This is a collection of short reviews of software tools to facilitate online collaboration. The use cases I have been looking at are as follows:
- virtual team events (like planning, reviews, retrospectives, daily standup, proposal forming, navigation meeting, trainings or topical workshops)
- asynchronous collaboration of virtual teams
- virtual coaching sessions
Visual Workspaces and Whiteboards
Browser-based real-time collaboration board with templates, basic shapes and arrows, comments, freehand drawing, connections between shapes, and frames (useful for presentation and navigation). Shapes can be arranged in layers (forward/backward) and have enough formatting options (colors, alignment, line style etc.) to cover everything.
Navigation in boards is simple, there’s keyboard shortcuts and options to insert files, captured webpages, wireframes (stencils), tables and charts, an icon finder etc. You can export and backup boards. And there’s a collaboration center.
This tool has a lot of features and is still easy to use. It can not replace tools like OmniGraffle, but is close enough for team work.
- Free: 3 boards, 3 collaborators
- Premium: $10 per person: unlimited boards, 3 collaborators
- Team: $50 for 5, $10 per additional member: unlimited boards and collaborators
CNVERG is a browser-based real-time shared visual workspace for desktop and mobile devices with support for freehand drawing, sticky notes, markdown notes, basic shapes, images and task cards (when you link github repositories.
You can create a library of “spaces” you can use as templates or backgrounds.
The feature set is rather basic, but but enough for most applications. The app is easy to use and does not get in the way/ What makes this app stand out is the support for Github repositories.
- Free: 5 collaborators, 5 space, no private git repos
- Pro $10: 25 spaces, 10 collaborators, 10 private repos
- Business: $20: 50 spaces, 25 collaborators, 25 private github repos
Ziteboard is a browser application for desktop and mobil, featuring freehand drawing with smart shapes, highlighting, text (with a long tap) and images. It supports live teamwork (real-time collaboration), you can export your work as image or SVG, and embed boards to webpages (also in free version)
- Starter (free): 3 boards, 3 colors, no filled shapes, no highlighter
- Pro: $12, unlimited boards
- Enterprise $14: custom domains, data encryption, support
Ziteboard is simple and easy to use, and the free version is ok for one-on-one sessions, and maybe even for small teams.
A Web Whiteboard
A Web Whiteboard is a browser-app designed for touch screens. It features all basic tools: freehand drawing, images and text boxes, as well as voice chat. It’s easy to invite participants and save board as image
- Free: no saved boards
- Personal ($10): 10 saved boards, 5 voice chat participants
- Organization ($50): 100 saved boards, 10 voice chat participants
A Web Whiteboard is simple and easy to use, and the voice chat feature makes it a good choice for sessions where you don’t want to use Skype or Hangouts. It’s suited for for one-on-one sessions, and small teams.
sketchboard.io is a browser application, featuring freehand drawing, markdown notes, mindmaps, stencils, images and Slack Integration.
- Free: unlimited public and 1 private board, 5 users, no search
- Personal $7: 1 user, unlimited private & team boards, search
- Starter $14: 3 users
- Business $75: 15 users
Google Drawings, which can be used as an online whiteboard, supports text, lines, shapes (quite a few of them) and images, but no freehand drawings. You can group items and arrange them on top of each other.
Google Apps is good enough for many teams, and has excellent real-time collaboration support. With Google Drawings you now have a substitute for an online whiteboard which works quite well.
Trello is an application for “organizing anything”. Trello has a browser app, as well as apps for iOS, Android, and a few other systems.
Information on Trello is stored as cards, which can contain text, checklists, comments, images and other attachments. Cards are organized in lists on boards, and boards can be associated with teams.
Trello has excellent support for real-time collaboration, but it also has lots of features to facilitate asynchronous collaboration in virtual (and collocated teams).
Trello is a great companion app for visual workspaces and whiteboards, because it helps you track work items and related information. The free version goes a long way for most teams.
Leankit is an application to visualize workflows and optimize work process. It has a browser-based app and also native apps for iOS and Android.
The focus of leant is in modeling workflow throughout an entire organization, you can create boards of any complexity, and get access to useful metrics for optimizing flow. You can even use leankit boards to track work items in other systems.
Leankit is a powerful solution for virtual and collocated teams, and a great companion to any visual workspace app.