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What do you think of when you hear the word “collaboration”?

Do you associate it with the frustrating clunkiness of trying to synchronize everyone’s work? Many collaboration tools require an account to even get started before you benefit from their collaboration features. That in itself negates the act of swift collaborating, with people coming from all ends of the spectrum to combine ideas, talent and work.

Many believe that collaboration should be as “painless” as possible. We dug through the web with these simple guidelines in mind.

Criteria:

  • No sign-up
  • No download
  • Shareable link
  • Quick to start (10 seconds or less)
  • Accessible from any Internet-enabled device

Preferred Features:

  • Intuitive, mobile-friendly interface
  • Save to browser cache/local storage
  • Realtime
  • Collaborative features (e.g. chat, username change)

Note: Using a tool without signing up can deny you access to extra features. A prime example of this would be mind mapping (mentioned in this article). For the most part, you shouldn’t have to sign up to collaborate with others using these tools. So lets take a look at these “rule-breakers” of traditional web apps, shall we?

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Visual Creation and Expression

1.1 padlet

Padlet allows you to get started without an account, and come back to your creation later. You may already be familiar with it from our brief overview of Padlet Padlet: A Platform To Create Drag-And-Drop Sharing & Blogging Websites Padlet: A Platform To Create Drag-And-Drop Sharing & Blogging Websites Read More . If you are a creative, discover its features and tell us what you like.

Padlet is attractive to educators with its ability to create visual interaction in the classroom. Its use is open to interpretation. If you need a creative tool to collaborate with others on, Padlet it is.

If you want to save and access your walls later, an account is highly recommended – you don’t want to lose all the work. You can create several walls, and with an account, you’ll find all your creations organized in your account.

Collaborative Note-taking and Document Editing

2.1 titanpad

There are a lot of great web apps for quick note-taking Use Your Keyboard To Make Notes: 10 Websites For Quick Note-Taking Use Your Keyboard To Make Notes: 10 Websites For Quick Note-Taking Have you ever just wanted to jot something down real quick, but couldn’t find a pen? Or maybe you could, but later lost the note with a bunch of other notes which were used for... Read More – I covered 10 in an article on collaborative writing How Collaborative Writing Tools Make Your Life Easier How Collaborative Writing Tools Make Your Life Easier Thanks to the Internet, collaborating on a writing project should be a breeze. If you have ever co-produced one, you know this can be difficult. It shouldn't be with the right tool. Read More .

TitanPad, based on Etherpad, is one I missed. It allows you to do a lot more than just simultaneously take notes with others without having to sign in. You can import documents and then export the changed document. Within its clean and highly functional interface, TitanPad has collaborative features many alternative web apps don’t have, like chat, authorship colors, and a Time Slider to see the timeline of changes. You can even save revisions without having an account.

2.2 titanpad

Whiteboard

3.1 cosketch

CoSketch is a multi-user whiteboard with an interface that needs almost no learning curve. Its design is not “up-to-date” in today’s terms, but it is one of the best considering the features and their usefulness. It supports hotkeys, provides undo-history, an array of tools, an image library, image upload, Google Maps embedding, and chat. You can also quickly change your username to something that your teammates will recognize you by.

3.2 cosketch

Just share the custom link 10 Incredibly Simple Ways To Share Stuff On The Web While Saving Time 10 Incredibly Simple Ways To Share Stuff On The Web While Saving Time Sharing should be simple. What could be better than to take our hunt for free seconds to some "time shaving" online services that make sharing a simpler job than it is. Read More in any form with your teammates and they can start working on any device.

A great minimal alternative for just sharing a drawing is Draw.to.

Ultimate Meeting Tool

Twidla

Twiddla is an all-in-one tool to jot down notes, edit docs, sketch, tinker with code, upload images, browse websites, even input mathematical formulas, and more. Its audio and chat features earned it a spot on our online meeting tools lineup The 6 Best Free Online Meeting Tools to Collaborate With Your Team The 6 Best Free Online Meeting Tools to Collaborate With Your Team Read More .

