49+ of the Best Online Collaboration Tools for Productive Remote Teams

49+ of the Best Online Collaboration Tools for Productive Remote Teams

If you work with a remote or distributed team, or even telecommute, you know that doing so can make for more productive and engaged employees.

But beyond recruiting experienced, self-motivated employees who have communication skills, you also need people who understand the need and nature of collaborating online. To facilitate this, you need online collaboration tools that will allow for collaboration in real time.

Having scoured the likes and dislikes of several companies including Hubstaff, here are a list of tools that most companies find critical to help with online collaboration. You can use the table of contents below to find a category of tools you’d like to investigate.

Workflow and project management tools
Team communication tools
Remote access tools
Design tools
Documentation tools
File sharing tools
Additional software tools
Virtual team games
Culture is key

Workflow and project management tools

Managing projects can be hard. Managing progress of deliverables, updating teams and timelines, and communicating information to stakeholders are just a few of the activities project managers will need to handle.

So how does a project manager manage all that from a clear plan? They use a project management tool. Here are some of the favored options.

1.  Asana

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For an online collaboration tool that handles workflow management and task management, Asana is a great tool. It is quite easy to use with an interface that is clean and uncomplicated. Color-coded projects, hypertext, mobile app keyboard shortcuts, a getting started quick tour and a library of videos all make it a user-friendly tool.

What makes it stand out –

Not many SaaS providers offer a free option for up to 15 users. Asana also includes a Board view, which is designed to give teams the ability to manage work using the Kanban methodology. This is a methodology that uses the visualization of all the work that needs to be done and all the work in progress. However, Asana doesn’t include other Kanban features like swimlanes, time tracking tools, and work in progress limits.

Capterra rating – 4.5

G2 Crowd rating – 4.3

Pricing – For more features and more than 15 members, you will need to go on a paid plan which starts at $9.99 per member per month.

2.  LiquidPlanner

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LiquidPlanner is one of the most impressive and complex project management systems available. Which means it can also take a while to master. As a project collaboration  tool, LiquidPlanner has all the functions you would need to create and manage projects. This includes the ability to assign various team members to work on projects, set deadlines, add milestones, and so forth. Tasks can have subtasks and projects can have subprojects. The dashboard is also customizable.

However, there is more to LiquidPlanner than just managing projects. You can also use the tool to manage resources that aren’t related to projects.

What makes it stand out –

It has a unique scheduling methodology that is focused on task prioritization. This lies at the core of what the company believes makes for better project management.

Capterra rating – 4.5

G2 Crowd rating – 4

Pricing – A free trial period for 30 days is available, but their smallest paid plan starts from $9.99 per user per month.

3. Podio

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Podio is unlike other project management systems in that it doesn’t have fixed structures or compel users to speak their language. It allows each user to create their own custom workspaces, use pre-made apps, or build custom apps.

Users can even use their own terminology and structures that best suit them. In other words, it takes more of a no one size fits all approach to project management. The option to integrate with other apps via their API exists but is limited.

What makes it stand out –

Podio’s interface is a lot like social media platforms like Facebook and so tends to be favored by those who frequently use social media.

Capterra rating – 4.5

G2Crowd rating – 4.1

Pricing – Podio is free for up to 5 users. Paid plans for more features and users start from $9 per month.

4.  Airtable

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Airtable is really a relational database tool that can also be used for project management. The tool allows for the creating and editing of databases but also has elements of spreadsheet software. To get started, you could use one of the many free templates that are available, build a database from scratch, or import data. The software is made up of bases that can be used to organize information in tables.

What makes it stand out –

The ability to create and save custom views to support collaboration. For example, you could use the grid view, calendar, Kanban or gallery depending on your preference. Airtable also offers the use of many icons that can make it easy to customize the views.

Capterra rating – 4.5

G2 crowd rating – 4.6

Pricing – The free option limits you to 1200 records per database, and 2GB of storage space. To use more records, you would need a paid plan, which starts from $12 per month.

5.  Trello

project management online collaboration tools

If it came down to style, simplicity and the need to visualize your project management process, Trello would be a top pick as a project management tool. The tool is like a series of post it notes that can be moved around the board representing the project as the task progresses. One of the best parts to using Trello is the ability to gain a quick snapshot of the overall process.

What makes it stand out –

It allows you to get team input and provide status updates but doesn’t require so much input or information that it takes time to update. In fact, it is the simplicity and flexibility that makes it a great project collaboration  tool for remote teams. At the same time, it allows for a hundred other use cases as well.

Capterra rating – 4.5

G2 crowd rating – 4.4

Pricing – Plans start for free. Paid plans start from $9.99 per user per month. Paid plans allow for app integrations, team overviews, greater security and more customization of project boards.

6.  Basecamp

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Basecamp has been around for over a decade and in its current form is still is a strong project management tool. At its core, it is comprised of 6 tools that are available from the HQ level down to the team and individual level. They consist of:

  • To dos – the ability to track tasks and assign priorities
  • Message board – to facilitate communication
  • Campfires – for casual chats and quick discussions
  • Schedule – to track deadlines and milestones
  • Docs and Files – for document storage
  • Automatic check-ins – for getting updates without hassling people

The app also provides a suite of integrations to add more functionality to your use case.

