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10 Online Collaboration Tools To Boost Your Project’s Efficiency

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.

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. GanttPro – https://ganttpro.com/
  4. Notion – https://www.notion.so
  5. Monday – https://www.monday.com/
  6. Teamwork – https://www.teamwork.com
  7. Podio – https://podio.com
  8. Basecamp – https://basecamp.com
  9. Asana – https://asana.com
  10. Samepage – https://www.samepage.io

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.

backlog-logo-best-bug-tracking-tools
Score:
  • 9.4
  • freemium version for up to 10 users
  • free 30-day trial
  • from $20/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 $20/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
Milanote logo - collaboration tools
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
GanttPRO logo - collaboration tools
Score:
  • 9.5
  • 14-day free trial
  • from $5.90/user/month

GanttPRO – https://ganttpro.com/

GanttPRO is a project planning tool based on Gantt charts that perfectly serves for collaboration purposes. The software has a beautiful and intuitive interface that your team will understand in no time. You will enjoy the power of this collaboration application while saving efforts on the learning curve: in GanttPRO, it only takes a few minutes to start advanced planning.

GanttPRO screenshot - collaboration tools

In the software, it is easy to build a workflow for your team and get clear management processes alongside with communication and collaboration: you will be able to add and assign tasks, track their progress, set costs, change statuses and priorities, follow deadlines, share files, and leave comments. The resource workload feature will help to estimate who has too many tasks and vice versa, who has spare time for more assignments. The Public URL feature allows showcasing project to third parties with the right to view. Also, you can easily export your plans with the pre-configured filter options to convert your chart to Excel, PDF, and PNG.

The tool is already appreciated by more than 350K individuals and has high recognition among single users as well as teams including teams from Salesforce, Sony, HubSpot, NASA, GitHub, and Vodafone.

GanttPRO integrates with Cloud Jira.

GanttPRO costs start from 5.9/user/month.

Summary of GanttPRO:

  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
monday-logo-project-management-tools
Score:
  • 10
  • free 30-day trial
  • $5/user/month

Monday – https://www.monday.com/

Monday is a collaboration and task management software formerly known as Dapulse. 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’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. Because it’s so customizable, it’s easy to configure Monday 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 integrates with most of the popular PM tools—to name a few: Slack, Google Doc, JotForm, Jira, Trello and GitHub, email services, Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

Monday costs from $5/user/month.

Summary of Monday:

  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
teamwork-logo-project-management-tools
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
Podio-logo-project management software tools
Score:
  • 9.5
  • freemium version for up to 5 users
  • $7.20/user/month

Podio – https://podio.com

Podio covers a range of project management functions such as task management, file sharing, and project communication, but its main emphasis is on workflow automation. For teams whose collaboration requires clearly defined roles and process workflows, Podio is a good choice.

podio screenshot - online collaboration toolPodio’s collaboration tools include essentials like file sharing (including with clients), chat, and an activity stream that provides an overview of progress. And although you’d need an extension to make a Gantt chart, the scheduling tool does allow you to manage milestones and deadlines. Something unique about Podio is that it enables you to quickly create customized “apps”, which in this case are built with a drag-and-drop tool and use to build custom workflows.

Podio also comes with a number of useful out-of-the-box integrations like Dropbox, Evernote, and GoToMeeting (among others), and if that doesn’t fit your requirements, their open API can be used to connect to additional services. Additionally, they offer a library of extensions built by third-party developers, which can add functionality for time-tracking, resource scheduling, CRM, and more. Podio also has a mobile app for Android and iOS.

Podio costs from $7.20/user/month.

Summary of Podio:

  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
notion-logo-collaboration-tools
Score:
  • 9.5
  • freemium version
  • $4/user/month

Notion – https://www.notion.so/

Notion is a lightweight collaboration tool with a clean, simple interface. The tool has 4 main functional areas: documentation, knowledge base (wiki), task and project management, and spreadsheets/databases. This tool is well-suited to teams or individuals who use a combination of tools like Google Sheets, Airtable, Trello, and Evernote because this tool combines the capability of all of these management tools into one application.

notion screenshot - online collaboration tool

Notion’s features include a drag-and-drop task management interface, complete with kanban board, calendar, task notifications, and workflow templates. Overall, it’s a practical collaboration tool that’s easy to learn to use. However, this tool does offer less in terms of project management, lacking some of the progress reporting and milestone features available in other collaboration tools.

Notion currently integrates with common tools like Figma, Invision, Framer, Latex, Typeform, Twitter, Github Gist, and improvements like integration with Zapier and APIs are on the app’s roadmap.

Notion costs from $4/month for a single user.

