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10 Online Collaboration Tools To Boost Your Project’s Efficiency

By 29/10/2018 No Comments

With 43% of us spending at least some time working remotely, online collaboration tools are becoming a vital element of the modern workplace.

And because the modern workplace often isn’t a place at all, we need to adopt a well-organized, central space where all of the project documentation and communication lives. Our clients may be located in New York, our developers in Bali, and our marketing team in London. But our documents, processes, deadlines and schedules live under the same roof.

At least, they should.

Online Collaboration Tools Logo Soup

Not convinced? Consider this: a McKinsey Global Institute report found that 61% of the workweek is spent on among these three tasks:

  • reading and answering emails
  • searching or gathering information
  • communicating and collaborating internally

The majority of our working hours are spent on collaboration and coordination tasks. Collaboration software removes some of the redundancy and confusion from collaboration tasks, so we can free up hours for more role-specific work.

Yes, many of us are scraping by with a not-so-slick combo of Google or Microsoft apps coordinated via a tangled web of emails. If this is you, stay tuned. There’s a much better way…

What Are Project Collaboration Tools? (And How They Can Help You)

What Are Collaboration Tools?

An online collaboration tool enables a more coordinated workflow by providing a unified platform for team discussion, file sharing, online storage for documentation, task assignments, and real-time project collaboration. At their heart, collaboration tools are all about aligning people.

Collaboration software comes in many forms. You’re probably familiar with Slack, a common collaboration tool with a focus on group messaging (if you’re on Slack, feel free to join our rapidly growing Digital Project Manager community on Slack). And you’re undoubtedly familiar with widely-used Google collaboration tools (Drive, Docs, Sheets, Hangouts) or perhaps Microsoft collaboration tools (SharePoint, One Drive). Yes, collaboration tools can be basic as the familiar Skype (one of MS collaboration tools) or even your good ole’ email account. Modern collaboration apps take collaboration a step further by unifying all of these work interactions within a single platform.

What Features Do Collaboration Tools Include?

If you’re already using PM software, then you already have access to some collaboration tools. These days, all project management software, including resource scheduling tools offer features for collaboration, such as task status updates, file sharing, and progress visualization charts. However, a tool designed specifically for project collaboration may include additional features, such as video conferencing, live sharing on co-created documents, and client-facing portals.

What Are The Benefits Of Collaboration Software?

Online Collaboration Tools Benefits

When all project communication, files, and progress are centralized in one place, your team benefits from a clearer exchange of information that will help you avoid miscommunication. If you’ve ever made the mistake of sending an outdated version of a shared document to a client, you’ll understand why collaboration is important. The benefits of collaboration tools go far beyond improvements in communication, however—with everything accessible in one place, your process become more efficient, and you’ll gain more accurate insight into your project’s progress.

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10 Online Collaboration Tools To Boost Your Project’s Efficiency

In this review, we take an in-depth look at the following tools for online collaboration:

  1. Backlog – https://backlog.com
  2. Milanote – https://www.milanote.com
  3. monday.com – https://www.monday.com/
  4. Hive – https://hive.com/
  5. MindGenius – https://www.mindgenius.com/mindgeniusonline/
  6. Bugherd – https://bugherd.com/
  7. Teamwork – https://www.teamwork.com
  8. Collabee – https://www.collab.ee/
  9. Gmelius – https://gmelius.com
  10. Asana – https://asana.com/

The Best Project Collaboration Tools To Increase Your Project’s Efficiency

Best Online Collaboration Tools

Here’s a list of project collaboration tools to get you started. We cover key differential of the software (what are its major pros and cons compared to other tools), followed by a look at its features and functions, and finally its integrations and pricing.

Score:
  • 9.4

  • freemium version for up to 10 users
  • free 30-day trial
  • from $35/month

Backlog – https://backlog.com

Backlog‘s feature set is unique in that it offers project management, bug tracking, and version control management in a single app. If you’re looking for a tool to help manage development projects or working closely with a team of developers, this is the app for you.

Because this app offers more features than most project management apps, it’s visually more complex than some of the other apps on this list. Backlog provides a hands-on tool your developers can use to take projects from start to release to maintenance while ensuring transparency and accountability across teams.

backlog-screenshot-collaboration-tools

Backlog works for a range of team sizes, and they offer a self-hosted Enterprise option for larger companies. Collaboration features include task management (including subtasks, checklists, and custom fields), milestones, file management, wikis, and more. For collaborating on code, you get SVN and Git repositories, a differences viewer and inline comments, plus pull requests, merge requests, and branches. Visually, the app provides burndown charts, Git graphs, and Gantt charts, so users can quickly assess projects at a glance.

