compose for all standard band and orchestra instruments as well as use templates for standard sets of voices or instruments, such as choral, vocal, chamber, jazz and rock groups. What sets Flat apart from the competition, though, is it includes collaboration features.
- Flat Basic: Free per user per year.
- Flat Power: $9.99 per user per month, billed monthly, or $4.08 per user per month, billed annually.
- Flat Power Lifetime: $199 one-time purchase.
- Virtual music composition: Compose with virtual instruments or audio loops (Figure H).
- Shareable online storage: Create, store and share your music scores online.
- Advanced layout customization: Flat offers page layout customization options that allow you to structure your compositions as a PDF for printing.
- Supports MusicXML and MIDI files: Once you’ve finished composing, Flat lets you export your music as MusicXML and MIDI files.
- Version history: Get a quick look at all of the changes made to your composition with Flat’s version history.
- Easy quiz creation.
- Excellent on-screen guidance.
- Limited content on music technique and theory.
- Auto grading features are lacking.
SEE: Improve your team experience with Inko with a creative project management tool.
JackTrip Labs: Best real-time music performance app
JackTrip Labs offers Virtual Studio software for rehearsal and performance as well as JackTrip Bridges hardware to connect equipment. Instead of a browser, you’ll need to download an app for macOS, Windows or Linux to use this real-time music performance gadget. Wherever possible, you’ll want to use hard-wired internet, microphone and audio connections — not Wi-Fi or Bluetooth — to eliminate as much latency as possible. You’ll also want to connect with the fastest internet connection possible.
- Free: This plan only allows you to play simultaneously with up to 16 musicians and up to 30 minutes of session length.
- Essential: $8.25 per month billed annually, or $10 per month billed monthly.
- Advanced: $25 per month billed annually, or $30 per month billed annually.
- Compatible with Mac, Windows and Linux: Take advantage of JackTrip Labs regardless of your operating system (Figure I).
- Online music teaching and studio space: Teach music online, including private lessons and group lessons, and customize your studio.
- Remote rehearsals: With JackTrip Labs, you can set up and rehearse with others from anywhere in the world.
- Remote songwriting and recording management: Create and collaborate on songwriting sessions, remote recording and live streaming HD audio.
- Outstanding audio quality.
- Low latency.
- Initial setup can be confusing.
Inko: Best internet-optional collaborative drawing app
Inko is a collaborative whiteboard app that works on iPad, iPhone and Mac devices. On these platforms, the app includes basic drawing features you might expect: a few pen styles, a preset palette of colors, a lasso tool to select objects, an eraser to remove items and a pointer tool that leaves a trail that disappears momentarily after you draw.
- Nearby plan: $1.99 per month or $9.99 per year; allows local collaboration over peer-to-peer or LAN.
- Remote plan: $3.99 per month or $29.99 per year; enables remote collaboration over the internet.
- Apple tool compatibility: Inko offers extensive support for Apple Pencil as well as compatibility with Apple TV.
- Collaborative support for remote connections: Inko supports peer-to-peer connectivity, even for remote collaboration.
- iOS optimization: The tool is optimized for iOS to support file sharing, split view multitasking on iPad, drag and drop, quick actions, Siri shortcuts, SF symbols and dark mode (Figure J).
- Configurable canvas formats: These include support for portrait and landscape formats, as well as 4:3 or 16:9 aspects, to suit various device sizes.
- Export: You can export Inko files as a PDF, image or native archive export.
- Wide range of brushes and tools.
- Powerful export and sharing options.
- Cloud storage.
- Sharp at any zoom level.
- Trial period is too limited.
- Beginners can find advanced tools challenging to use.
What is collaboration software?
Digital collaboration tools are software applications and platforms that enable remote teams to communicate, share information and collaborate on projects. Examples of digital collaboration tools include project management software, online meeting and video conferencing tools, task management tools, document and file sharing tools, online whiteboards and virtual workspaces.
These tools help remote teams stay connected, organize projects, track progress, manage ticketing systems and ensure everyone is on the same page. They allow team members to communicate in real-time, brainstorm ideas, share documents and collaborate on projects without being in the same location.
By using digital collaboration tools, remote teams can stay connected and productive even when they are miles apart. Digital collaboration tools can also be useful for certain consumer collaborations, like drawing or music production.
What are key features of online collaboration tools?
With a cloud-based software or application, you get asynchronous communication within the team. This means if any team member makes any changes to the project or file, it can get updated in real-Goo for everyone. There is also a reduced risk of losing data if users forget to save the file. However, some cloud-based software needs access to the internet at all times, while some also allow for offline use.
File sharing is a fundamental need for collaboration. An app with in-built file sharing or seamless integration with a third-party application allows team members to share files easily. File sharing feature also ensures security, allows for a centralized knowledge base, and helps users manage larger files.
Team messaging features help provide convenient and efficient forms of communication. This includes tools such as one-to-one messaging, group chats, threads, video meetings and other forms of communication. While some apps have native team messaging capability, others rely on integration with third-party messaging applications such as Slack.
A mobile app provides a way for users to collaborate on the go. While mobile may not offer the full functionality available in browser or desktop mode, it can provide useful tools to help collaborate when you are away from the computer.
What are the benefits of online collaboration tools for remote teams?
Digital collaboration software is a must for any business looking to streamline its processes. Here are some of the top benefits of digital collaboration software:
- Increased transparency: You get increased transparency in team activities to help ensure accountability and the ability to track the progress.
- Boost team morale: With digital collaboration, teammates feel engaged and empowered, which is great for morale.
- Improved productivity: Teammates get access to online resources, and they can leverage their colleague’s knowledge through real-time communication. This helps improve the overall productivity of work.
- Better quality of communication: Digital collaboration tools provide teams with different types of tools for communication, including audio, video and augmented reality. Such tools help improve the quality of communication.
How to choose the right collaboration tool for your business
Before deciding on the right collaboration tool for your business, it’s essential to identify your business needs. Understand what kind of collaboration you need, the goals you want to achieve and the information you need to share and manage.
Then, evaluate the features and benefits of different collaboration tools, looking at how easy a prospective tool is to use, how secure it is, and if you can use it on multiple devices and platforms. Additionally, look at tool pricing and consider scalability if you plan to grow your business in the future.
Ultimately, to determine if a tool is right for you, test it out with your team and collect user feedback. This will ensure you make the best decision for your business.
To compile this list of best digital collaboration tools, we looked at several software and evaluated them based on usability, feature set, customization, scalability and pricing. Although this list consists of a variety of applications, our review was focused on evaluating the collaboration capabilities of the software. Therefore, we did a more detailed analysis of the software’s team collaboration features.
Try pairing your chosen collaboration software with a top project management tool for improved collaboration and communication on projects.