Every time I’m forced to use a collaboration tool I don’t like as much as my favorite one, I realize how important they are to my productivity. Once you use a product that was designed to be as simple as possible and to do the most important things well, you really don’t want to go back to the one that makes you take 5 or 6 steps to do something you can do in one click, or whose feature lists are so huge that you can’t find what you need quickly.
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I won’t name names of those that I don’t like, but here’s a roundup of collaboration tools that make my life easier.
- Dropbox. I can’t express the burden lifted from my shoulders by this product. All my files are automatically synced up to dropbox’s servers within seconds. I can access them from anywhere, and I can easily share a folder with a colleague so we can effortlessly keep our documents in one place without having to do anything more than open our documents folder. It doesn’t get any easier or more elegant than that. I also find myself using the iPhone app often to quickly pull up a personal document to reference in my non-working life, as well for the occasional work need. (A couple weeks ago I was skiing and answering a colleague’s request about my experience in a particular space, and I couldn’t recall a client’s name so found it on Dropbox within seconds to complete my email.)
- Digsby. A great IM aggregator that lets me load most of my online contacts in one place, with the notable exception of Skype.
- Facebook. The obvious, but I have a great network of friends where I can typically get an answer any random question I might have, as well as like something I might need to say to remind myself that there’s an outside world (I work from a home office).
- join.me. The easiest free tool I’ve found for quick screen-sharing with anyone. Very fast, no noticeable latency, and no account setup required.
- GoogleDocs. I try to assess online document collaboration tools somewhat regularly, but I’ve not yet found one that beats GoogleDocs. Several of my colleagues across the country are working together on a content inventory in our spare time, and the amount of communication and effort required to try to coordinate putting that thing together without it would be very irritating.
- Mindmeister. I use this mindmapping tool for all kinds of brainstorming and list-making purposes. The iPhone app is nice too, though I don’t think they considered the context of use and touch-control potential errors very thoroughly. One of the few products I’ve used so much I moved to a paid version and I’m happy to do so.
- AxShare. A new offering by Axure that allows me to share my Axure prototypes very easily. I hope they will add commenting capabilities soon.
I’ve got tons of other tools bookmarked but haven’t had the chance to use them enough to make them a part of my life. What tools can’t you live without?