What makes it stand out –

Basecamp 3 is a new take on this project management tool. It has literally been reimagined from the ground up to make it easy to use and functional. The features such as limiting notifications to work hours and scheduled automated check-ins are great additions and make it an effective project management tool.

Capterra rating – 4

G2 Crowd rating – 4

Pricing – a 30-day free trial is available after which you will need to pay to use Basecamp. A single flat payment option exists – $99/month regardless of the number of users.

7.  Hubstaff

Hubstaff project management online collaboration tools

A time tracking software, Hubstaff gives you the ability to get a more precise look at how much time has been spent on a project and how your team members are using their time.

When your team installs Hubstaff, they can instantly start tracking their time spent on client projects and your managers can see how productive your team is with random screenshots of the work being done as well as detailed reports of progress. This can then be used to invoice clients, pay your team, and remove the barriers that exist with remote team management. Combined with Hubstaff tasks it provides more insight and control over your projects and task management.

What makes it stand out –

The combination of time tracking, payment processing, project management via Hubstaff Tasks and pricing make it a competitive alternative.

Capterra rating – 4.5

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Pricing – a free trial is available and paid plans for Hubstaff start from $5 per month per user.

8.  JIRA

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Provided by Atlassian, JIRA is a project management ticketing system that allows you to track the progress of your project, task team members, and scope out timelines as you go. JIRA is ideal for agile projects as it gives your team a space to track progress of their tasks and make adjustments to project forecast estimates as needed.

With JIRA, when a project manager assigns a ticket to a team member, that person is then notified via email and can then make comments and mark their progress. This is then fed into a report for managers who can use it to track each component of the entire project.

What makes it stand out –

JIRA is great for managing software development projects, but is also useful for internal communications, sales, and marketing projects. When your project requires more documentation or explanation, JIRA easily plugs in with Confluence, another great software tool for your remote team.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Capterra rating – 4

Pricing – A 7-day free trial is available, and teams can choose between cloud and self-hosted options. Paid plans start from $10 per month for 10 users.

9.  Confluence

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Confluence is another Atlassian product. It is a wiki platform that allows you to create pages, upload and share documents with your team. It comes with a variety of plugins that you can specify to your team’s needs (like the JIRA plugin mentioned above).

Confluence has an easy-to-use interface that makes it great for building an internal documentation library for your team to avoid the hassle and errors that come when emailing information back and forth. You can also build up project areas with Confluence and share them with clients so both you and your clients can add project-specific information and documentation.

What makes it stand out –

With its large amount of storage and search capabilities, Confluence is a great way to keep information and documentation related to past, present and future projects. In other words, it makes keeping your projects organized easy and the information transfer between remote employees seamless.

G2 Crowd rating – 4

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A 7-day free trial is available, and teams can choose between cloud and self-hosted options. Paid plans start from $10 per month for 10 users.

Team communication tools

Communication is vital to any team. It used to be challenge for remote teams when email and calls were the only option. Now, however, we have a number of great team communication tools that make it easy to stay in touch from any part of the world and build company culture. Here are a few popular online communication tools.

1.  Slack

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As a communication tool that cuts down on internal email and back channel communication, there is little else that can compare to Slack.

To use Slack effectively there needs to be a culture to support it. Teams will need time to figure out how best to use Slack and what the rules of engagement are. There are many tips available for using Slack, but no one right way.

The app is available on a variety of platforms including Mac, Windows, Linux, web, Android, iOS, and Windows mobile. However, being a real-time connection tool, you’ll need an internet connection to use it.

What makes it stand out –

Slack is a highly customizable productivity app that plays well with others. However, you need to understand what Slack does and doesn’t promise to deliver before you consider deploying it for your team. It’s an excellent place for conversations and discussion, but if you’re looking to manage tasks and workflows, you need more than Slack alone.

G2 crowd rating – 4.5

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – $6.67 per user per month is the smallest paid plan. The advantage of a paid plan is that you’ll have unlimited search options, unlimited app and integrations and allows for group calls with screen sharing. The free plan limits you to searches within 10,000 messages, only one to one calls and no more than 10 apps and integrations.

2.  Skype

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If you need the ability to conduct video and/or audio calls, Skype has you covered. Along with features like rich text messaging, calls to standard phones and an actual phone number should you need one, Skype is a well-known communication tool that can be used on all devices.

Skype has had many redesigns over the years with the most recent one focusing on messaging introducing emoji in video calls and a highlight option that is similar to Snapchat.

What makes it stand out –

Features that make it stand out from similar tools is:

  • The ability to integrate it into web browsers allowing you to call any phone number on a webpage.
  • Skype translate which enables you to hear real time spoken translations in 9 languages.
  • Skype chat bots including ones for travel services, games, productivity etc.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.2

Capterra rating – 4

Pricing – To use Skype and make user-to-user calls is free. However, to make calls to landlines, international phone numbers or to acquire a phone number would require a subscription. Plans vary depending on your needs. Alternatively, you can acquire Skype credit to make calls as and when you wish to.

3.  Zoom

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Need to collaborate virtually? Or perhaps conduct online training and demos? Then Zoom could be what you are looking for.

