21 collaboration tools to streamline your teamwork

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January 22, 2015
21 collaboration tools to streamline your teamwork.
If you work with a team, then you may be struggling with the question of how to best collaborate. Sure, you can e-mail files around; but that quickly gets cumbersome, and can make it hard to keep track of which is the current version. If two team members make changes at the same time, integrating them can become a nightmare. If you’re still using email as your primary means of communicating with your remote team (or even the team in your office) then you really need to look into a dedicated collaboration tool. This list presents more than twenty of the best, though of course there are tons of others out there. There are free and premium tools available to fit every price range and virtually every possible usage need. Check them out, compare, and get your collaboration out of your inbox!

Premium tools

There are a ton of premium tools out there for team collaboration, in a wide range of prices and features. Be sure to check out what’s included in each package carefully to make sure it will suit your needs before buying.

GoVisually (from $15 per month)

GoVisually makes it simple to get feedback on designs from everyone on your team. It includes simple threaded conversations, as well as the ability to put comments directly on your designs. That helps ensure everyone is on the same page when making changes to a design. When you need to make changes to a design, you can drag and drop your new designs onto the old ones, with complete version control and tracking (including comments on older versions). Their plans start at $15/month for up to 20 projects with unlimited collaborators and designs, with unlimited project plans starting at $150/month. govisually

Red Pen (from $5 per month)

Red Pen is a fast feedback tool for teams. Just drag and drop your design into the app and invite collaborators. Commenting is done in real-time, with collaborators able to see your comments as soon as you enter them. You can see who's viewing the file at a given time. You can invite collaborators via email, or share a private link to the files you want feedback on. You can have as many collaborators as you want, without restrictions. And of course there are organizational tools you can use to keep up with multiple projects, and there’s version control to make revisions easier. There's a fourteen day free trial, and then after that paid plans start at just $5/month for 5 projects. red pen

Cage (from $24 per month)

Cage offers easy collaboration for teams, with simple tools for sharing, managing, and approving creative work. You can add notes directly to the work, keep track of revisions (and even share those revisions with clients so they can view progress), and get faster approval from clients. Cage provides a single dashboard from which you can manage and organize projects, clients, teams, and even tasks. Project sharing is seamless, with a built-in address book. You can upload images, videos, and even Photoshop files. Personal plans start at $24/month, with 1GB of storage and two team members, with premium plans for $179/month that include 30GB of storage and unlimited team members. cage

Concept Inbox (from $14 per month)

Concept Inbox provides tools for design teams, developers, and startups to communicate on creative projects. You can easily annotate designs and provide better feedback to reduce the number of change requests. It includes organizational tools, version control, and task management. It works from anywhere, and lets you annotate all types of creative works. It even includes tools for creating interactive, high-fidelity prototypes without requiring any technical skills. And of course it offers real-time collaboration, activity feeds, easy sharing, and asset management. There are even tools for live meetings and presentations. Plans start at $14/month for 3 projects, with team plans starting at $49/month. A free trial is available with each plan. concept inbox

Mural.ly (from $10 per month)

Mural.ly offers online brainstorming and collaboration tools. You can organize all your thoughts visually, in one place, and then seamlessly work with your team as if you were in the same room. Unlike many other team collaboration tools out there, Mural.ly is designed to be used as soon as you start brainstorming, rather than once you already have a design to share. It gives you a clear understanding of your design vision from the beginning, making the entire process smoother and more efficient. A single user account starts at $10/month, with enterprise-level plans for up to 50 users for $1,099/month. murally

ProofHub (from $15 per month)

ProofHub includes tools for collaboration and planning, organizing work, and making sure delivery happens on time. It includes more project management tools than many of the other offerings here, alongside the design collaboration tools. It offers tools for sharing ideas, planning your work, creating and organizing notes, tasks, documents, files, and tracking time. It also has chat, custom roles, Gantt charts, personalization, and more. Plans start at $15/month for 10 projects and unlimited users, and go up from there, to $149/month for unlimited projects. proofhub

Conceptboard (from free)

Conceptboard gives you flexible online workspaces for team collaboration. It offers in-context feedback for faster iterations, with instant access in your browser. There are whiteboard and chat tools, too, and even video. There are real-time collaboration and discussion tools, with a record of all your ideas and conversations. There’s SSL protection for your content, and even dedicated server data encryption if you need it. You can share individual boards and content only with those you want. A basic single user account with standard features is free, while team plans start at just $30/month. conceptboard

Share Square (from free)

Share Square is a digital pinboard that makes it easy to gather, organize, and structure your ideas and inspiration. There are team collaboration tools, so you can share your ideas and projects. It includes real-time collaboration, and comes as either a Mac, PC, or web-based app. The free plan allows up to 10 uploads per pinboard, while pro accounts offer unlimited uploads and dedicated support for €100/year. share square

Glip (from free)

Glip is a slightly different way to collaborate with your team, based on replacing your email inbox. It includes a variety of features for collaboration, including video chat, storage, and team and project management functions. It includes file sharing with Google Drive and Dropbox, email integration, lightweight collaborative document editing, team calendars, and more. Glip integrates with Github, Dropbox, Zendesk, Stripe, Mailchimp, Hangouts, and many other services, with more on the way. It’s built around conversations, which can greatly improve the way remote teams work. There’s a free plan that offers up to 10,000 posts, 5GB of storage, and 500 minutes of video chat, as well as up to 5 external integrations. Paid plans start at just $5/person per month. glip

