Good riddance to the dark ages of document collaboration: Gone are the days of endlessly emailing documents back and forth, hoping your team members are all reviewing the right version. For modern organizations, real-time document collaboration tools are an essential — and vastly superior — productivity solution.
Utilizing web connectivity, these collaboration platforms allow professionals to share files and edit them cooperatively, interacting with each other simultaneously or asynchronously. By streamlining comments, suggestions, changes, and approvals, collaboration software can powerfully enhance your team's workflow.
When it comes to choosing document collaboration software, however, the sheer variety of options available can be quite overwhelming. In this article, we'll cover some of the very best collaboration tools currently available, allowing you to select the optimal platform for your team.
Key Features of Document Collaboration Software
Because businesses' document collaboration needs vary significantly. As a result, you'll need to evaluate various platforms in light of your own team's priorities and collaborative processes.
However, for the vast majority of organizations, the following areas of functionality will be important to consider when evaluating document collaboration tools.
Storage and Document Management
Collaboration platforms utilize the cloud to store your team's documents, Excel spreadsheets, and other file types, as well as comments, edits, and other key metadata. Companies provide differing amounts of storage for individuals and whole teams, and their pricing can vary significantly.
You'll need to choose a platform that offers cost-effective cloud storage for your entire organization — with room to scale up if you add team members. Often, companies provide a free version for a few employees but charge high rates for larger teams.
Aside from the total amount of storage you'll need, it's also wise to scrutinize each platform's file document management interface. Will team members easily be able to access the files they need or will file-sharing and finding documents be unnecessarily complicated?
Tracking Changes and Version Control
A critical advantage of document collaboration tools is the ability to maintain a clear record of changes over time, allowing collaborators to keep track of editing progress. Similarly, "version control" features allow professionals to distinguish between various iterations, ensuring that everyone is viewing the latest update.
Some platforms are particularly helpful in this regard, allowing users to see not just which changes were made but who made them and when. Additionally, by "auto-saving" progress in real-time, many platforms create a repository of all alterations, allowing you to easily review or restore prior versions of each document.
Editing, Commenting, and Tagging Features
Clarity is key to successful collaboration, so don't overlook the details of a platform's editing, commenting, and tagging features. For example, many tools allow you to tag specific collaborators, triggering an email notification of the edit or request. This feature can increase accountability and assist with task management on multi-person teams.
Integration With Your Other Apps
Your business will likely utilize many applications in addition to your document collaboration tools, and integration with other software can improve your workflow.
Many document collaboration tools integrate seamlessly with common project management platforms so you'll never lose track of your progress or due dates. Some also integrate with task management tools, such as Trello — a big plus for teams using task-centric frameworks like Kanban.
Others document collaboration tools pair nicely with video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Skype, simplifying screen-sharing for remote teams. Plenty also offer integration with instant messaging applications, facilitating team collaboration via platforms like Slack.
Accessibility Across Devices
Virtually all document collaboration tools will work well on Mac or PC computers, but modern professionals now use mobile devices for much of their document editing. To support your team's use of smartphones and tablets, make sure the platform you choose offers a mobile app in both iOS and Android versions. Furthermore, ensure that these mobile apps include the same collaboration features that the desktop version offers, allowing your team members to participate fully from their phones.
No busy professional has time to waste on formatting and good document collaboration apps offer tons of attractive templates to save time. From professional letter formats to Gantt charts, your chosen collaboration software should include dozens of preformatted templates for a range of business purposes. Ideally, it will also offer customizable templates that your team can alter and reuse continually.
The Best Document Collaboration Tools
The world of real-time document collaboration is a crowded software space, with many fine companies competing for your business. Below, we'll introduce you to six of the very best document collaboration tools available right now.
A user-friendly word processing app, Google Docs is one of Google's many online collaboration tools. In fact, one of the major benefits of this platform is its seamless integration with the entire Google Workspace ecosystem (formerly known as G Suite). If your team uses Gmail and Google Drive currently, Google Docs will provide a natural transition to real-time document collaboration.
Users love Google Docs's edit tracking and revision history features, which identify edits and collaborators through intuitive color-coding. Docs also makes it easy to notify team members when edits need their attention, automatically sending emails to people you tag. The app is also extremely similar to Microsoft Word, so users of that program will feel comfortable quickly.
Speaking of Microsoft, the tech giant's Microsoft 365 (the latest evolution of Microsoft Office) is also a strong collaborative software suite. The company's OneDrive cloud storage system is ideal for collaborative documents, particularly if you already use Microsoft Teams at work.
Changes are integrated and tracked in real time, with easy-to-use commenting, editing, and tagging features. Up to 99 collaborators can edit a single document simultaneously, while tags can also generate email or chat messages for asynchronous teamwork. It's also worth noting that specific users can be included in 365 Groups, with corresponding access and editing privileges. That makes it easy to manage document sharing across whole departments or a few specific collaborators.
Confluence is much more than a real-time collaboration tool, but this application from Atlassian does work quite well for multi-person document editing. The platform boasts an intuitive interface for interspersing non-text elements, such as static images, GIFs, emojis, and interactive widgets. It also incorporates commenting and tagging capabilities alongside project management features, such as designated collaborator roles and running lists of action items.
For these reasons, Confluence is particularly appealing to teams in design or development-intensive fields. Rather than focusing on text and design independently, this platform allows creatives to address both in a single collaborative document. Confluence also provides a rich set of templates for everything from wikis to blog posts and dynamic web pages.
Zoho's WorkDrive product is especially attuned to the needs of professional teams, pairing standard word processing features with functionality tailored to business processes. For example, Zoho WorkDrive allows users to "mask" or "lock" certain sections of a collaborative document, meaning certain collaborators can't see or alter parts of the text. This can help focus team member's efforts and prevent the unwanted disclosure of sensitive information.
Zoho has filled WorkDrive with other features designed to save your business time, such as digital signatures and documenting merging capabilities. If your team is eager to eliminate technical and practical barriers, this document collaboration software could be the app for you.
Known as a reliable cloud storage solution, Dropbox has entered the collaborative editing software space with its Paper application. With an elegantly simple interface, Paper combines some of the best elements of other options on this list.
Like Confluence, Paper makes it easy to incorporate non-text elements, such as images and video. You can also insert links to other files, making it great for meeting agendas and brainstorming sessions. Additionally, it's currently free, even for large teams with dozens of collaborators.
Streamline Other Essential Tasks With Skynova
With their intelligent mix of features, the collaboration platforms discussed above may help your team work more efficiently and effectively. Creating and editing documents aren't the only business tasks that can be vastly improved by smart software tools.
At Skynova, we offer a range of software products designed to streamline business processes. From tracking invoices and purchase orders to creating estimates and quotes, our intuitive tools expedite key operational tasks. That means you can spend less time doing the busy work of your business and more time collaborating directly with members of your team.
Notice to the Reader
The contents of this article are purely informational. While we hope the suggestions provided above are helpful, we cannot guarantee that any of the software solutions described above will be suitable for your particular purposes. For more tailored software recommendations, we recommend consulting a qualified technology professional with a relevant knowledge base.