With the increasing collaboration of outsourcing, distance learning, telecommuting and complex projects, it is necessary to have tools, which assist in accurately accomplishing the tasks assigned to teams dispersed all across the globe. Here is our list of essential free web tools, which we at Candid been using to help us and our team to a common assigned project in proper co-ordination while sitting at different locations.
Virtual workspaces, project management tools, customer service application and online conferencing tools are available for Free. Just look at these tools, you might find most of these tools useful in connecting and collaborating with others.
Whiteboard, Bulletin Board and Workspace Tools
Writeboard is a pretty simple tool, which has only one function but does it quite well. It is a kind of document management and collaboration tool, which works hand in hand with the Backpack tool. You can edit, do versioning, change track and roll back to previous versions by using Writeboad. The tool has a feature of sending an email to somebody else along with a link to the document, so that the receiver can also collaborate. You do not need an account to get this tool and you can also subscribe to all the documents through RSS.
As suggested by name, the tool helps you in visualizing, exploring and communicating ideas. The tool detects basic shapes automatically as you draw them. It is very easy to use and have the feature of allowing the user to get back to the previously made drawing. Images can also be uploaded on Dabbleboard drawings as well as exported to be used in desktop applications.
Twiddla is based on a new concept called co-browsing. The tool enables a team of people to get together on twiddle page, browse a site as well as participate in discussions, sharing files, adding annotation and chatting with everyone in the group at same time. Using the tool is just like adding a whiteboard layer over other uploaded image or website. An audio and a real time chat feature are also incorporated in the tool to make it more interesting. It provides you freedom to mark up websites, images and brainstorm from scratch. You can also save all the twiddla sessions in your computer in the form of an image or a widget, which could be used in later Twiddla sessions. There is no particular limit on how many people can participate in a session and the tool is totally free.
Project Management Tools
It is a free, open source, self hosted PHP application, which is used for managing tasks, projects as well as teams all the way through an intuitive web interface. The project Pier tool will help an organization in communicating, collaborating and getting things done in a smooth and more organized manner. It functions just like commercial group ware/ project management products, but has the freedom of self hosting.
By focusing on communication, this tool helps teams in managing projects. There are options for managing to-do lists, file sharing, message boards, scheduling/ assigning milestones and time tracking in the tool. An API for developers is also present, which builds up add ins and allow the internal applications to utilize Basecamp too.
It is a special kind of project planning and tracking tool made for eXtreme Programming (XP) teams. In order to summarize his XP planning process, the customer picks some features that are to be added to every development iteration. Total efforts in completing the story either at story level or by decomposing the story into tasks and estimating them is projected by the developers. An estimation of information about team development velocity from the previous iteration is made to find out estimate if the teams can complete all the stories suggested by the customer. If it is find that the team is overcommitted, negotiations are held with the client.
In order to overcome the issues related to long-term real life XP project, XP planner tool was developed. The tool has features like virtual note cards, recording support, project/ iterations/ stories/ tasks tracking option, online time tracking and timesheet generation, charts for velocity, metrics, PDF aned iCal, SOAP API, TWiki style editing and more.
Collaboration Tools – Intranet Style
The tool has much more to offer even if it touts itself as just an online collaboration and workspace tool. It has document management feature, which leads to import and export of excel spreadsheet, charts and has more than 500 formulas and functions. The tool has calendar integration, task management, RSS feeds of workspace activity, reminders, personal dashboards and many other features. You can also do real time web meeting with free integrated audio conferencing via central desktop.
Backpack is a web based service, which organizes all the information in an incredibly easy way. It gives you the freedom to make pages, which have combination of notes, to-dos, files, images and many other features. You can even share these pages with everyone or keep them with you. The tool provides a great home base to all the teams for managing their day to day activities. Along with all this, you can also send email and SMS reminders to all your team mates by using Backpack.
Social Networking and Information Sharing Tools
Now anybody can make a free website about anything by using Wetpaint. You can even add stories, videos, photos to the website and have multiple members who contribute to the site. This tool is actually an out-of-the-box idea of social networking site.
