Researchers in Europe would definitely benefit from including in their work routines some online collaborative tools. In this post I intend to present some of the collaborative platforms that allow sharing and live working on documents I have discovered during the past months. They are Google Docs, visit Socialtext, anaemia Colaab, OneHub and Scribblar.
Out of all the platforms above I am most familiar with GoogleDocs. Their interface is easy to use, has an auto-saver and supports the regular formats with which researchers work: spreadsheets, presentations, word documents. It does require a Google account but once created that account offers access to many more Google resources. Collaboration can take place in real-time due to the embedded chat and users can change and amend documents if given permission by the one who uploaded them. I haven’t figured out yet whether there is a “track changes” function in Google Docs but I believe such a feature would be useful both when users deal with lengthy documents as well as when there is a large number of users with permission to make changes. Also, for those into photo/video collaboration Google Docs does not yet offer any support. For more features check their page.
For academic purposes, Google Docs is a good solution: is free, allows protection of documents, replicates functionalities of traditional software and allows real-time conversations. A short video on how it works can be found on YouTube.
Real-time multi-user whiteboard, image upload and download, live audio and instant messaging are features offered by Scribblar as well. For those in a hurry Scribblar offers the opportunity of using the platform straight away without any ID with, of course, some restrictions on the features available. Creating an account however is free and doesn’t take long. Scribblar also offers a pro version which can be integrated in e-learning sites.
Colaab supports a variety of resources formats, as they call them: from doc and docx (the vista word version) , powerpoint and pdf to images (png, jpg, gif,psd), videos and xps. The platform allows a user to have multiple projects and share them with multiple users. There are notification when users log into the platform as well as their a track changes log which makes it easy to see who, when and where within a project added a comment or an annotation. The advantage of Colaab, as I see it, lies within its video and photo collaboration opportunities as it enables, among others, quick zoom into large files. Colaab therefore can be a great platform for arts and creative media schools. In terms of access, Colaab has 4 packages ranging from 0 to 99 USD a month. You can sign up for a 30-day trial as well. To take a tour of the platform and check its other features go here.
OneHub is similar with Colaab in that that is allows users to work on multiple projects, or spaces but the platform is richer in features. Unlike Colaab, OneHub is designed as an enterprise solution and therefore focuses more on offering tools that can support project management and file sharing besides collaboration. OneHub has, for example, a calendar function that enables users to keep track of their projects and deadlines. It also has a hub activity log where the other users actions can be followed (Colaab offers this as well). The platform also supports folder sharing, hub search and has a lot of customization options which might be useful for joint projects or for projects where universities outsource their services to for-profit companies. There is a 30-day trial but no free account possibility. Take a tour of OneHub here.
Socialtext describes itself as a social software platform than can work both as a hosted or as an on-site service. The platform seems much more complex than all the previous ones described promising to offer different solution packages for specific business functions. Socialtext 3.0 extends collaboration to its maximum – there is a dashboard, wiki workspaces, blogs, opportunities for social networking and messaging as well as distributed spreadsheets (this allows spreadsheets to be dynamic by allowing data to be easily interlinked). Furthermore Socialtext is available offline as well as from a mobile device. As with the other platforms there is a 30-day trial but also a free account version that can accommodate up to 50 users with, of course, some restrictions – there is only 1 wiki space available, there are no distributed spreadsheets included in the package and there is no service or support from the Socialtext team. A product demo can be seen here.