They also provide a mobile app on both iOS and Android for collaborating on-the-go. It integrates with Nulab’s other apps and provides both Redmine and Jira importers.

Backlog is free for up to 10 users with some feature limitations or $35/month for up to 30 users. For $100/month, your team gets unlimited users, i.e. their Standard Plan.

Summary of Backlog:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
Score: 9.4

Score:
  • 9.0

  • freemium
  • $9.99/user/month

Milanote – https://www.milanote.com

Milanote is an easy tool to organize your ideas and projects into visual boards. It’s designed for the early stages of projects – for mapping out ideas, writing project briefs, and planning the steps in a project – before moving into a robust project management tool for executing and assigning tasks.

Milanote screenshot - collaboration tools

The drag and drop interface lets you put your work side by side on an infinite virtual pinboard. It handles notes, links, images and files. It also has a library of templates to make it easier to start new projects faster – project briefs, roadmaps, user journey maps, etc.

You can also collaborate in real-time, making it perfect for brainstorming workshops with remote teams. There are three different ways of sharing boards with team members – edit mode, comments only, or read only.

Overall it’s an easy to use tool to organize all the important information about your project in one place.

Milanote’s free version lets you add 100 notes, images or links (with no time limit.) Milanote PRO gives you unlimited storage from $9.99/month per person.

Summary of Milanote:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Fail
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Fail
Score: 9.0

Score:
  • 10

  • free 14-day trial
  • from $17/month for 2 users

monday.com – https://www.monday.com/

monday.com is a collaboration and task management software that won the 2019 Webby Award for productivity platform. It provides a highly customizable interface that resembles a spreadsheet, but it includes a ton of additional features that make it much more interactive and visually appealing than a simple spreadsheet.

monday-screenshot-collaboration-tools

monday.com’s features include message boards, task management boards, and some easy-to-read visualizations that allow you to display your project data and quickly get an idea of your progress. Members can collaborate by uploading and attaching files, and assigning deadlines and tagging members on tasks. @Mentions of team and individuals are available as well. Because it’s so customizable, it’s easy to configure monday.com to plan your project timelines and organize schedules, and you can also keep all of your team conversations, briefs, and files in a single shared space.

monday.com’s integrations include project management apps like Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Dropbox, Typeform and many more, accessible via Zapier.

monday.com costs from $17/month for two users. The company’s customer support is available 24/7 by phone or email.

Summary of monday.com:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
Score: 10

Score:
  • 9.8

  • 14 days free trial.
  • from $12/user/month.

Hive – https://hive.com/

Hive is a project management tool and collaboration platform that powers companies like Starbucks, Uber, WeWork and IBM. With AI-based analytics, thousands of integrations, flexible project views, and more, Hive streamlines your work in one centralized platform. Used by teams of varying sizes, from 10 people to 1,000, Hive is a great option for a diverse range of companies and work styles.

hive screenshot - microsoft project alternatives

Hive’s time-tracking, analytics and flexible view capabilities allow for transparent understanding of other team-members work and upcoming projects. Hive also has one of the first full email integrations in any project management tool, which allows you to send and receive Gmail and Outlook messages from the app. Choose Hive if you’re in the market for a well-laid-out, comprehensive collaboration tool that can be scaled up or down based on team needs.

The tool costs $12 per user per month when billed annually.

Summary of Hive:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
Score: 9.8

Score:
  • 9.5

  • free 14-day trial
  • $160 annually
  • $16 per month

MindGenius Online – https://www.mindgenius.com/mindgeniusonline/

MindGenius Online is packed with features for collaborative project management, simplified in three views: mind map, timeline and task board.

MindGenius Online screenshot - online collaboration tools

A mind map builds a solid foundation for your plan and ensures everyone shares the same understanding and expectation on project deliverables. The mind map then becomes a project plan which users can manage from either a Gantt style timeline or Kanban style task board. Customise your task board to suit your own processes.

Collaboration is built into MindGenius Online. For example, you can attach all project related files to maps and plans, and you can message team members with built in comments which generate automated email notifications.

MindGenius Online integrates with Microsoft Word, Dropbox, Google Drive and One Drive, so it doesn’t offer a ton of integrations but does integrate with your essential tools.

Users can sign up for a monthly or annual subscription. A monthly subscription is $16 per month, and annual is $160.

Summary of MindGenius Online:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
Score: 9.5

Score:
  • 9.3

  • 14 day free trial (no credit card upfront)
  • from $29/month for 5 users

Bugherd – https://bugherd.com/

BugHerd is a collaboration tool specifically designed for web development and design. It’s a visual bug tracker that sits in a virtual layer on top of your website, enabling your team and clients to report bugs and manage feedback and communication about them directly on your site. BugHerd is hailed for being intuitive and easy to use, especially for non-developers, and it’s a great tool for mid-sized teams who handle a lot of client feedback on websites.

