QuiltWe posted exactly 26 reasons why collaboration is a good thing for virtual teams, so we know you don’t need any more convincing! But what are the best tools for collaboration? Here are our five favourites. Let us know yours in the comments.

San Sharma (@WorkSnugSan) is community manager at WorkSnug

  1. Google Docs: As an alternative to Microsoft’s desktop offering, Google’s free web-based suite of office applications is fine – at worst, mildly irritating, as you get used to working in your web browser. But as a rival to Microsoft’s bloated ‘track changes’ features in Word and Excel, Google Docs really comes into its own. Real-time collaboration means that up to 50 people can work on a single document at the same time. Have fun chasing each others’ cursors around the screen – or chat with your collaborators in real time.
  2. Writeboard: For quick and dirty collaboration (well, not necessarily ‘dirty’ – it’s actually a very clean interface!) – you can get started remarkably quick and easily with Writeboard from 37signals. Don’t expect much in the way of style and formatting: Writeboard works best with plain-text documents. For that reason, it’s perfect for copywriters, bloggers and editors. You can quickly compare versions, add collaborators and comments – and you don’t even need an account. Just give your Writeboard a name and a password and get collaborating.
  3. MindMeister: For whiteboard-style planning sessions without the whiteboard, MindMeister allows location-independent teams to work on mind maps anywhere and anytime – in the browser or from an iPad, iPhone or Android device. What we really like about it is its History Playback feature, which is like a Flux capicitor for collaboration, allowing you to travel back in time to previous versions and play back your thought processes. This kind of collaboration comes at a cost – £9.99 per month, but you can take advantage of a free 30-day trial.
  4. Doodle: For all this virtual collaboration, sometimes it pays to meet up in person – that is if you can decide on a date and time! That’s where Doodle steps in. Doodle lets a meeting coordinator set up a poll of available date and time slots and invite meeting attendees to vote on a slot that works for them. The most popular slot wins! But the real winner is your inbox, which is kept from the usual back-and-forth of meeting planning.
  5. Skype: Skype is a no-brainer, right? But its potential for collaboration extends beyond simple voice and video communication. Did you know that you can use Skype to share screens? It’s as simple as pushing a button – and far less laborious than trying to explain what you can see on your screen. Great for IT support, working on design documents and – for the very patient – helping mom and dad with their ailing desktops.

Photo credit: qusic

Your collaboration tools

What tools do you use to collaborate with your team? What would you add to this list? Do you use packages like Jive or Podio that bring a lot of this stuff together? Let us know in the comments.