4.2 Twiddla

Screen Sharing

5.1 QuickScreenShare

Quick Screen Share is a  little-known screen sharing tool 12 Excellent, Free Screen Sharing & Remote Access Tools You Haven't Heard Of Yet 12 Excellent, Free Screen Sharing & Remote Access Tools You Haven't Heard Of Yet Are you constantly being asked for computer help? Or perhaps you’re the one doing the asking. Either way, seeing and controlling screens remotely can save time and confusion on both ends. Remote access programs aren’t... Read More . We published a full review of Quick Screen Share Quick Screen Share: Screen Sharing Without Client Software Or User Accounts [Cross-Platform] Quick Screen Share: Screen Sharing Without Client Software Or User Accounts [Cross-Platform] If you're reading this blog you're likely the unofficial tech support for at least some of your friends. The problem is getting your technically challenged friend to launch any service. If there's a client to... Read More  a few years back. It is a side project from the creators of Screencast-O-Matic and only requires Java to be used. To get started, choose whether you want to share your screen or see someone’s screen. Type in your name and click “Start”. Share the custom link with the person, approve the Java service, and you’re in!

5.2 quickscreenshare

Screenleap is a viable alternative we also recommend at MakeUseOf for instant screen sharing.

Collaborative Coding

6.1 Firepad.io

There are several collaborative coding 8 of the Best Free Collaborative Tools For Programmers 8 of the Best Free Collaborative Tools For Programmers If you're a programmer and you aren't yet sharing or collaborating, you're behind the curve. Reap the benefits of collaboration with the right web apps. Read More websites available. We narrowed it down to one for the sake of brevity.

Firepad seems to offer the best features coupled with a intuitive interface. In addition to changing your name and choosing from several stylistic preferences, perhaps the most useful feature is a dropdown menu of all past “pads” automatically saved. This is always a plus if a tool has this without needing to create an account or even click “save”.

Looking for an alternative collaborative code editor? We reviewed Stypi Do You Need to Edit Code With Team Members in Real-Time? Try Stypi Do You Need to Edit Code With Team Members in Real-Time? Try Stypi In my operating systems class, we have 8 projects for the semester, all of which must be completed in groups of 2. These labs are time-consuming to say the least, and the last thing any... Read More and like its unhindered collaboration.

Collaborative Task List

7.1 Flask - tasks

Flask is a simple task list web app with a modern and mobile-friendly user interface. Each task list has its own custom link, allowing you to share your tasks. Tasks can be “starred”, moving them to the top of the list. You can also tag tasks with different colors. If you’re expecting a full-featured “task manager”, Flask isn’t it. There is no “admin” account/controls, so anyone with access to the link can modify the tasks. You can suggest a feature to Flask through UserVoice, and you’ll see that they have actually implemented many of the suggestions.

Planleaf is an alternative tool you might consider. It is an email-based task list, which doesn’t require sign-up either. Compose an email with tasks (starting each one with a dash), add “tasks@planleaf.com” in the cc field and send it to your fellow team members. Send this task list back and forth when tasks are completed or new ones are added – keep everyone in the loop, without creating a new list.

Schedule a Meetup

8.1 doodle

Never, I mean never, again will you have to sit around in a group trying to figure out the best time to meet up again.

Doodle is one of the simplest way to find a time that works for everyone Doodle Removes The Frustration Of Scheduling Meetings Or Events Doodle Removes The Frustration Of Scheduling Meetings Or Events Often scheduling a meeting or event for a group of people to agree upon can be as frustrating and time consuming as finding your kids lost in a busy mall. The online poll web application,... Read More . One person creates the “event”, inputs some available time slots (optional) and sends out a link to others, where they can enter the times that work for them. As the event creator, you have a special “admin link” that allows you to edit and manage the event. Note that the only reason Doodle requires your email is because you have to send out the invite through email.

8.2 doodle

You might consider When is Good and Congregar as alternatives.

Mind Mapping, Diagrams and Flow Charts

9.1 diagrammr

Brainstorming may be one of the first tasks you do with your group, and web-based mind mapping 4 Great Web-Based Mindmapping Tools To Enhance Your Creativity 4 Great Web-Based Mindmapping Tools To Enhance Your Creativity Mindmaps are a wonderful resource for brainstorming, planning, and managing ideas in a way that increases your productivity and enhances your creativity. But what if you want to create a mindmap without pen or paper? Read More is a powerful tool for group creativity.

Diagrammr is a bare-bones web app centered around “sentence entries”. Enter three words – the first and third words are connected by the middle word. If you want to group multiple words together, use quotes around those specific words. Under the diagram box, there are links to change the size, layout, delete and embed.

It would be nice to have a mind mapping website with more features, while still being flexible without requiring an account. However, my search has been unsuccessful.

