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The 10 Best Online Collaboration Tools For Teams

By 29/01/2020 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.

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:

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. Project 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 collaborative 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 online 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 online 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 online collaborative tool.

What Features Do Collaboration Tools Include?

If you’re already using a collaborative project management software, then you already have access to some type of team management software and probably a few tools for collaboration as well. These days, all project management software offer a few features for collaborating online, such as task status updates, file sharing, and progress visualization charts. However, tools that are designed specifically for online project collaboration may include additional features, such as video conferencing, live sharing on co-created documents, client-facing portals, and a team collaboration app that members can use to stay up to date while on the go.

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 becomes more efficient, and you’ll gain a more accurate insight into your project’s progress.

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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.

  • 14 days free trial
  • From $17/2 users/month

1. monday.com – Transparent communication, file sharing, and contextual conversations enable teams around the world to collaborate seamlessly.

monday.com is a collaboration and task management software that won the 2019 Webby Award for productivity platform. Its simplistic design and user-friendly features make collaborating within, and between, teams easy.

monday.com’s features include task management boards for resource planning, timeline views to manage deadlines and projects, and updates and comments to give feedback or define next-steps in order to keep everyone aligned. Teams can use monday.com to share and organize files, centralize communication, plan out resources, and easily @mention any person or team to keep them in the loop. Because it’s so flexible, any team can customize monday.com to fit their unique needs.

monday.com’s integrations include apps like Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Dropbox, Zoom, 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
  • 14 days free trial
  • From $12/user/month

2. Hive

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’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
  • 14 days free trial for Lite/Pro packages and 30 days for Enterprise package. No credit card required.
  • From $35/5 user/month

3. Approval Studio – 4 compare modes and 5 languages of interface.

Approval Studio screenshot - The 10 Best Online Collaboration Tools For Teams

Interface is as user-friendly as possible.

Approval Studio is an online design approval software for designers and creative agencies. It helps not to miss any feedback and collaborate with clients or within the team efficiently.

Approval Studio helps to avoid miscommunication during online collaboration. You can communicate with the clients or team members to live, when reviewing the artwork. It helps to stay the same page with all the stakeholders and not to miss a single comment. As a result, you get precise information about all the change requests and suggestions. Say good-bye to email back-and-forth ping-pong.

Approval Studio has Kanban boards, so you will not be confused while navigating through the projects. The user interface is as simple as possible, but you can always request a free online demo session, training, or watch short tutorials. 24/7 live support is a significant advantage, as well.

Approval Studio has 4 compare modes and is able to highlight the slightest changes in your artwork versions. Branding, detailed reporting, customizable notifications, and task management system are also available.

Approval Studio has an official Slack integration and more to come soon. Need something special? Talk to the Approval Studio team, they have a lot in their sleeves. Approval Studio project manager is always open to custom integration or development request.

Pricing for Approval Studio costs $35/month/5 users with annual and monthly plans.

  • freemium version
  • From $9.99/user/month

4. Milanote

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.

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
  • 14 days free trial
  • From $9/user/month

5. Redbooth

Redbooth is a well-rounded and flexible collaboration tool that can be adapted for use in small and mid-sized teams as well as enterprise. Something unique about Redbooth is that they rolled out an AI component in early 2018: “Smart Redbooth”. It uses a prediction algorithm for various aspects of task assignment, such as selecting the best member for the task or predicting the amount of time needed to complete the task.

Redbooth features include multiple task management views (timeline, list, and board views), dashboards, and reports, whose intuitive graphic visualizations are above average. Right now, their communication tools include comments and HD video meetings (available in the Pro plan at $9/user/month), and a group chat feature is on their roadmap. Redbooth also provides higher-level project management tools such as Gantt charts and the ability to turn work processes into templates.

Redbooth integrations include dozens of apps: Box, Slack, Zapier, WebEx, Evernote, Clockify, Dropbox, Google Drive, and several others. It also integrates with Gmail and Outlook in order to quickly convert emails into tasks in Redbooth. They offer a mobile app for both iOS and Android.

Redbooth costs from $9/user/month.