It is essentially an easy-to-use web conferencing and webinar solution. With Zoom, you can share your screen, share photos, web pages, and cloud content directly from Dropbox or Google Drive. You can even screen share any application on your iOS device.

What makes it stand out –

  • Online collaboration is facilitated with the ability to enter breakout rooms and group messaging.
  • A whiteboard feature allows you to draw and make notes in real-time which can be shared with other participants.
  • It can also handle most webinar needs allowing for panels of up to 50 interactive participants and up to 10,000 view-only attendees.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.5

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A free meeting plan exists with limitations placed on the number of participants, length of time for meetings and features. Paid plans start from $14.99 per month per host.

4.  GoToMeeting

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Just because you have a remote workforce doesn’t mean you can’t have productive, collaborative meetings. GoToMeeting makes it easy to schedule meetings with your team, share presentations so everyone is on the same page, and record your calls for reviewing later.

What makes it stand out –

By providing the ability to call in via a computer or phone anywhere around the world, GoToMeeting is an ideal online meeting tool for national and international teams. The ability to record calls and share internally or with clients makes sure no one misses the conversation.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.2

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A 14-day free trial is available but paid plans start from $19 per month for up to 10 participants.

5.  join.me

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Join.me is a simple online meeting tool that allows for screen sharing and file sharing. It allows for audio and video conferencing and is very easy to use being browser-based. It also has standalone apps for mobile devices and browsers.

To host and get a presentation underway, you will need to download an application and install it. When you run the app, you are provided with a panel displaying the buttons to help control your sessions. Each session is provided a 9-digit number, which is your session ID. The session ID will need to be entered by participants for them to join the conference.

What makes it stand out –

Participants can join a conference by entering the session ID on the main join.me webpage and will be given instant access without having to download any software. It runs in the browser itself.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

GetApp rating – 4.3

Pricing – You can use Join.me for free but to use additional features a paid plan is required which starts at $10 billed on an annual per user basis.

6.  UberConference

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For an easy virtual communication tool that requires no setup, try UberConference. No pins or registration processes are required even for those invited to a call.

It allows for easy call management right from your browser or smartphone as long as it has Android or iOS. You can even write notes, share your screen and send files to participants. Whether you need to start an impromptu conference or conduct scheduled meetings, it’s easy to set up via a calendar integration.

What makes it stand out –

It is the fact that you can set up a conference almost immediately without PINs or downloads that makes it so attractive. All you need to do is share your link with participants.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – The free plan allows up to 10 participants on a call as well as call recording. For more features, a paid plan is required which starts from $10 /line per month.

7.  Soapbox

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There are a number of screen recording tools on the market, but Wistia’s Soapbox stands out because it is so easy to use. The ability to perform screen recordings with a webcam recording at the same time is yet another reason.

What makes it stand out –

Simplicity and ease of use has lowered the bar when it comes to making videos and presentations. Here are some of its great features.

  • A Chrome extension and your existing webcam is all you need to create videos.
  • With Soapbox, you have full control over on-screen footage and being able to see you on the presentation helps with personalizing the video.
  • Transitions can be added while editing. The trimming and editing process is also quite simple and easy.
  • You don’t need to host the video and you can edit the video after sharing the link without re-uploading files.
  • You can customize the video thumbnail, the player color and even the closing call to action all within Soapbox.
  • You can share your video via a thumbnail in Gmail and Outlook or on a webpage via a link.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.6

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – Soapbox is free to use but videos cannot be downloaded for free. To be able to download videos and access an unbranded sharing page, you’ll need to go on a paid plan that starts at $12.50 per month for a single user or for teams of 3 or more it is $10 per month.

Remote access tools

At times having remote access to computers can help with IT related queries as well as to be able to make presentations or access files. Here are a few of the popular online collaboration remote access tools.

1.  WebEx

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Cisco’s WebEx lets you remotely connect with people based on different systems through their free mobile or desktop applications. The remote desktop setups have to be attended in order for it to work.

What makes it stand out –

Webex allows the person hosting the meeting to share their desktop with others. The person can also choose to pass over the control of mouse and keyboard to other presenters. Other handy features include being able to share files, chat and use face-to-face live video.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A free trial is available for 14 days and can run video meetings for up to 3 people. Paid plans start from $24 per month for meetings that can accommodate up to 8 people.

2.  Mikogo

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Mikogo is a cross-platform browser-based tool that is great for conferences and meetings as well as other remote desktop purposes.

The big advantage of this program is that no downloads or plugins are required, and it comes with a VoIP chat protocol. You can also share documents, change presenters, remotely access or control a desktop, use a whiteboard, transfer files, chat and conduct video conferences.

Although priced a bit heavily for business users, Mikogo is a great premium tool for businesses and individuals with commercial purposes.

What makes it stand out –

This remote access tool is completely browser-based with no need for software or plugin installations. The cross-platform tool is great for remote support, conferences, meetings, and other remote desktop purposes.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Capterra rating – 4

Pricing – Pricing is based on the number of people that need to conduct sessions or presentations. Prices start at $14 per month. Participants can connect for free.

3.  Teamviewer

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The program is designed for IT support, for collaboration, or even as a telecommuting solution should you need to access files from a computer or mobile device.