Bugherd screenshot - Collaboration Tools - Kanban sticky note view

To resolve bugs collaboratively, users point & click on website elements and then add notes, statuses, due dates, files, comments, etc. Via a handy browser extension and sidebar, users an automatically send complete and contextual info (including screenshots, browser, OS & CSS selector data) to a project and task management kanban board to help with managing tasks. The comment, discussion, and sharing features make it a practical tool for remote teams working together on web projects.

Overall, Bugherd’s biggest benefit is its visual simplicity and ease of use, even for non-technical folks. Similarly, it’s easy to install and lets you work on unlimited projects. Its biggest drawback is found in its lack of integration with WordPress, although you can bridge the gap with Zapier. You can also export data from BugHerd in CSV, XML, and JSON formats, as well as upload and share files.

BugHerd costs from $29/month for 5 users. They offer a discount of 20% for annual plans and a free 14-day trial with no credit card required.

Summary of Bugherd:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Fail
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Fail
Score: 9.3

Score:
  • 9.6

  • freemium version for up to 5 users
  • free 30-day trial
  • $9/user/month

Teamwork – https://www.teamwork.com

Teamwork offers a project management suite tailored to the needs of mid-sized, large, and enterprise businesses. This tool has been developed over the past 20 years; the company behind this app started as a web agency and began building online business applications in order to solve their own collaboration issues. If Todoist (above) is on one end of the spectrum with its minimalist design and focus on personal productivity, Teamwork is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

teamwork screenshot - online collaboration tool

While it can work for individuals, it provides more than enough functions to support large, distributed teams who require more sophisticated collaboration tools. This app is visually more complex than many other collaboration tools, but it does offer a more robust suite of project management features. If you’re just looking for something that goes beyond a simple communication tool, Teamwork is a good choice.

Collaboration features include task management tools (for both traditional and agile frameworks), time tracking, milestones, group chat, and a client portal. Teamwork also provides the ability to generate instant high-level reports and Gantt charts. All of these features live in a sophisticated dashboard interface that offers high degrees of customization, granting users the ability to turn features on and off as needed.

Teamwork can be easily extended to an enterprise-grade offering (offering SSO, HIPAA compliance, and bespoke training). Likewise, its capabilities can be extended through integrations with dozens of apps; their app directory is well-rounded with apps for documentation, developer tools, charts, social engagement, CRM, accounting, etc. Teamwork also has a mobile app for Android and iOS.

Teamwork costs from $45/month for 5 users ($9/user/month).

Summary of Teamwork:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
Score: 9.6

Score:
  • 9.0

  • freemium version
  • from $5/user/month

Collabee – https://www.collab.ee/

Collabee is a new team collaboration software designed to streamline communication, documentation, and management so there’s more time for knowledge workers to focus on “deep work”. All the work is done in a single page (called an “Issue” in Collabee), which means you can work in a single space without having to constantly switch tabs. You can mention someone, create and assign tasks, schedule events, view tasks on a calendar, request decisions, and make changes in real time.

Collabee screenshot - Collaboration tools

A standout feature is the updates feature, which collects and re-organizes all the updates made by team members. If they’re directly related to you, yellow icons pop up on the right. You can also set it on “do not disturb” mode and focus on the task without notifications to distract you. You can always check the updates feed afterwards, along with an accompanying comment section where you can have a quick discussion with your team. Threaded communication helps your team get the full context on what has been discussed.

However, Collabee does not have an instant messaging system built into the app. The makers of Collabee intentionally removed the feature because of their focus on making a distraction-free tool for “deep work”.

So far, Collabee integrates with Google Drive, and email integration is currently under development. They do have a helpful mobile app for iOS and Android, though.

Collabee is a free collaboration tool as long as you receive notifications on 3 spaces or less. Collabee Business costs $6 per user per month, with the option to pay annually and bring the price down to the equivalent of $5 per user per month.

Summary of Collabee:

  1. Project Discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/Project Milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Fail
Score: 9.0

Score:
  • 9

  • freemium version
  • free trial
  • from $9/user/month

Gmelius – https://gmelius.com/

Gmelius allows teams to collaborate on clients and projects without leaving their inbox. Gmelius lives in Gmail, which means there is a near-zero learning curve. While most teams are using up to four tools to communicate and collaborate, Gmelius allows you to get rid of them. Its interface is designed to be user-friendly and intuitively feels like you are simply using a more powerful version of Gmail.

