More and more it feels like people are collaborating on documents from their homes, desks, and the little cafe down the street. Having the ability to take your work with you is both a blessing and a curse. It's also becoming a necessity. You need access to your files (word processing, spreadsheets, slides, etc) and you can't always wait until you get back to your office to look at them. Sometimes you can't even wait that long to edit them.
Of course, there's also the whole sharing thing to consider. Those documents aren't always your documents. Or maybe they are yours but someone else is editing them. That's the world we live in. We need our files with us and editable at all times.
Fortunately, we have lots of great options to help us with our collaborating needs.
Google Drive (aka Google Docs)
I use this on a daily basis for personal documents (monitoring my personal debt as I was paying it off, managing recipes, writing technical documents, etc) and plan to use it more in the coming months as my goto document/spreadsheet processing platform. This is mostly because it's with me every where I go. Between my GMail account and my Android phone, I'm pretty tightly wired into Google Documents.
The bigger bonus for me is that I will be working with a team of volunteers soon for a project. I can share a folder in my Google Drive and we can all use the space to store reports and spreadsheets.
Google supplies the standard documents (ie, MS Word,) spreadsheets (ie, Excel,) and slides (ie, PowerPoint,) as well as some really cool things like
- Maps - Create maps with your own overlays on them.
- Forms - Create surveys for your customers and capture the data as a spreadsheet.
- Drawings - Sure, it's not Photoshop or even MS Paint, but you can do a quick mark-up on a photo or even sketch out an idea in simple terms. And then share it!
Microsoft Office Live
Basically, this is Microsoft's version of Google Docs. One nice thing about this is that you get true Microsoft file formats. When you upload a Word document to Google Drive and edit it, the document becomes a Google document. It's not a problem, but sometimes you lose some of your formatting.
The best thing about Microsoft Office Live is that you get OneNote. I'm constantly torn between my love of OneNote and my love of Evernote. Both are fantastic platforms and right now Evernote is winning. But I'm often wistful about OneNote.
Other nice things include Outlook (like Google's Gmail, you can get an outlook.com address for free,) Calendar (similar to your Google Calendar,) and People (your contact list.)
If you're a serious Microsoft person or have a Windows tablet, this is definitely the way to go.
The Microsoft and Google offerings are really personal accounts with the ability to share files and folders. Zoho, however, is designed around true group collaboration wtih document check-in/check-out, version history and even task management on paid accounts.
Zoho only offers word processor, spreadsheet, and slide show functions (goodbye Maps and OneNote,) but other Zoho tools (CRM, Projects, Bug Tracker,) etc can be added to your system. Although not all of them work in the collaborative mode. Zoho even offers email.
The Quick Takeaway
Zoho is cool. I've used it at different times for group projects and have been very happy with it. The only drawback in my eyes is that I was always in my Gmail account so it made more sense for me to just work from there. I think Microsoft's offering would be great if your main email account is an Outlook account because, as I am with Gmail, you'd always be in the account.
For true group collaboration, give Zoho a shot. If you're already in bed with Gmail or Outlook, stay where you are.