The program once installed on both the host and admin computers generates a passcode on the host’s side, which is to be shared with the admin.

Some of Teamviewer’s features that make it worth considering as an online collaboration tool or remote access tool:

  • The admin program can generate a password to allow reverse sharing. In other words, the client can remotely access the admin computer if required.
  • When accessed remotely, the remote desktop can be displayed in full screen mode.
  • Security is quite thorough. A remote machine can only be accessed when permission is granted, but there’s also an unattended access mode.
  • A portable version of TeamViewer can be run without being installed.
  • Access can be gained through a web browser.
  • If you’re struggling with a slow connection, you can adjust the settings to improve performance at the expense of aesthetics.

What makes it stand out –

User friendliness, very little lag time, and high performance.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.6

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – It free for personal use or as a free trial. Business plans start from $35 a month for a single user.

Design tools

Whether you need to develop a website, an app or some other product you will need to be able to share designs, and capture feedback and iterations quickly and easily. These collaboration design tools are amongst the commonly preferred tools that teams use.

1.  Invision

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This is an intuitive tool for designers that is available as a mobile or web app. It can turn your designs into prototypes with gestures, animations, and transitions. People can provide feedback on the design concepts via comments. You can even use it to manage the project with to do lists and status updates.

What makes it stand out  –

The Live Share feature allows you to collaborate in real time using an in-browser screen share. Each user is allocated their own mouse so you can point and see what someone is talking about. Sketching, chat, VOIP chat live in-browser or by calling into a unique conference line are also part of the interface.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.5

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A single project is free, but should you want to add any more projects you will need to upgrade to a paid plan which starts at $15 a month.

2.  Red Pen

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For designers wanting to share their work on the fly it is hard to beat Red Pen. It is a simple web app that allows you to upload a file and share it with others for feedback. What makes this different from other apps is that it is a lightweight solution that can save you from emailing files back and forth. Once you have uploaded your file just share the short link with clients or your team. They can click on the link and leave their feedback

What makes it stand out –

This app isn’t different from others on the market. But its simplicity and the speed at which you can use it to gain feedback makes it a neat solution.

Pricing – The free plan allows for single uploads that last for 20 days. A 14-day free trial allows you to test the full app after which you can choose to go on a paid plan starting from $20/month for 5 projects.

3.  UX Pin

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There are two products available via UX Pin – UX Pin prototyping and UX Pin systems. The first is for rapid collaboration in small teams and the latter is an end to end UX solution for mid to large teams.

You can create a design from scratch or import your designs via plugins from Photoshop or Sketch. The program also has dozens of built-in UI libraries which help make the creation of mockups and wireframes easy.

Three role types can be assigned to all those participating on a project.

  • Managers can create and access all projects
  • Creators can create, and access selected projects
  • Collaborator can only access selected projects

UX Pin allows for collaboration wherein users can comment directly on elements or via email or Slack.

What makes it stand out –

The ability to create mockups for low and high-fidelity designs is what makes UX Pin stand out. The dozens of libraries made available with various items to be used in a design makes for a better design mockup experience.

G2 Crowd rating – 3.5

Capterra rating – 5

Pricing – A free trial is available and paid plans start from $9 for a single user per month

4.  Hotjar

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Hotjar isn’t ordinarily thought of as a design-related collaborative tool.

In fact, it provides research and analytics options like heatmaps, feedback polls, recordings, conversion funnels, etc. All of these are designed to provide data on visitor’s actions around design options. In other words, by using Hotjar you can make informed design adjustments or decisions.

Probably one of the most used features of Hotjar are the heatmaps that provide insights on what areas of your website people are spending time on whether it be a desktop or some mobile device. You can create a heat map for any specific page and monitor everything from clicks and taps to scrolling behavior.

What makes it stand out –

If you need real feedback from users, HotJar really is a great tool with a lot of value to offer any online business or website. With a free plan and competitive pricing, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with HotJar.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.4

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – Plans vary depending on the number of page views you need to monitor. The free plan comes with 2000 page views/day. Paid plans start from $29/month.

5.  Zipboard

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Zipboard provides a visual platform for users to collaborate on web-related projects. It simplifies project management and collaboration between designers, developers, testers, clients, project managers and QA.

Team members on a project can get automatic updates whenever an issue is reported or resolved. Also, users can send emails directly from the app, or send them direct messages using @mention. Therefore, the whole team remains updated and in-sync about the project.

The tool enables designers to upload their prototypes as screenshots allowing the team to provide feedback. It also allows for reviews of live websites without any complex configuration. For those involved with e-learning authoring tools the SCORM files can be uploaded into the app. Responsive testing allows for testing the interface and UX on different resolutions with just the browsers on the user’s device. Annotations can be entered on whole elements or specific parts of a design.

What makes it stand out –

The platform also allows for visual bug tracking. Users can report bugs using review boards. The task manager is easy enough to use by non-tech members. Project managers can also use it to monitor and track reported issues.

G2 Crowd rating – 3.9

Capterra rating – 4

Pricing – A free trial and free plan for 1 project with unlimited users is available. Paid plans start from $29 per month for up to 5 projects with unlimited users.