Flowdock (from free)

Flowdock is a team inbox with chat features built in. It includes drag and drop uploads, tagging of other team members, and more. There's threaded chat to keep track of conversations more easily, and you can see who’s typing, similar to Facebook chat. It also includes 1-on-1 private chat, file uploads and storage, image previews, status updates, and message editing. And you can comment on anything you see or do, to give context when you need it. Flowdock integrates with a variety of other services, including Basecamp, Aha!, FogBugz, Deveo, Breeze, Redmine, and many more. Pricing is simple, with free plans for teams of five or less, non-profits, and students, and paid plans for just $3 per user per month. flowdock

Free tools

While premium tools often have better support and more features, there are tons of great free tools out there, too! Some of these have fairly bare-bones features (which may be all you need), while others offer more features than most premium solutions.

Marqueed (free)

Marqueed is a free way to markup and discuss images online. You can easily add multiple images with the drag and drop interface, either from your computer or another browser window. Adding collaborators is simple via email. Collaborators can point to areas and have threaded discussions right on the image. There’s even a freehand drawing tool for more options. marqueed

Framebench (free)

Framebench works with a variety of file types: images, spreadsheets, PDFs, documents, presentations, and video. It includes organizational tools, lets you get feedback from clients, and includes group chat. Framebench can also integrate with a number of your favorite apps, including Dropbox, Basecamp, and Google+. It has real-time collaboration tools, called TableTop Sync, and shows you who's online browsing the files you’re browsing. It has versioning tools, too, of course. framebench

Notism (free)

Notism is a free collaboration app that works for design and video projects. You can comment with text or a sketch, with several drawing tools. Video collaboration can be done in real-time, with the option to add notes, sketches, and selections to the video timeline. You can opt to see the live cursor of everyone who's currently online, and highlight specific areas if you want to point out larger areas of your layout, rather than a specific pinpoint. There are also built-in tools for managing tasks, it works with Basecamp and Asana, and there's version control. Notism even has tools for creating interactive prototypes, a big step up from many other collaboration tools. notism

Apollo (free)

Apollo is a free web-based feedback app that includes email integration, unlimited members, and unlimited notes. There's an audit trail for accountability of all activity, as well as an overview mode so you can see everything your team is working on. It includes basic notation tools that work for web designs, graphic designs, documents, photos, and more. apollo

Skwibl (free)

Skwibl is an efficient way to give and receive feedback on creative projects. Just upload your media, invite collaborators, and discuss the design. Projects can be discussed in real-time or any time. There are sketching tools, as well as a pen, highlighter, and commenting tool. You can assign tasks using the note tool, manage projects, trace recent activities, and more. You can sign up with email, or using Google+, Facebook, or LinkedIn. skwibl

DesignDrop (free in beta)

DesignDrop is a super easy way to get quick feedback. Just upload a design, share a short URL with your team or client, and get feedback with visual annotations. It’s a quick way to get real-time feedback. It's free as long as they’re in beta, though pricing after that isn’t clear. designdrop

Prevue (free)

Prevue is a design sharing tool for designers and agencies. It has a drag and drop interface, tools for project management and feedback, and simple annotation tools. It’s simple to use, and quick to get started with. There are over 20,000 agencies and design teams already using it. prevue

Trello (from free)

Trello lets you visually organize anything and share it with anyone you choose. You can drag and drop “cards” between lists to show your progress on various items, add as many people as you want, add and reorder lists as needed, and more. Trello’s main strength is its adaptability. It's simple but powerful, and allows for instant feedback. It works with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive. There are tools for checklists, labels, due dates, and more. And there are apps for the web, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, and Windows 8. While Trello is mostly free, there is a “Business Class” paid account with team super powers and more administrative control. But, the free accounts will work for the majority of teams. trello

Bounce (free)

Bounce, from Zurb, makes it easy to share ideas on a website or image. Just enter a URL (or upload an image file), then click and drag to make notes. You can share with anyone when you’re done providing feedback. This is a great way to collaborate on something like a redesign, as you can leave feedback right on the live site, without having to download screenshots and then re-upload them somewhere. bounce

RealtimeBoard (free)

RealtimeBoard is an online whiteboard that more closely resembles a real-world whiteboard. You can visualize your workflow, and it works well for collaborating on both brainstorming and product design. It can even be used as an educational whiteboard. realtimeboard

Skitch (free)

Skitch, from Evernote, makes collaboration, sharing, and feedback quick and easy. You can draw directly on an image, from your desktop, tablet, or phone. It has simple annotation tools for drawing shapes, arrows, and quick sketches. skitch


There are tons of great team collaboration tools out there. On the free end, I'm a fan of Trello and Notism, if for no other reason than their awesome UIs, though the other offerings may suit your needs better. As far as premium tools go, Red Pen gets major points for ease of use, while Mural.ly is super flexible. All of the tools listed here, though, are excellent products worth checking out!

Cameron Chapman

Cameron Chapman is a freelance writer and designer from New England. You can visit her site or follow her on Twitter.

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