Online Collaboration Tools

These days teams can be dispersed all over the globe. With outsourcing, telecommuting, distance learning and complex project collaboration, it's often helpful to have tools that can assist with the various collaborative tasks need to be done by dispersed teams. I've put together a great list of 27 free web based tools that will help you and your teammates do nearly all the things you need to do to work together from different locations.  There are virtual workspaces, customer service applications, project management tools, mindmapping and even online conferencing tools - all FREE!   Have a look and see if you can use any of these to connect with others and collaborate!

Whiteboard, Bullitin Board and Workspace Tools

Stixy is an online whiteboard that allows you to upload photos, add notes, documents, web clippings, bookmarks and manage tasks in a rather freeform fashion. Its sole purpose is to allow people to collect, arrange and share information in the manner in which each individual or group sees fit.

Dabbleboard is pretty much exactly what its name suggests. It's an online whiteboard that helps you to visualize, explore and communicate ideas. The interface will automatically detect basic shapes as you draw them. It's very intuitive and easy to use and allows you to reuse previously made drawings. You can upload images into your Dabbleboard drawings and also export them as images to use in desktop apps.

Mindquarry is an Open Source collaborative software platform for file sharing, task management, team collaboration and Wiki editing that is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Mindquarry runs as a web application with an optional desktop client for Windows, Linux and Mac OS that allows for desktop synchronization and offline work. As a result, you are able to connect with team members and share information from wherever you are, effectively improving team-work and increasing productivity within your team.  (from their website)  The app is one that you download and host yourself and comes complete with all the source code.

Twiddla embraces a fairly new concept called co-browsing.  A team of people can get together on a twiddla page and browse a site while participating in discussions, adding annotations, sharing files and chatting along - all in real time.  It's like adding a whiteboard layer over any uploaded image or website! It also incorporates an audio feature as well as real-time chat.  You can mark up websites, images, or even brainstorm from scratch.  It's incredibly easy to use and fun too. Twiddla sessions can be saved to your computer as an image or a widget for use in later Twiddla sessions. There are no limitations to the number of people you can have in a session; there is no upsell - it's totally free all the time in any case.

Writeboard is pretty simple in that it does one function and it does it well.  It serves as a document management and collaboration tool.  It works hand in hand with Backpack (discussed later in this post). It allows you to editing, versioning, change tracking, and ability to roll back to previous versions. It has the ability to send an email to somebody else with a link to the document so they can also collaborate. No account is necesary. You can also subscribe to documents via RSS

WriteWith seems to have been designed for collaborative document management, but th examples on the website show how it could be useful for project management.  While you can definitely add, edit and collaborate on documents, there are also task management functions, RSS feeds and comprehensive history tracking features.

Project Management Tools

ProjectPier ProjectPier is a Free, Open-Source, self-hosted PHP application for managing tasks, projects and teams through an intuitive web interface. ProjectPier will help your organization communicate, collaborate and get things done Its function is similar to commercial groupware/project management products, but allows the freedom and scalability of self-hosting.

Basecamp helps teams to manage projects by focusing on communication.  There are tools for managing to-do lists, file sharing, message boards, time tracking and scheduling/assigning milestones.  They ofer an API for developers to build add ins allowing internal applications to utilize Basecamp too.

XPlanner is a project planning and tracking tool for eXtreme Programming (XP) teams. To summarize the XP planning process, the customers pick the features to be added (user stories) to each development iteration (typically, one to three weeks in duration). The developers estimate the effort to complete the stories either at the story level or by decomposing the story into tasks and estimating those. Information about team development velocity from the previous iteration is used to estimate if the team can complete the stories proposed by the customer. If the team appears to be overcommitted, the set of stories are renegotiated with the customer. The XPlanner tool was created to support this process and address issuesexperienced in a long-term real-life XP project (from their website).  This tool features virtual note cards, support for recording and tracking projects/iterations/stories/tasks, onlien time tracking and timesheet generation, metrics, charts for velocity/scrum burn down, distributions etc., export to xml/mpx(MS Project), PDF aned iCal, TWiki style editing, a SOAP API and more.

Collaboration Tools - Intranet Style

Central Desktop  touts itself as an online collaboration and workspace tool, but it's really so much more!  There is document management including the ability to import and export Excel spreadsheets, charts, and more than 500 formulas and functions.   There is also calendar integration, instant messenger integration, task management, RSS feeds of workspace activity, personal dashboards and reminders.  They also provide real-time web meetings with free integrated audio conferencing.