6.  Balsamiq

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Balsamiq is a favorite with UX designers and product managers because of its simplicity. It is a lot simpler to use than PowerPoint or Omnigraffle. It also has the added advantage of making wireframes interactive. Since the compiled wireframe is functional, it provides your marketing and engineering teams a visceral experience of the proposed functionality.

What makes it stand out –

It’s a lightweight and fast option to iterate quickly on your wireframes. The distinctive feature of the program is that it forces you to focus on the layout by limiting your fonts, colors, and elements.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.2

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – You can use a web app, a desktop app or/a Google Drive add-on to get started. A free 30-day trial is available. Paid plans start from $9 per month depending on the amount of space you need.

7.  Marvel

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If you are looking for something simpler and more user-friendly as an alternative to InVision then Marvel might be the answer. It can be used by advanced UX designers as well as those looking to communicate basic concepts. They offer component libraries to allow for online workflow in Marvel and have integrated POP which allows designers to transform their paper ideas into iPhone and Android apps.

What makes it stand out –

Distinctive features of this program are the support for transitions which adds realism to the experience. It is also easier for non-design folk to use especially when giving feedback.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.4

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A free plan exists for 1 user and 2 projects. Paid plans start from $12 per month for 1 user.

8.  Conceptboard

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It helps to have a visual layout of your project as you collaborate online. Conceptboard provides a virtual whiteboard along with audio, video and the upload of documents that allows for collaboration as though your team were in the same room. This way you can easily visualize your ideas and create drafts.

What makes it stand out –

Conceptboard allows for video chat, live locations and chat features, import/export tools with support for Google Drive integration and social sharing features, project management features with email alerts and team member management, customization features and security features.

Conceptboard supports using your Facebook account to login without the need for creating an account. It can be accessed from mobile devices without any installation

G2 Crowd rating – 5

Capterra rating – 5

Pricing – A free plan exists as does a 30-day free trial. Paid plans start from $28.50 per month for 3 users.

9.  Moqups

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Moqups is often thought of as a web-based wireframing solution. However, it is capable of much more. It includes powerful prototyping and wireframing tools to revolutionize your project workflow.

When developing a new product, you often need a whole range of assets and elements that can interact with each other. They also need to be able to evolve in parallel as progress is made on ideas and issues sorted. This is where Moqups can help.

What makes it stand out –

Moqups allows you to create these different elements without having to switch apps. It’s quite flexible and can be used to suit your way of approaching a project.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A free plan offers 1 project and 5MB of storage. To create unlimited projects and unlimited image storage and comments, you would need to go on a paid plan. This starts at $13 per month for a single user.

10.  Mural

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Do you start or end your projects with post-it notes on a whiteboard? If so Mural is the digital replica of that process. It offers a simple yet effective visual way to organize ideas, features, research, competitors etc.

What makes it stand out –

Mural stands out because of the onboarding experience that allows you to get your team up to speed and sharing ideas on your designs. It is easy and intuitive to use accepting multiple inputs via drag and drop. It also comes with built-in tools to streamline the collaboration process. Like the anonymous voting ability so people can voice their feedback without fear or prejudice allows for better feedback.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.3

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – Mural does have a free trial offer but paid plans start from $12 per membership per month.

Documentation tools

Regardless of your role in a team the need for documentation is critical in order to create and track plans, content, systems and code. Here are some popular documentation tools that facilitate collaboration amongst teams.

If you’re just starting a company, you’ll need plenty of documentation to get up and running. In addition to the tools below, check out this business starter kit that includes 24 helpful tools to launch a company, including legal forms and business plans.

1.  Google Docs

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Google’s online office suite, which includes things like Google Docs, Slides Google Sheets etc. are tightly integrated with the rest of Google’s offerings making it easy to search web queries while creating or editing a document. It also makes for an excellent solution to facilitate collaboration.

The main difference with Google Docs as compared to Microsoft’s Word is that Google Docs can only be used in your web browser. To work on documents offline, a Chrome plugin can be used but isn’t as convenient as a desktop app.

What makes it stand out –

For those on the move, collaborative teams and anyone who needs the flexibility to work from multiple locations, Google Docs may be a good option as long as they can get connected to the internet.

However, the lack of extensive formatting options and offline editing capabilities limits the ability to create large, complex documents.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.7

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – The app is free to use with a Gmail account but is available to teams as part of the G Suite offering which requires a paid subscription. Plans start at $5 per user per month.

2.  Draftin

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Google Docs and Google Drive are great tools, but when it comes to reviewing changes and specific versions of your document they aren’t so great.

This is where Draft shines. While it has a nice clean interface that makes it a great tool for any writer.

What makes it stand out –

It is the collaborative editing options that make this tool stand out. Draft allows you to invite people to edit your work. It tracks the changes they make and you can accept or reject the modifications. This can be done while viewing two different versions of the document in side-by-side columns.

Pricing – It is free to use, and you can sign in with your Google account.

3.  SimpleMDE

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This tool is a simple markdown editor that you can adapt to your own use. It is free to use.

What makes it stand out –

While most editors are HTML editors, SimpleMDE contains a subset of the HTML features. You can do the usual things like bold, use italics, add headings and so on. However tables are missing from this markdown editor.

