Free online collaboration tool round-up

Collaboration tools are the latest apps to get the freebie treatment. Save yourself a few grand or test the waters of an enterprise system, and check out these tools.

The term 'Collaboration' has reached almost Web 2.0 levels of buzzword status, with plenty of vendors promising their particular collaboration product will make your business a few percent more productive than rival vendors' offerings.

But these collaboration/conferencing tools are also the latest applications to get the freebie treatment.

So save yourself a few grand, or test the waters of an enterprise-class web collaboration system, and check out these free tools.

Mind you, few of these are completely free. But the ones we feature here are not crippled in free-mode, and can therefore be used quite legitimately in your business.

A couple of features are common to almost all of these apps. Whiteboarding lets conference participants scrawl all over the presentation, making comments and giving suggestions. Many also allow users to upload different types of files to be included in the presentation. Text and VoIP chat are also pretty common.

Let's take a look at the specifics.

DimDim (www.dimdim.com)

While it purports to be the "world's first" free collaboration tool, DimDim only recently left beta and became available to all.

DimDim really shines as a web-presentation tool, rather than a web-collaboration tool, since the host is the only participant who can broadcast video or page through a PowerPoint presentation.

At time of writing, the app seems to have some issues with FireFox, so if you have some issues you may want to try another browser.

For the community minded, a fully-supported open source version is available for download and installation on a server.

File types supported:

  • PDF
  • PowerPoint
  • Other MS Office apps soon to be included

Communication forms:

  • Text chat
  • Voice chat
  • Video - but only for host
  • Whiteboarding
  • Desktop sharing

Coughing up dough gets you:

  • Room for more attendees
  • Presentation room branding and customisation

Download necessary?

  • Yes, but only for the host

Twiddla (www.twiddla.com)

Twiddla differs from the other collaboration tools in two distinct ways: there's no paid version - so no features are absent in the free version - and there's no download necessary to use it, meaning no setup is necessary. You can also try it out with just a single click from their homepage.

This app performs, as the creators put it, a 'group whiteboarding' function. Participants can draw on uploaded images and discuss the work with voice or chat, but not much else, so it would be most useful for visual design collaboration.

File types supported:

  • Images

Communication forms:

  • Text chat
  • Voice chat
  • Whiteboarding

Coughing up dough gets you:

  • Absolutely nothing. Maybe a pat on the back from the developer?

Download necessary?

  • Only if you want to use integrated voice chat

Yugma (www.yugma.com)

Rather than offering a blank whiteboard in a web-browser, Yugma instead focuses on desktop sharing. Users can view each other's desktops - meaning any application installed on their desktops can be shared - while chatting in text or with voice.

Viewers can also be made presenter, allowing them to share their desktop with other viewers - but only if they're using the optional downloadable app.

Bandwidth may well be a concern with Yugma, as it's basically broadcasting full video of the person's screen to the other participants.

File types supported:

  • None in free edition

Communication forms:

  • Desktop sharing
  • Text chat
  • Voice chat - including integration with Skype, GTalk
  • Presenter can whiteboard over their shared desktop

Coughing up dough gets you:

  • More attendees
  • KVM features
  • Scheduling
  • Shared file space
  • Session recording and playback

Download necessary?

  • Yes, if the participant wishes to share their desktop.
  • No, if all they want to do is view other's desktop.

Vyew (www.vyew.com)

While most of the apps presented here only really feature real-time conferencing, Vyew also offers the possibility of collaboration over time. It allows users to log in and make changes to a workspace - even when the host isn't present - saving the changes and comments for future reference.

Dial in conference calls are also supported - but not for anyone outside the US.

File types supported:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • Images
  • Shockwave
  • MP3

Communication forms:

  • Text chat
  • Voice chat
  • Video
  • Whiteboarding
  • Desktop sharing

Coughing up dough gets you:

  • More attendees
  • Greater numbers of distinct whiteboards
  • More file uploads
  • Aesthetic customisation

Download necessary?

  • No

Conceptshare (www.conceptshare.com)

Conceptshare is another whiteboarding-style conference app. Like Vyew, it offers persistent workspaces that preserve additions, comments and changes made over time, for future reference or use. In also it treats each comment as a distinct entity, nicely stopping the mess of overlapping squiggles that occurs with similar offerings.

Frustratingly, the free version supports only a single workspace - which means you can only upload and operate on a single image at a time.

File types supported:

  • Images
  • Video
  • Flash and Shockwave
  • CAD
  • Websites - through an HTTP import function

Communication forms:

  • Text chat
  • Text comments
  • Whiteboarding

Coughing up dough gets you:

  • More 'workspaces'

Download necessary?

  • No

 Did we leave out your favourite collaboration tool? Email us and let us know!

 

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