Summary of Notion:

  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): Pass
Score: 9.5
basecamp-logo-collaboration-tools
Score:
  • 9.8
  • free 30-day trial
  • $99/month
  • unlimited users

Basecamp – https://basecamp.com/

Basecamp offers all of the essentials for collaboration tools (task management, deadlines, notifications, live chat, file sharing, integrations with dozens of other apps). However, Basecamp distinguishes itself with its client-facing functionality.

basecamp screenshot - online collaboration tool

For project teams who are in close contact with clients (sharing files, providing status updates), Basecamp offers the ability to easily allow clients to see a message, list, or access a file simply by clicking a radio button. This app also makes it easy for clients, who can receive notifications through email and take action directly from their inbox. In addition to the collaboration basic (tasks, chat, file sharing) Basecamp’s features also include automatic check-in questions. With this feature, you can schedule automatic check-in questions to be sent to your team.

Basecamp integrations are exceptionally well-rounded and include Unito.io To-Do Sync, Zapier, and Automate.io (which allow you to sync and connect with other work apps), as well as multiple time-tracking, invoicing, accounting, reporting, marketing, design, and development apps. Basecamp also has a mobile app for iOS and Android.

Note on Basecamp pricing: because of the way Basecamp is priced (costs $99 per month, no matter how many users are onboard), its a popular choice for teams who plan to expand quickly. Especially if you’re on growing mid-size team currently using many different tools with “pay-per-user” plans, Basecamp is sensible choice for your budget.

Basecamp costs $99/month no matter how many users you have.

Summary of Basecamp:

  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): Pass
Score: 9.8
asana-logo-productivity-apps
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
samepage-logo-collaboration-tools
Score:
  • 10
  • freemium version, unlimited members
  • $7/user/month

Samepage – https://www.samepage.io

Unlike collaborative tools like Asana (above) that cover a broader range of project management functions, Samepage is designed with collaboration as the main focus. Going above and beyond a simple messaging feature, Samepage provides a variety of team communication tools, including voice and video conferencing.

samepage screenshot - online collaboration tool

Samepage facilitates the creation of co-authored content with real-time collaboration and makes it easy to share content with a  “presenter mode” for quickly turning pages into slideshows This app’s emphasis on collaboration extends to its client-facing features; the tool provides a range of permissions for involving collaborators on documentation, both inside and outside of your organization.

True to the collaborative nature of this tool, Samepage integrates with 1000+ apps, making it easy to sync content from Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, external calendars, YouTube, and hundreds of other apps through Zapier.

A note on Samepage pricing: if you are looking for free online collaboration tools, Samepage should be at the top of your list. The free version of this software includes a generous number of features—it’s not your typical scantily-featured freemium.

Samepage costs from $7/user/month.

Summary of Samepage:

  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

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. Yeymo – https://yeymo.com/
  2. Moovia – https://site.moovia.com
  3. Miro – https://realtimeboard.com/
  4. Todoist – https://en.todoist.com
  5. Redbooth – https://redbooth.com
  6. Huddle – https://www.huddle.com
  7. ClientFlow – https://clientflow.com/
  8. Winio – https://winio.io/
  9. Slenke – https://slenke.com/
  10. Coda – https://coda.io/
  11. Airtable – https://airtable.com/
  12. Cageapp – https://cageapp.com/
  13. Dropbox Paper – https://www.dropbox.com/paper
  14. Lucidchart – https://www.lucidchart.com/
  15. Cisco Webex – https://www.webex.com/
  16. Flowdock – https://www.flowdock.com/
  17. GoToMeeting – https://www.gotomeeting.com/

Collaboration Tools Summary Chart

Software Overview Free Option Price Score Site
Backlogbacklog-logo-collaboration-tools Read Backlog features & functionality Freemium version for up to 10 users

Free 30-day trial

from $20/month 9.4 Check out Backlog
MilanoteMilanote logo - collaboration tools Read Milanote features & functionality Freemium version $9.99/user/month 9.0 Check out Milanote
GanttPROGanttPRO logo - collaboration tools Read GanttPRO features & functionality 14-day free trial from $5.90/user/month 9.5 Check out GanttPRO
Notion
notion-logo-collaboration-tools
Read Notion features & functionality Freemium version $4/user/month 9.5 Check out Notion
Mondaymonday logo - collaboration tools Read Monday features & functionality Free 30-day trial $5/user/month 10 Check out Monday
Teamworkteamwork-logo-collaboration-tools Read Teamwork features & functionality Freemium version for up to 5 users

Free 30-day trial

$9/user/month 9.6 Check out Teamwork
PodioPodio-logo-collaboration-tools Read Podio features & functionality Freemium version for up to 5 users $7.20/user/month 9.5 Check out Podio
Basecampbasecamp-logo-collaboration-tools Read Basecamp features & functionality Free 30-day trial $99/month

Unlimited users

9.8 Check out Basecamp
Asanaasana-logo-collaboration-tools Read Asana  features & functionality Freemium version

Free trial of paid plans

$9.99/user/month 9.5 Check out Asana
Samepagesamepage-logo-collaboration-tools Read Samepage features & functionality Freemium version, unlimited members $7/user/month 10 Check out Samepage

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. I've been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads 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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