Pricing – free.

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4.  Dropbox Paper

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For internal documentation Dropbox paper is a great alternative. You can even create an internal wiki where all documents, images and code can be linked to.

What makes it stand out –

While Dropbox Paper is really more of a word processor, it shares some characteristics of Evernote in the way it handles content. You can embed just about anything and add emojis and animation as well. You can even edit documents in markdown.

You can sign up with your Google account and use one of the existing templates or create one from scratch. You can even import documents into Dropbox paper.

Placing comments and collaborating is a breeze as you can see in the image below.

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G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Pricing – Dropbox paper is available with any paid plan on Dropbox

5.  Clickhelp

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This browser-based documentation tool allows you to create and publish user manuals, FAQs tutorials, knowledge bases, wiki’s etc. all through one tool.

The interface provides wizard-based tools for handling all your projects including things like setting up new documentation projects, administering users, importing existing documentation, applying branding, and publishing outputs.

What makes it stand out –

ClickHelp has a set of pre-built templates around different design themes. For those with limited knowledge of CSS and HTML, it can be a big help. It also offers the use of search engine optimization tools including:

  • Human-readable URLs
  • Script-free view for search engines
  • Support for meta tags
  • Integration with Google Analytics

G2 Crowd rating – 4.6

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – Basic plan starts at $43 per month for one author. The standard plan starts from $63 per month and includes access for 3 authors and 15 reviewers.

File sharing tools

Being able to share files and content is a constant need for remote teams. Especially given the distributed nature of teams, the need for backups and real-time modifications to be shared. There are now a few cloud-based file sharing tools that are available. Here are some of the popular ones.

1.  Dropbox

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Dropbox is a popular file-sharing collaboration tool having been the first tool of its kind on the market. It continues to be favored by virtue of the interface look and feel as well as its intuitiveness. It offers some of the best syncing and backup available for a cloud storage solution. The experience only gets better with features that are easy to find and use like version history and file undelete.

What makes it stand out –

You can also share files and folders on the web or through the apps. Useful features like editing controls and expiry dates for links are just a few clicks away. You can also open and edit Office files in your browser.

Visual and audio content management is quite basic but you can stream videos from your Dropbox account.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.5

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A free plan with 2GB of space is available, however for more space you will need a paid plan which starts at $9.99 per month for individuals.

2.  Google Drive

online collaborations tools

Google Drive offers one of the best file storage and sharing experiences on the market. Whether it’s opening up files, streaming files, converting files, editing files, and collaborating using the built-in Docs, Sheets, and Slides tool, Google Drive handles it with ease.

What makes it stand out –

Desktop clients also have the new Backup & Sync tool. Google Photos and Google Music add more to the basic organizational and syncing abilities of the tool.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.6

Capterra rating – 5

Pricing – Google drive is included with a G Suite subscription.

3.  OneDrive

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You could say that Microsoft has caught up with the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive but in reality, is a bit more clunky to use. The features with Google Drive are almost the same just not as smooth an experience. You do get apps or clients to use on other platforms, so you can sync files.

What makes it stand out –

Microsoft is leveraging the power of bundling by offering Office 365 for an all in one price for the moment.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.1

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – OneDrive is available via the Office 365 bundled offer or for $5 per user per month.

4.  Mega.nz

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Mega has made a name for itself by supporting privacy and differentiating itself from other services in that regard. Compared to other file sharing solutions Mega is a fairly new entrant but has managed to gain a large number of users because of the 50GB of space that users can gain for free.

What makes it stand out –

Mega bills itself as an end-to-end encrypted cloud collaboration platform. Like other services you can share folders with the public. It also supports multiple file/folder downloads as a ZIP file, supports uploading from the mobile app and supports pausing of uploads. You can even upload whole folders using a browser and can control the speed of uploads through the browser.

Pricing – To get more space and bandwidth you will need to get on a paid plan, which starts at 5 Euros a month.

5.  Mediafire

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Mediafire is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to file sharing solutions as you aren’t guaranteed the security of your files and it is also unclear as to what encryption protocols, if any, are used. The privacy policy is quite unclear about these issues.

Having said that, it does offer 10GB of storage space for free as long as you log in at least once a year.

What makes it stand out –

Mediafire has addressed past issues that made syncing and versioning control impossible. It now provides automatic folder syncing. You can choose specific folder syncing. You can also store all file versions and share any file via links generated or by using one-time links.

G2 Crowd rating – 3

Pricing – Paid plans allow for more space and access to other features. These start from $3.75 per month.

6.  Imgur

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For image hosting that also doubles as a central hub for sharing and storing photos, it is hard to go past Imgur. Imgur also lets you crop and resize pictures as well as adjust other settings through its online editor.

What makes it stand out –

It has earned a huge following simply because it works well. Features include –

  • Not needing an account to upload photos
  • Upload an unlimited number of pictures
  • Images are stored forever
  • Supports uploads via drag and drop
  • Allows uploading multiple photos at once
  • Able to create photo albums
  • Can upload images via a URL
  • Supports sharing pictures with anyone
  • Supports direct linking for sharing images
  • Has a gallery of popular public photos
  • Supports very large GIF uploads
  • Supports upload via paste

Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow for uploading PSD files.

