Nine Easy Web-Based Collaboration Tools - InformationWeek

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Nine Easy Web-Based Collaboration Tools

If e-mail attachments are your idea of advanced collaboration, these Web-based tools from vendors like Google and Zoho can help jump-start your workflow, without straining your budget or brain.

Zoho offers its own free word processor and spreadsheet, which reviewers Gralla and Krasnoff preferred to Google's offerings. Zoho Notebook won high marks as a tool for collecting and collaborating on text, line drawings, images, Web pages, video, RSS feeds, and other media. It's currently in a closed test.

Zoho Projects is an online project management tool that combines task management, calendaring, reports, time tracking, forums, and file sharing. It's free for open source projects, and starts at $5 per project per month.

BlueTie offers a suite of tools for online collaboration, including e-mail, scheduling, to-do lists, contact management, file back, and file sharing. It's free for up to 20 users, and $4.99 per user per month after that.

37signals makes the collaboration tool Basecamp, which includes to-dos, file-sharing, message boards, milestones to keep track of due dates, and time tracking. Basecamp is free to manage a single project, and $12 per month for up to three projects with 200 Mbytes of storage for file sharing. The price continues to escalate based on the number of projects and amount of storage for file sharing, with the highest-priced plan buying unlimited projects and 20 Gbytes storage for $149 per month.

Wikis are the grandparents of Web-based collaboration tools. A wiki is a dead-simple way of building Web sites; using simple text syntax on Web pages, users can, without much technical knowledge, create links from text to existing Web pages, either inside or outside the wiki, and they can easily create new pages as they go while simultaneously linking to the new pages.

In their pure form, wikis allow anyone to edit them, but many wikis nowadays offer access control and workflow tools to keep meddling hands out, and minimize damage by the well-meaning clueless.

Zoho offers a free service to let users create wikis.

Google-owned JotSpot was a commercial wiki pioneer; they're temporarily closed to new accounts now.

Socialtext offers wiki software with a twist -- you can copy the wiki to your desktop, work with it disconnected from the Internet, and then merge it with the online version; Socialtext is based on TiddlyWiki, a popular single-user Wiki that stores both data and JavaScript code in a single Web page that can be stored locally on the desktop or on a server.

Socialtext is available for free for up to five users and for open source projects, and pricing starts at $95 per month for up to 20 users. The company makes its software available as open source for free.

For people who prefer to roll their own, there are a wide variety of open source wikis available -- just install the software on your own server, either on the public Internet or a private intranet or extranet, and you're good to go.

Of course, Wikipedia is the big daddy of all wikis, and it's a great place to start learning about wikis, and finding links to wiki software. Wikipeida runs on MediaWiki software, which is open source, and therefore available for you to build your own wiki.

Illustration by Ryan Etter

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