Bubbl.us provides a happy medium. It’s a very popular mind mapping tool, one we even recommend to kids. 5 Technology Skills You Should Actively Encourage Children To Take Up 5 Technology Skills You Should Actively Encourage Children To Take Up Crayon drawings still have their place, but technology is no longer only the future. Tomorrow's world is today.Which are the creative technology tasks we should encourage children to take up? Maybe, these five... Read More  Start creating without an account, but if you want to save or share (pretty important features), you do need an account. However, an account is not needed to access the mind map link you share with others, so that is a plus.

Video Conferencing

10.1 vLine

There are so many free, web-based video conferencing tools freeing you from Skype Goodbye, Skype: 4 Alternative VOIP Services You Can Record Calls With Goodbye, Skype: 4 Alternative VOIP Services You Can Record Calls With Can't record calls with Skype anymore? Recent changes that break support of third-party apps have left many users frustrated. Could now be the time to try an alternative VoIP call recording service? Read More and other pro-registration services. Websites like vLine or the one-click Appear.in provide free and simple video chatting with many people. Just share the link!

Which Are the Easiest Collaboration Tools You Use

Some of the tools mentioned have a lot of alternatives and I had to narrow down the selection based on ease of use, features and functionality. Others had few to none and I had to scour the Internet so that you wouldn’t have to. But the great thing about the Internet is there’s always something someone hasn’t heard of. And the great thing about MakeUseOf is we have a highly-educated community (you!).

So what do you use? Are there better options? Why are they better? Do you recommend a tool mentioned here? We’d like to hear about that too!

Image Credits: Coworking center Via Shutterstock

  1. Melissa Bulk
    February 20, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Hi!
    Many teachers use Kanbanchi in their classrooms. Maybe, it's not so quick to start, because it require's registration, but you register with your Google account.

    Since almost everyone has Google account it's almost like no registration))))

  2. Alger Beck
    April 7, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Fantastic list. we are using proofhub for our work. Helps us a lot to manage our teams. Feature rich, easy and efficient. I'd recommend you to give it a try as well.

  3. Yes
    March 9, 2015 at 5:34 am

    Fantastic List

    • Aaron Couch
      March 20, 2015 at 4:41 am

      Great to hear. Glad you found it useful!

  4. Doron
    March 8, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    A very usefull one (for us) is wepaste.com
    We use it every day for various purpose

    • Aaron Couch
      March 20, 2015 at 4:40 am

      Yes! WePaste is another great tool! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Lyn Hilt
    March 7, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Thanks for sharing- as we work with elem students < age 13 we will need to read terms and privacy policies of the sites you share to determine if they can be used with young students and on what terms. It's one of the trickiest aspects of integrating collaborative tools into our work with students, although the "no account required" is a helpful start. Appreciate this list!

    • Aaron Couch
      March 7, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      I would imagine so, Lyn! I hadn't ever even considered that aspect before. I'm glad you find the list helpful. Feel free to stop back and leave your thoughts on any services you end up trying!

    • Lisa Noble
      March 18, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Lyn:
      @mraspinall's sites I mentioned in my comment are designed for classroom use.

  6. rafi
    March 6, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Couple more that are very useful:

    Create a quick checklist and share it
    http://www.strikeapp.com/

    Capture and share feedback on a page
    http://www.bounceapp.com/

    Enjoy!

    • Aaron Couch
      March 7, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Yes, I considered mentioning those actually! I just felt that Flask beat out StrikeApp with features and simplicity. Is there a reason in your experience that you think otherwise? Curious to hear!

  7. Lisa Noble
    March 6, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    in the classroom, I often use Today's Meet, along with Padlet, to quickly brainstorm ideas with my students. @brianaspinall's Scrawlar, nkwiry , and Edmettle are all worth a mention, too. They require the teacher to do a little pre-work, but are easy access for students without needing an e-mail.

    • Aaron Couch
      March 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Very cool! Thanks for sharing about those tools, Lisa! I hadn't heard of any of them.

  8. Øivind Stengrundet
    March 6, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Regarding mind-mapping sites: I've used http://www.mindmup.com with great success in the past. Feature-rich, no sign-up, saves your sessions automatically. I suggest you give it a try.

    • Aaron Couch
      March 7, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      This is an awesome! Thanks for sharing, Øivind. I wish I had discovered this one while researching for the article. Mind mapping was the one section that I really couldn't find (or had already known about) a service I was really excited with. But this is it!

      Thanks again for the recommendation!

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