Image size limits do apply. For example, JPG files cannot be more than 20 MBs. PNG files over 5 MB will be converted to JPG automatically, and non-animated pictures larger than 1 MB are compressed to reduce their size (but the same quality remains).

Also, upload limits of 50 images per IP address per hour exists. However, you can upload as many files as you like.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.5

7. Amazon Drive

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Amazon Drive has improved since its earlier version but as reviews have often stated still has some work to do. Taskbar notifications are available to keep you informed on activity and allow you to throttle sync speeds. You can preview common file types which include those with Microsoft Office extensions.

What makes it stand out –

Amazon Drive now has the same sync-folder model first made popular by Dropbox. It also now uses block-level file copying when synchronizing content and has apps for Android and iOS.

The main drawback of using Amazon drive as a collaborative tool is that it doesn’t include any productivity integrations like Office Online and Google Docs.

Pricing – Storage is available from $59.99 per year.

Additional software tools

There are a few tools that also help facilitate collaboration but don’t fall into the realm of the above categories and have specific uses. Here are some of the commonly used tools that teams use.

1.  World Time Buddy

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If you work with a remote or distributed team then chances are that you will have people working in different time zones. So whether you need to catch up with team members or with clients, you will need a tool to keep track of the date and time in various parts of the world. This is where World Time Buddy comes in.

What makes it stand out –

It offers a chrome app that also functions as an event scheduler, world clock and time zone converter. You can load up a few locations into the app to display the times in each of these places. Also, a color-coded system helps to see where business hours overlap.

Pricing – The tool is free to use but has a limit of four locations at any one time. To get more features you’ll need to go on a paid plan which starts at $2.99 per month.

2.  Zapier

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If you use a number of business and productivity apps, then you will need a way to connect them in order to be productive and not have to hop from one system to another. Zapier fills this void to link up tools or apps in a non-technical manner even when there is no native integration.

Zapier allows users to create zaps to automate whatever tasks they need to accomplish with various web applications. Zaps are like plans or blueprints for a task that needs to be repeated without having to open each app. Users can pick what fields from the action service needs to be sent to the trigger service.

What makes it stand out –

It helps create interlinked functions across various web applications. In other words, you don’t need to write any code when chaining multiple actions together.

G2 crowd rating – 4.5

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A 14-day free trial and free plan is available that allows you to make 2-step zaps. For more features, paid plans start at $20 per month.

3.  Github

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This is a web-based Git repository hosting platform that provides distributed revision control and source code management of Git. Users get a web based graphical interface and access control. Mobile integration is possible. Collaboration features like bug tracking, feature requests, task management, and wikis for every project are available. Access to public and private repositories is also available through each account.

What makes it stand out –

Users can create and configure code collaboratively as its allows for real time updates and can be accessed anywhere thanks to GitHub’s desktop and mobile functionalities. GitHub can also be integrated with several apps and systems through its API integration.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.7

Capterra rating – 5

Pricing – A free plan offers limited repository access. Paid plans start from $7 per month per user.

4.  Codepen

image45Codepen is a bit like a Swiss army knife for frontend developers in that it provides a social development environment to experiment, the ability to showcase code as well as provide inspiration.

What makes it stand out –

  • Export code as a zip file or Github Gist
  • It offers support for preprocessors and has number of frameworks and libraries to pick from.
  • The Codepen profile page allows you to display all your public pens.
  • You can modify a pen with a click of a button in your account.
  • You can search through other pens by keywords or tags, popularity, picked or recent.
  • Features to help with faster and smoother development of code
  • Community to help with learning and feedback via comments and sharing.

Pricing – the free plan doesn’t allow for private pens, projects or collaboration mode. To get these features and more, you would need a paid plan which starts at $8 per month. Team plans start from $12 per month for a minimum of 5 users.

5.  Usersnap

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Usersnap is a bug tracking software giving users the tools they need to report bugs in their browser. You can also use it to provide feedback on design drafts and website prototypes.

It can also be integrated seamlessly in existing workflows, and so minimize the time spent on communication. It can integrate with a wide range of bug trackers, project management and customer care tools.

What makes it stand out –

Usersnap also receives meta-information with every screenshot. It will work in every major browser. There is no need to install any browser plugin and it comes with customizable feedback widget.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.5

Capterra rating – 5

Pricing – A 15-day free trial is available to users however paid plans for usersnap classic start from $29/month and usersnap cx start from $699/month.

6.  LastPass

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Keeping track of hundreds of passwords and usernames isn’t really possible unless you love excel sheets or would prefer an online password manager like LastPass.

What makes it stand out –

The free version has plenty of features that rival some of the competitors for-pay versions. Many competitors place limitations on the number of passwords you can store for free or only if used on one device. LastPass has no limitations on syncing across devices or on the number of passwords that get stored.

Other strong features of Lastpass include using two-factor authentication, providing a security challenge to audit passwords for old, weak and duplicate passwords. It also allows for secure sharing, password inheritance, and an automatic password change.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.4

Capterra rating – 5

Pricing – While free to use, a paid plan allows you to create a digital contingency plan with emergency access to select individuals. Paid plans also include advanced multi-factor options and much more. Premium plans start at $2 per month for individuals, business plans start from $2.42 per user per month with admin dashboards, security policies, and user management among other features.