You can select a group name and personalized URL from different layouts, add forums, bulletin boards, showcase videos/ picture, participate in the daily updates by email, manage a to-do list as well as handle all the private settings. The main reason behind launching this version is to connect people more tightly by improving the group interaction quality.
For many of us, Ning is the absolute favorite amongst other instant social network sites. Groups like Greeks.Pirillo.com
are built on Ning. It is better than MySpace as you have more freedom in creating a group on whatever topic you like. The group can set a custom look and feel, while individual group members are free to set their own profile page along with a customized layout.
You can have features like blogs, comments, email notifications, photos, slideshows, announcements, forums, polls and many more in your group. A Facebook integration is also featured in the tool. You will find it incredibly easy to set up the tool as all behind the scene things are automatically done for you.
Bug Tracking and Source Control Tools
An easy to use, open-source Bug tracking system, the tool allows software teams to track bugs and code changes, submit and review patches, communicate with other team mates as well as manage quality assurance. The best thing about Bugzilla
is that it is free, still it has so many features that are not even offered by many paid systems. Some of these features include time tracking, reports and charts, request system and scheduled reports. Administrators will also find some great features in the tool and there are tons of add-ons, which prove to be really good in getting most out of the tool.
Scarab is an open source java bug tracking/ artifact management system, which is hosted on your own servers. The tool is multi-lingual and support easy migration in comparison to other systems like Bugzilla. Even though the system is stand-alone, but it is fully customizable by a set of administrative pages. Integration into larger systems is also supported by the tool.
It is a system of secure hosted and on-demand software development infrastructure. The system provides hosted CVS, Trac, SVN and even offer consulting services in the designing and implementation of related automation and software build systems. Freepository has a complete free plan for simple CVS hosting and other highly reasonable plans for features like release planning, bug tracking and SVN.
Customer Service Tools
Get satisfaction is a tool that establishes direct connection between people and companies, leading to solving problems, sharing promotion and building up relationships. There are thousands of companies, who use this particular tool to support customers, exchange ideas and get a proper feedback about their products and services. The tool is open, transparent and free. You can ask questions, give answers as well as start a new conversation. Company as well as customers can give opinion and answers here. You are free to set up your company’s or product’s page to invite people for providing feedback, sharing ideas, communicating directly with your own representatives and reporting bugs.
The tool has functions similar to that of Get Satisfaction but the only difference is that it provides the ability for users to vote on given ideas. Therefore, the best suggested idea gets placed at the top. You have freedom to implement the idea if you find it really good. RSS feed is also available for your site in this tool downloading site.
The tool has simple video calling feature, which does not require any download. You just have to sign up in order to get the link. After signing up, users are free to share the link with anyone. A single click can enable you to do video chat. You can use this tool with any website. Facebook plugin is also available.
Dimdim gives you freedom to deliver synchronized live presentations, web pages and whiteboards while sharing video and audio over the internet. There is nothing to download and the free account you open will allow you to have 20 people in the group. The paid offering of this tool is also very competitive. If you want to use the tool within the intranet, you can also get a self hosted open source version of the tool.
You can host web conferences, schedule meetings, send invites and share desktop files by using Yugma. The word Yugma is derived from Sanskrit and stands for meeting or state of togetherness. The tool gives you freedom to record you webcase and share or play it back at a later time.
Mind Mapping Tools
It is a multi lingual and easy to use brainstorming site, where branches and ideas can be included in the form of bubbles. You can also drag these bubbles all over the place and save them as sheets. The bubble sheets can be included in other websites, shared with friends or you can even get their print out.
Mindomo is somehow similar to MindMeister but the only difference is that it offers a more simplified user interface. The basic account is straight forwards, easy to use and free of cost. You can also get desktop solutions to work on maps even if internet is not available. The desktop version of the tool runs in multiple operating systems on Adobe Air and synchronizes back with the Mindomo on the web.
MindMeister is based on the concept of mind mapping to the web while using facilities meant for real-time collaboration. The tool gives space for a global brainstorming session, where users can create, manage and share their mind maps online or access them while sitting at any place of the world. In the brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeisters sitting at any place of the world can concurrently work on same mind map, while seeing each other’s changes happening.