Summary of Redbooth:

  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
  • freemium version
  • From $7.20/user/month

6. Podio

Redbooth is a well-rounded and flexible collaboration tool that can be adapted for use in small and mid-sized teams as well as enterprise. Something unique about Redbooth is that they rolled out an AI component in early 2018: “Smart Redbooth”. It uses a prediction algorithm for various aspects of task assignment, such as selecting the best member for the task or predicting the amount of time needed to complete the task.

Redbooth features include multiple task management views (timeline, list, and board views), dashboards, and reports, whose intuitive graphic visualizations are above average. Right now, their communication tools include comments and HD video meetings (available in the Pro plan at $9/user/month), and a group chat feature is on their roadmap. Redbooth also provides higher-level project management tools such as Gantt charts and the ability to turn work processes into templates.

Redbooth integrations include dozens of apps: Box, Slack, Zapier, WebEx, Evernote, Clockify, Dropbox, Google Drive, and several others. It also integrates with Gmail and Outlook in order to quickly convert emails into tasks in Redbooth. They offer a mobile app for both iOS and Android.

Redbooth costs from $9/user/month.

Summary of Redbooth:

  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
  • freemium version
  • From $4/user/month

7. Notion

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’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, 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:

  • Project discussions: Pass
  • File upload and sharing: Pass
  • To-do list and assigning tasks: Pass
  • Events/project milestones: Pass
  • Integration (with other types of tools): Pass
  • Free version
  • From 9.99/user/month

8. Asana

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.

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
  • 30 days free trial
  • From $99/month unlimited users

9. Basecamp

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.

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 on board), it’s a popular choice for teams who plan to expand quickly. Especially if you’re on a growing mid-size team currently using many different tools with “pay-per-user” plans, Basecamp is a 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
  • Free trial
  • From $9/user/month

10. Gmelius

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 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 sales@ and support@ 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

Collaboration Tools Summary Chart

Software Overview Free Option Price Site
monday.com monday.com logo Read monday.com features & functionality

14 days free trial

From $17/2 users/month Check out monday.com
Hive Hive logo Read Hive features & functionality

14 days free trial

From $12/user/month Check out Hive
Approval Studio Approval Studio logo Read Approval Studio features & functionality

14 days free trial for Lite/Pro packages and 30 days for Enterprise package. No credit card required.

From $35/5 user/month Check out Approval Studio
Milanote Milanote logo Read Milanote features & functionality Freemium version From $9.99/user/month Check out Milanote
Redbooth Redbooth logo Read Redbooth features & functionality

14 days free trial

From $9/user/month Check out Redbooth
Podio Podio logo Read Podio features & functionality Freemium version From $7.20/user/month Check out Podio
Notion Notion logo Read Notion features & functionality Freemium version From $4/user/month Check out Notion
Asana Asana logo Read Asana features & functionality

Free version

From 9.99/user/month Check out Asana
Basecamp Basecamp logo Read Basecamp features & functionality

30 days free trial

From $99/month unlimited users Check out Basecamp
Gmelius Gmelius logo Read Gmelius features & functionality

Free trial

From $9/user/month Check out Gmelius

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
  2. Bit.ai
  3. GanttPRO
  4. Podio
  5. Samepage
  6. Kiwili
  7. Yeymo
  8. Moovia
  9. Miro
  10. Todoist
  11. Huddle
  12. ClientFlow
  13. Winio
  14. Slenke
  15. Coda 
  16. Kahootz
  17. Cageapp 
  18. Dropbox Paper
  19. Lucidchart 
  20. Cisco Webex
  21. Flowdock 
  22. GoToMeeting
  23. Chanty

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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. For agile collaboration tools, this means Kanban boards or Scrum boards as well.
  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 a few basic integrations with other team software: 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 software—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? The right collaboration platforms can be used to replace a combination of existing tools, 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. Most of the time, collaborative tools are hosted online, but it’s good to check just in case.

What’s The Learning Curve?

How easy will it be to onboard team members? Most tools for online project collaboration are relatively easy to learn, but if your team has only worked with email, then using a new collaboration system will be difficult at first.

How Much Does It Cost?

The majority of collaborative project management tools 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, 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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