7.  CoSchedule

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CoSchedule is an editorial and marketing calendar that integrates well with WordPress hosted sites. You can add social media accounts, Google Calendar, Google Analytics, and more to your CoSchedule account to make it a powerful editorial calendar and content management tool.

The software allows you to create an entire social media campaign. In other words, schedule a number of social media messages on different platforms, in seconds.

What makes it stand out –

A distinctive feature of CoSchedule is that it allows you to automatically “ReQueue” popular content so that it never disappears in the social media abyss. It automatically posts old content whenever you have gaps in your social media calendar.

The clean design makes getting a snapshot of your editorial calendar very easy.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.3

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – a 14-day free trial is available. Business plans start at $60 per month for up to 3 users. Depending on the features you need you may need to go for a higher plan.

8.  Buffer

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Buffer is a simple social media scheduling tool. While most tools focus on general social media management, Buffer focuses on message scheduling. In other words, you set a schedule for each of your social media profiles, add posts to your “Buffer,” and the posts are published at the times you have selected.

What makes it stand out –

Simplicity is what makes this a great tool. You also have social analytics available in your account and are able to add RSS feeds from your favorite blogs to modify and share their content. It also supports native video. Pablo, an associated tool, makes adding visuals with or without text overlays easy.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.4

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – The individual plan is free but limited to a total of 3 social accounts and a Buffer queue of 10 scheduled posts per social account at any one time. Paid plans start from $15 per month but for collaboration purposes, a business plan starting at $99 per month will be required.

9.  Agorapulse

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Agorapulse like Buffer supports a range of social networks that’s not seen in most tools.

You can schedule posts to be shared at a specific date and time, of course, but can also choose to repeat them a number of times add them to a queue. You can monitor and review posts in the calendar or list views.

What makes it stand out –

A stand out feature is Agorapulse’s Social Inbox. It merges all of your comments, mentions and messages for a particular platform into one easy-to-use stream of activity.

Not only can you quickly review, assign or respond to comments, you can also allow Agorapulse to automatically review and ‘hide’ activity. This is particularly useful for Twitter Direct Messages as you can easily filter out Direct Message spam.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.5

Capterra rating – 4.5

Pricing – A free trial is available but paid plans for a single user start is $49 per month. A paid plan for 3 users starts from $99 per month.

10.  TextMagic

Need a text messaging service for sending notifications, alerts, reminders, confirmations and marketing campaigns? TextMagic handles it all for you.

You can use TextMagic via a desktop program or via an app available for iOS and Android devices. You can even convert emails into text messages as long as mobile numbers for your contacts are available on your list. Text messages can be sent to individuals or bulk messages to groups of people.

With access to over a thousand mobile networks across 200 countries, you literally have global SMS coverage.

What makes it stand out –

Reports, analytics, virtual mobile numbers, unsubscribe features and automation for incoming messages are all key features that make TextMagic easy to work with. The SMS Gateway API and Zapier integrations make it easy to integrate with other systems and into existing workflows.

G2 Crowd rating – 4.4

Capterra rating – 5

Pricing – You only pay for outbound messages. Pricing varies depending on the volume of messages you would need to send and the countries you need to send messages to.

Virtual team games

Virtual team building games are a great way to boost morale and productivity in remote or distributed teams. Check out a few of the tools and ideas below to implement in your own team.

1. Build team spirit

To reward team members and build team spirit, consider ways in which you can recognize their achievements. Using a program such as Bonusly makes the process quite easy and simple.

Bonusly allows each person to assign and receive points to work toward rewards. The rewards can be spent on things that your team is interested in like – personal shopping to movie tickets or professional development such as extra training courses or attending conferences.

2. Build team care

Health and fitness is a common area of interest. Consider giving your virtual teams a perk like a Fitbit or a Garmin fitness tracker. Each person on the team can then join in on a dedicated Slack channel to share their stats, photos, discuss what’s working for them and encourage each other to move and take better care of themselves.

An app like Health Hero would help to keep your team connected and motivated while also creating special challenges.

3. Learn together

There are a lot of great books for businesses, and providing your employees an education can only help. Services like Blinkist make the process easy.

4. Have fun

Just because you aren’t close doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Consider sharing trivia and sharing group karaoke or sharing your favorite YouTube video, app, play an online board game together or virtual team building games etc.

5. Provide food for thought

If members attend a conference or are working on an experimental project, then consider having them share a presentation of what they learnt. This way, the entire team gets to learn and benefit from the ideas generated.

Culture is key

Best online collaboration tools don’t make for better team collaboration in themselves. They need to have a company culture that supports such initiatives where team members buy into the use of such tools.

Often a lot of time can be spent on debating or thinking about which tool is the best. A better use of time would probably be to pick a tool and move on with the work of using it. Having said that a good collaboration tool can add a lot of value.

We have covered different types of virtual collaboration tools in this post but are curious about the preferred tools your team uses and why. Let us know in the comments below regardless of whether we mentioned it above or not.

This post was originally published September 29, 2016. It was updated by the Hubstaff blog team June 2018.

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