Gmelius screenshot - Collaboration Tools

Gmelius empowers the Gmail inbox with a range of collaboration tools, and allows users to combine them together to automate workflows. Teams can manage group emails like [email protected] and [email protected] directly from Gmail in the Shared Inbox. Email and ticket assignment make delegation and accountability clear. Sequences automate workflows with “If this, then that” directions. Kanban boards integrated into Gmail inbox give teams visibility on the status of each project. The software’s shareable tools such as email templates, notes, sequences and boards allow teams to collaborate in real-time.

Gmelius syncs in real-time across all team members and all their devices, and it integrates with Slack via 2-way, real-time syncing. More than the standard integration, it also allows your team to sync shared label and shared inboxes.

Gmelius offers a support system for its users, including live support via online chat, a dedicated team, and 24/7 access to their knowledge base, which includes tutorials, guides, videos, and FAQs.

Gmelius is a freemium SaaS which is free to use with some limits. Pricing starts at $9/user/month and free trials are available.

Summary of Gmelius:

  1. Project discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/project milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
Score: 9

Score:
  • 9.5

  • freemium version
  • free trial of paid plans
  • $9.99/user/month

Asana – https://asana.com

Asana is visually simple and intuitive; it’s similar in many ways to Notion (above). Trello users will also find Asana to have a familiar layout. Its task management interface uses kanban-style cards to visually organize tasks, statuses, and deadlines. Lightweight and clutter-free, learning to use Asana is a very straightforward process, making it a great choice for users who haven’t worked with any online collaboration tools before. Asana is also good for small, growing teams who work closely together and who don’t need a ton of project or resource management functions upfront.

asana screenshot - online collaboration tool

In addition to collaboration features like messaging and file sharing, Asana offers a customizable dashboard, basic automation features like automatic status updates, and the ability to workflows with task dependencies. It’s not a feature factory, but the features included in Asana make it more than your basic collaboration tool.

With unlimited projects and basic dashboard features for up to 15 users, Asana’s free version delivers above-average value among the free online collaboration tools. As your requirements expand, you can add from Asana’s app directory, providing 100+ integrations for time-tracking, reporting, and other business functions. Asana also has a mobile app for iOS and Android.

Asana costs from $9.99/user/month.

Summary of Asana:

  1. Project Discussions: Pass
  2. File upload and sharing: Pass
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  4. Events/Project Milestones: Pass
  5. Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
Score: 9.5

Collaboration Tools Summary Chart

SoftwareOverviewFree OptionPriceScoreSite
Backlogbacklog-logoRead Backlog features & functionality

Freemium version for up to 10 users

Free 30-day trial

from $35/month9.4Check out Backlog
MilanoteMilanote logoRead Milanote features & functionalityFreemium version$9.99/user/month9.0Check out Milanote
monday.commonday logoRead monday.com features & functionalityFree 14-day trialfrom $17/month for 2 users10Check out monday.com
Hive
hive logo - collaboration tools
Read Hive features & functionality14 days free trialfrom $12/user/month9.8Check out Hive
MindGenius OnlineMindGenius Online Logo - online collaboration toolsRead MindGenius Online features & functionality14 days free trial

$160 in the 1st year

$56/yr from year 2 onwards

9.5Check out Mindgenius Online
Bugherdbugherd logo - best bug tracking toolsRead Bugherd features & functionality14 day free trial (no credit card upfront)from $29/month for 5 users9.3Check out Bugherd
Teamworkteamwork-logoRead Teamwork features & functionality

Freemium version for up to 5 users

Free 30-day trial

$9/user/month9.6Check out Teamwork
CollabeeCollabee logo - Collaboration toolsRead Collabee features & functionalityFreemium versionfrom $5/user/month9Check out Collabee
GmeliusGmelius logo - Collaboration ToolsRead Gmelius features & functionality

Free trial

Freemium version

from $9/user/month9Check out Gmelius
Asanaasana logo - collaboration toolsRead Asana features & functionality

freemium version

free trial of paid plans

from $9.99/user/month9.5Check out Asana

Other Online Collaboration Tools

Although we haven’t included these in the review, there are some other collaboration tools that we haven’t had the chance to dive into fully yet. Below is a list of a few additional collaboration tool options for your agency or studio:

  1. Basecamp – https://basecamp.com/
  2. GanttPRO – https://ganttpro.com/
  3. Podio – https://podio.com
  4. Samepage – https://www.samepage.io
  5. Kiwili – https://www.kiwili.com
  6. Notion – https://www.notion.so/
  7. Yeymo – https://yeymo.com/
  8. Moovia – https://site.moovia.com
  9. Miro – https://miro.com/
  10. Todoist – https://en.todoist.com
  11. Redbooth – https://redbooth.com
  12. Huddle – https://www.huddle.com
  13. ClientFlow – https://clientflow.com/
  14. Winio – https://winio.io/
  15. Slenke – https://slenke.com/
  16. Coda – https://coda.io/
  17. Kahootz – https://www.kahootz.com/
  18. Cageapp – https://cageapp.com/
  19. Dropbox Paper – https://www.dropbox.com/paper
  20. Lucidchart – https://www.lucidchart.com/
  21. Cisco Webex – https://www.webex.com/
  22. Flowdock – https://www.flowdock.com/
  23. GoToMeeting – https://www.gotomeeting.com/
  24. Chanty – https://www.chanty.com/

Want Help Narrowing Down the Options?

This tool is pretty useful. We’ve partnered with Crozdesk to give you access to their “Software Finder”.

If you input some of the details about your project and the features you’re looking for in a project management tool, it will generate a list of tools that match your preferences. You provide your email, and they send over a nice PDF guide with a summary of your best matches.

Project Collaboration Tools Selection Criteria

To be useful to you and your team, the best online collaboration tools will include a few essential components, outlined below.

  1. Project discussions – by nature, group collaboration tools need to involve the group. Discussion features include conversations, mentions, comments, group chat, and private 1-on-1 discussions. The more robust applications will also offer voice and video conferencing tools.
  2. File upload and sharing – the tool needs to provide an organized infrastructure for file uploads as well as appropriate levels of permissions for sharing files with contractors, clients, partners, etc. Creative agencies will benefit from file co-creation features (such as real-time synchronous editing and shared virtual whiteboards). Agencies who share files with clients will benefit from a customizable client portal that provides easy client-facing access to shared files.
  3. To-do list and assigning tasks – tasks should be viewable in multiple layouts, with the ability to assign task priority and members. This should include a calendar and notification system for tracking timelines, updates, and deadlines.
  4. Events/project milestones – the tool should provide an overview of the project timeline with the ability to set and track milestones. This is a Gantt chart or similar report showing tasks, subtasks, start and end dates, dependencies and assigned resources.
  5. Integration (with other types of tools) – collaboration in today’s work environment requires communication and sharing across multiple platforms. Your integration needs are specific, but a good collaboration tool should include the basics: integrations resource scheduling apps, documentation apps from Google and Microsoft, time-tracking tools, and communication apps.
  6. Price – we include basic pricing info for each app for ease of evaluation. Keep in mind that the average price for collaboration tools hovers around $8/user/month.

How To Pick The Best Online Collaboration Tool For Your Team?

Before choosing a project collaboration tool, narrow down your choices by considering these questions:

What Do You Need It For?

Make a list of your requirements, and prioritize them. For example, some team collaboration tools are designed with creative teams in mind, with virtual whiteboards and interactive idea mapping tools, while others are suited to teams who require a structured, automated workflow to manage complex task dependencies. Some tools are more suited to client-facing environments than others—if you’re in close collaboration with partners and clients, make sure your collaboration tool facilitates this with multiple levels of permissions for sharing project communication, updates, and files.

What’s The Size Of Your Team?

How many people will use the collaboration tool—and where are they? Just because your team is small doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get by with something lightweight. For example, a small team that’s entirely remote will likely require one of the more robust group collaboration tools, in contrast with a team who shares an office. If you work with a large number of contractors, you need a tool that allows you to collaborate with third parties. If you’ve got a large team of developers, having a team wiki, along with plenty of storage for documentation, is going to be an important consideration.

How Would That Fit Into Your Workflow?

Is your team always online, or would you need something that works offline? How well does it fit into the landscape with all of you other tools? Many collaboration tools can be used to replace a combination of existing ones, performing the functions of file sharing apps and communication apps all in one.

How Long To Set It Up?

Is it easy to implement? Does it import data from the tools you’re currently using? Does the app offer technical support (and will you need it)? Finally, check to see whether the solution is hosted or if you’ll be maintaining the infrastructure behind it.

What’s The Learning Curve?

How easy will it be to onboard team members?

How Much Does It Cost?

The majority of apps charge per user, per month. If you plan to grow your team, how will the price increase affect your budget? Likewise, will you need to extend the capabilities of the app, paying for additional functionality as your business expands?

What Do You Think?

This is only a small list of the many collaboration tools out there. What do you think are the best collaboration tools? How do you decide what works best for your project and team?

Ben Aston

About Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedigitalprojectmanager.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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