Backpack  is a web-based service that makes organizing your information incredibly easy. Backpack lets you make pages which can contain any combination of notes, to-dos, images, files, etc. You can keep these pages to yourself or share them with colleagues, co-workers, friends, or family. It gives teams a great "home base" for managing the day to day activities they undergo.  Back does some cool email kung-fu too!  You can email lists, notes files and images to your backpack page.  In addition, Backpack can send email and SMS reminders to teammates.

 Social Networking and Information Sharing Tools

Wetpaint  allows you to "create a free website about anything you love".  You can add stories, video photo etc.  You can then have multiple members contribute to the site.  It's basically an out-of-the box social networking site for whatever topic your group chooses.

Nexo  is much like Wetpaint in how it works.  The platform allows you to select a group name and personalized URL, choose from a variety of layouts, showcase pictures/video/etc, add forums and bulletin boards, get group updates and participate by email, include interactive calendars polls and to-do lists and manage privacy settings.  Their vision is to "connect people more tightly by improving the quality of group interactions."

I saved Ning  for last in this group because it is my absolute favorite of the instant social network sites.  You can find such groups as built on Ning.  This place is where you can create the "MySpace" for whatever niche you like (but it's BETTER than MySpace)!  The group can set up a custom look and feel, and then each individual group member can set up her own profile page with her own customizatized layout as well.  There are blogs, event listings, real-time events stream, discussion forums, viral widgets, photos & slideshows, mini-groups for subsets of interests, commenting, email notifications, polls, announcements etc.  There is even Facebook integration It's so incredibly easy to set up and all the behind the scenes stuff is done for you. and

Bug Tracking and Source Control Tools

Bugzilla  is a very easy to use open-source Bug Tracking System.  It allows software teams to track bugs and code changes, communicate with teammates, submit and review patches and manage quality assurance.  It's free but it has tons of features that many paid systems do not offer.  A few of these are scheduled reports, time tracking, reports and charts and a request systm..  There are some great features for administrators too.  Check here for a full feature set. There are also tons of Addons helping you get the most out of the tool.

SCARAB  is an open source java bug tracking/artifact management system that you host on your own servers.  It's multi-lingual.  It also supports easy migration from other systems such as Bugzilla.  The system is stand-alone but fully customizable via a set of administrative pages.  It also supports integration into larger systems.

Freepository is a system of secure hosted, on-demand software development infrastructure. They provide hosted CVS, SVN, Trac and also offer consulting services in the design & implementation of software build systems and related automation.  They have a completely free plan for simple CVS hosting, and very cheap plans for other features like bug tracking, release planning and SVN.

Customer Service Tools

Get Satisfaction  is a direct connection between people and companies that fosters problem-solving, promotes sharing, and builds up relationships. Thousands of companies use this neutral space to support customers, exchange ideas, and get feedback about their products and services. Get Satisfaction is open, transparent, and free. You’re free to ask, free to answer, and free to start a new conversation. Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate: companies, employees, customers — anyone with an opinion, an answer, or something to say.  You set up your company/product page and people can provide feedback, share ideas, report bugs and communicate directly with your representatives.

UserVoice is similar in functionality to Get Satisfaction, but offers the ability for users to vote on ideas. The best ideas therefore rise to the top of the queue for investigation. It also offers the ability to implement ideas. They have a RSS feed available for your site as well.

Web-Conferencing Tools

ooVoo  is the next evolution in online communication — a remarkably easy way to have a face-to-face video chat with friends, family or colleagues, no matter where they are in the world. ooVoo has many great features — from video calls with up to six people at once to video messaging to chat and file transfer capabilities. Check here for some of their highlighted features.

Yugma is a great tool that allows you to host web conferences, share your desktop share files, schedule meetings and send invitations in advance.  You can also record your webcast in order to share or play it back at a later time. Popular uses of Yugma include hosting webinars, developing and presenting proposals, product demonstrations and sales presentations, enhancing online sales calls, conducting training programs, delivering customer service, holding team meetings and reviews, improving remote support and troubleshooting, facilitating study groups or personal tutoring sessions, hosting virtual clubs or social events, and providing spontaneous collaboration by artists, writers, and designers.  "Yugma" is a Sanskrit word meaning "confluence, meeting or state of togetherness."

TokBox offers simple video calling with no download requirement. You sign up and they give you a link. You can then share that link with whomever you like. They just click and they can video chat with you. You can embed it onto any website, although they do have a Facebook plugin available too.

Dimdim definitely gives Yugma a run for its money.  It allows you to deliver synchronized live presentations, whiteboards and web pages while sharing voice and video over the internet with nothing to download.  The free account allows you to have up to 20 people, and their paid offerrings are very competitive.  They even offer a self-hosted Open Source version for you to use within your own intranet!

