The focus of web applications on collaborative efforts has been stronger than ever. You can hardly find a web-based application that won’t let you share a link to a public document or image, much less if it’s a productivity app. There are lots of productivity applications, particularly on the desktop, that seem to offer more and more collaboration features, but with the advent of web-friendly OSes, such as Google Chrome OS, Jolicloud and the like; there’s bound to be increased interest in web-based, collaboration-centric apps.
This round-up is a collection of incredible free online meeting tools that don’t skimp on features even when they are browser-based. Instead, they offer pretty fully featured suites for collaboration even to users with free accounts, but of course, most have additional paid offerings as well. Let’s take a look at the best free collaboration tools so far.
Free Project Collaboration Portal: TeamLab
TeamLab is a project management platform that allows users to import data from Basecamp, build teams and departments, assign tasks, schedule milestones, lead discussions, track time spent on project tasks, generate reports and backup data. TeamLab also utilizes social tools to keep colleagues connected with corporate instant messenger, forums, blogs, and Wiki pages, as well as bookmark, photo and file sharing (uploaded files can’t exceed 25MB). While there’s no indication of the limit of users or projects, the source code is available for deployment if your team wants to host it on your own servers, restore backups and have more general control. TeamLab’s current features are said to remain free, while future offerings, such as document editing and e-mail management, may be available for certain fees.
While TeamLab seems to have the best offerings, there are lots of similar services, including Huddle and TeamBox, though they all seem to come with more limitations for the free accounts in user or project count.
Sync.in is a web-based word processor for people who need to collaborate on the same public document in real-time. It allows users to co-edit notes for brainstorming sessions, planning projects, creating outlines, etc, as well as chat in real-time, identify each others’ color-coded edits, undo unlimited saves, replay edits using an in-document time-slider, and mark versions as important. Sync.in also has a cross-platform launcher for users who want to create new Sync.in notes from their desktop. No sign-up process is required. Users aching for more features, such as selective public access, own team site at “yourTeamName.sync.in” and bulk export, can check out .
Twiddla is a neat space for guests to markup webpages, documents and images. It can also serve as a collaborative whiteboard, text editor and chat service. While it also allows voice-conference, I couldn’t find the voice chat feature anywhere on the site. For storage, guests will need to buy accounts, but for general brainstorming and idea exchange, Twiddla has quite a bit of features.
Web-Conferencing Services: Tokbox VideoChat, [NO LONGER WORKS] DimDim, Vyew
While Tokbox has evolved into a business-friendly solution for web-based, video-conferencing, it still offers free, casual video calls for up to 20 users at a time. It also allows users to send video messages, text chat, share YouTube videos in-line, invite friends from Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live, AIM, or via email, as well as embed video chat and recorder widgets. Tokbox offers a very user-friendly interface with virtually no learning curve.
If you’re itching for additional features, check out [NO LONGER WORKS] DimDim which offers public web meetings with a shared whiteboard, annotation tools, live document-sharing, as well as screen-sharing (via a downloadable plugin) and text chatting with up to 10 users (although only one user webcam can be enabled during a meeting).
Vyew is another great web-conference service that offers private rooms, webcam and voice chat for up to 10 users, a conference number you can call to join the private conversation, a whiteboard, screen-sharing (via Java authorization), and ability to leave voice notes in addition to text and annotations on workspace. Free accounts have an ad-supported interface, but I didn’t find any ads while testing in my session.
For desktop-based tools that allow video-conferencing for two or more users, check out the open-source OpenMeetings.
What free online meeting tools would you recommend to work with colleagues? Share your preferred applications in the comments!
Photo credit: deviantdark