Working with a JV partner on a new class? Editing a document for a client and have some questions? Co-authoring an ebook or course? You could take turns working on a Word document, relying on the “show edits” function to keep track of what’s going on. But what if your partner loses the file? Or if you both want to work at the same time? Or if you want to be able to annotate your additions and changes? Then you need a collaboration tool so you can work with your partners quickly and easily. When choosing a collaboration tool, you want to ask yourself these 6 questions:
- Do I want a free or a paid solution?
- How many people will I be working with?
- Will we be working together for a one-time project, or on an ongoing basis?
- Are we brainstorming, writing, or creating another sort of project?
- What programs will we be using?
- Will we be working simultaneously?
The answers to these questions will drive your choice of program. Here are a few popular collaboration tools that many online entrepreneurs have used with great success:
This free web-based file sharing system enables you to share files and work on them simultaneously. Great for spreadsheets, Word documents, presentations, and drawings. Google Docs is available from any Internet-enabled computer, and anyone with a Google account can be invited to contribute to your project. You can also chat if users are online at the same time. Find out more at Docs.Google.com
Most people are familiar with Adobe Acrobat, having used it to read or share .PDF documents. But Acrobat also offers terrifically powerful collaboration abilities. Using Acrobat, you can share a set of documents in one place, collaborate with several people at once, and access your files from anywhere. You also get web conferencing and many other options. Acrobat is priced from $14.99 to $39 a month, and a scaled-down free version is also available. Find out more at Acrobat.com
The cutting edge of collaboration technology is Google Wave. Cross Gmail with Twitter and Wikipedia, and you’ll have an idea of what Google Wave is. Its greatest strength is its users’ ability to see edits in real time. The document formatting is a little rudimentary, but the social media aspects may make up for it, particularly if you’re an early technology adopter who sees value in the “cool” factor. I don’t use this on a regular basis, but it can be very effective for the right project. Cost is free, but users must have a Google account, and you must be invited to Google Wave because it’s still in private beta. Find out more at Wave.Google.com
A subset of 37Signals’ Basecamp, Writeboard is a free service that enables users to collaborate on sharable, web-based text documents. You can roll back to previous changes and compare edits easily. You can also make comments and track authorship, as well as subscribe to the RSS feed so you can be notified any time someone makes changes. This solution is perfect for one-time, standalone documents. Find out more at Writeboard.com
Since most of these options are free, you can test them out on a variety of projects to see what works best for you. Whichever you use, it’ll be sure to make your joint projects easier.