Mind Mapping Tools is a very easy to use brainstorming site.  You can add branches and ideas in the form of bublbes.  They can be dragged all over the place and saved as sheets.  You can embed bubbl sheets into other websites, share with friends for collaboration save and print them.  It's also multi-lingual.

MindMeister brings the concept of mind mapping to the web, using its facilities for real-time collaboration to allow truly global brainstorming sessions. Users can create, manage and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere. In brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeisters from around the world (or just in different rooms) can simultaneously work on the same mind map and see each other's changes as they happen.

Mindomo  is similar to MindMeister yet offers a more simplified user interface.  It's straight forward, easy to use and of course, the basic account is free.  They do offer a Desktop solution also that allows you to work on your maps offline when the internet is not avaialble.  The desktop version runs on Adobe Air in multiple operating systems and syncs back with Mindomo on the web.

Mind42 ...42 is not only the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything! 42 means FOR TWO and indicates the collaborative character of mind42, because that is exactly what mind42 is: A collaborative browser-based online mind mapping tool. It allows you to manage all your ideas, whether alone, twosome or working together with the whole world. As mind42 runs inside the browser, installing mind mapping tools is no longer needed - for a hassle-free mindmapping experience. Just open the browser and launch the application when needed - it behaves like a classical desktop application! (from their website)   I think this is my favorite web based mind map tool personally - I love the interface and tool set.
Manage your projects and team
The most customizable suit of flexible to-dos, wiki, emails - with Gantt charts, MS Project and workflows.
A perfect mix of Project Collaboration and Management features. Plan, track and collaborate on projects. Keep everyone in the loop. A centralized place where relevant project documents and contents are stored, updates are posted, everyone exchange ideas and get work done.
"RationalPlan by Stand By Soft is a powerful project management software designed to assist project managers in developing plans, allocating resources, tracking progress, managing budgets and analyzing workload.

If you are working in the area of construction, engineering, services&consulting, business, software development or even working on a simple student project then you can use RationalPlan. It will help you to complete your project as scheduled, on time and within budget.

If you have projects that are interrelated that is certain tasks from one project depend on other tasks from the other projects then you should opt in for a Multi Project version. Even more... you should choose a Multi Project version if you have resources that are working in multiple projects. Otherwise the Single Project version is enough.

Here are some key reasons for using RationalPlan:

    * manage your company's projects and share resources between them
    * provides a clean way to break down your project, build schedules, allocate resources, and manage budgets
    * get resources and finances under control (realistic cost estimates mechanisms, screening cash-flow time distribution for tasks and resources)
    * gives you a step by step project guide that walks you through the project management process so you can lay down a project plan immediately
    * different scenarios capability via multiple undo/redo levels will allow you to make changes and safely get back
    * track project evolution regarding task's completion, time and costs
    * brings project's critical issues to your attention (critical activities with configurable slack, overallocated resources)

The application is covering project management area from WBS construction, project planning and scheduling to critical path management, overallocated resources detection, progress tracking, cost estimation etc.

RationalPlan suite includes:

RationalPlan Single Project - project management software for single projects
RationalPlan Multi Project - project management software for multiple projects, projects that are interconnected through dependencies and share common resource
RationalPlan Project Viewer - free project management software viewer, the perfect solution for anyone (from project stakeholders to team workers) to view projects details"

Few More Tools-

1.  Intellisys project management software.

2.  3f Software Planner 2005

3. 8.5

4. OPMcreator

5. iTools

6. TeamSpace


1. iTeamwork

Project Management featuring companies, projects, tasks (with Gantt
charts), forums, files, calendar, contacts, tickets/helpdesk, language
support, user/module permissions, themes.

GForge has tools to help your team collaborate, like message forums
and mailing lists; tools to create and control access to Source Code
Management repositories like CVS and Subversion. GForge automatically
creates a repository and controls access to it depending on the role
settings of the project.

Project Management featuring optional group system, privileges,
calendar, contacts, time card, projects, chat, forum, request tracker,
mail client, files, notes, bookmarks, to-do list, reminder, voting,
language support.


6. (Hosted)

7. Consultant Communicator

Web-based software -
Reviews and directory of sites for project management. Also includes
bug tracking, customer service, document, and time management listing.

Project Management Software Directory -
Lists windows based project management software.

Software Project Management -
Project software directory, includes news, books, and links.

Ajeebo -
Listing of project management software and search tool to find
software that provides the features of interest.

The Software Network -
Provides a list of project management solutions.

Project Management Center -
Project software directory. Also includes organizations, training, job
opportunities, news and links.

See also...


I hope the above information helps.

I've had such a great time researching all these tools and I can't wait for an opportunity to use them all. I'm so appreciative of all the companies for bringing such things to the web for us all to use for free! If you know of other such tools, please leave them in the comments below!