General Question

workaholic's avatar

What is the best collaborative software?

Asked by workaholic (194points) June 21st, 2010

There’s Cube, Central Desktop, etc…

I work for a small organization that needs collab software mainly for shared projects (MS word docs, spreadsheets, etc.), shared calendar, task management and contact lists. I’ve tried a couple and none are very intuitive…. and more for large corporations.

I don’t want too much emphasis on chatting, social media, etc. We’ve got that covered and use those outlets mainly for external communications. We need something for internal things.

I can’t pay more than $5 a month (like I said, very small organization and we’re nonprofit) and would preferably be allowed several users for a workspace…..

If anyone can suggest something good, I would be very grateful! Thank you.

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19 Answers

alive's avatar

Gmail – Creating a google domain for your office would probably be very helpful for your company.

You can be the admin and then create email addresses for everyone in the office.

With gmail you can live share docs, spreadsheets etc.
you can even watch as people edit them live.

Hope that was helpful. You can ask me if that answer wasn’t specific enough

mhl12's avatar

I’ll go ahead and expand on the Google suggestion by recommending Google Wave. Its features pretty much covers almost all of your needs. Google Wave just left closed beta so anyone can sign up right now. This is a really nice free in-depth guide on Google Wave and its features:

Andreas's avatar

@workaholic will cover the programmes you mention, and it is community-based and supported.

As for other software, I cannot suggest any others, but you may want to search for open source software, of which there are many programmes available. The open source area of software is often overlooked as an alternative to the proprietary software. But I suggest you look there, too.

dpworkin's avatar

Google Wave has a bit of a steep learning curve, but I agree that you are likely to find it very, very useful if everyone gives it the time it deserves. If it just gets used as an extension of chat or email it degrades into something pretty much worthless. Probably Wave + Training would be the best thing for a small organization like the one you describe.

workaholic's avatar

@alive @mhl12 @dpworkin – Those sound great, but are they known to be buggy? We’ve had problems with Google Calendars for example.

workaholic's avatar

@Andreas What does open source mean?

Andreas's avatar

@workaholic Thank you for your question. @phaedryx‘s link goes a long way to showing what “open source” software is. Put simply, it is free software that anyone may use and also anyone may develop and change to create variations and special cases without having to pay a royalty to anyone. “Closed source” is the opposite of this.

You may have heard of Linux. Linux is another computer operating system (open source) that competes for users against Microsoft Windows (closed source) and Apple Macintosh (closed source). Anyone can take the operating source code for Linux and modify it to their own peculiar needs, whereas nobody is allowed to do that with Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s Macintosh operating systems, under the pain of very expensive court cases.

To try and understand the term “source code”, right click anywhere on this page and select “view page source”. It will look like gobbledygook, but that is what is written for a computer to give us this web page. Here’s a part view from the top (after the asterisks):


<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC ”-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN”
<html xmlns=“” xmlns:fb=“” xml:lang=“en”>

<script type=“text/javascript”>var _sf_startpt=(new Date()).getTime()</script>
<title>What is the best collaborative software?</title>

<meta name=“description” content=“There’s Cube, Central Desktop, etc…

I work for a small organization that needs collab software mainly for shared projects (MS word docs, spreadshe”/>

<meta http-equiv=“Content-Type” content=“text/html; charset=utf-8” />


This is only a small part of this page’s code. If you were to copy and paste everything from the source page that this sample is taken from and place it into an html editor, at the end of the process you would have replicated this page.

This is just a very brief introduction to source code, but I hope I have answered your question.

A similar thing happens with programmes like email clients (Outlook Express, for example) and every other thing that can be done in and with computers.

mhl12's avatar

@workaholic Wave is still in Google Labs (even though it’s out of closed beta), which means it’s still not the final version. I’ve never had any problems with it crashing on me when I used Firefox, though I’ve heard it’s less stable on Chrome (ironic isn’t it?).

The rest of the Google services (Gmail, Docs, Calendar) should all be really stable.

molave's avatar

Google Apps Standard (not Premium) is free and very useful for us, particularly for real-time collaboration on documents & spreadsheets. It also can be gotten via Gmail.

molave's avatar

Forgot to mention that the calendar of Google Apps is very helpful for my colleagues and I to organize everything from tasks to events. I agree with those who say Google Wave is great, but getting used to it takes time.

workaholic's avatar

@molave This Google Apps seems more like what I’m looking for. Would you happen to know what the difference is between Standard and Education Edition? They offer EE for free to nonprofits…but yet, standard is also free. Does EE have more features?

molave's avatar

Educ Edition has same features as Premier Edition, which is more than Standard Edition.

That said, in my company of less than 10 employees, we’ve been quite happy with Standard since adopting Goog Apps in 2006. We feel the extra features of Premier (and Educ) are more attractive only to really large corporations with stricter needs in terms of monitoring and retrieving communications, compliance, that sort of stuff. The collaboration features are just the same (or very similar, I think) to those of Standard..

If you already have a domain, you’re good to go with Goog Apps. You’ll get 100 accounts ( right off the bat, all equipped with Gmail’s usual features.

Btw, Microsoft also released a competitor to Google Apps very recently. But still very new: am not sure if free or what.

Good luck!

And one last suggestion: if you do sign up for Google Apps, and have become comfortable with the basics (this might take a few weeks), try to visit the Google Apps Marketplace. There are solutions in Marketplace (free or for pay) that could be added to Google Apps, like plug-ins, to fulfill specific needs. For example, there’s a “plug-in” that could turn Google App Calendar into a more robust appointment manager, or a work-time tracker, etc etc.


workaholic's avatar

@molave That’s very helpful, thank you!

workaholic's avatar

@Andreas Thanks that’s good to know!

workaholic's avatar

@molave Another question… does your domain email then get forwarded to gmail? Or is the gmail a whole separate account?

molave's avatar

Your original, existing Gmail account will remain unchanged in its original location/interface.

Your new Google Apps account, including the new domain email, would be handled as an entirely separate system. You will get a login page similar to Gmail but the logo on that page can be customized to your company’s. Inside, everything looks and works like Gmail but is identified as mail. And when you reply to incoming email, your outgoing email will be from

You could, if you wish, auto-forward incoming domain email to any other account, like your original Gmail or even a Yahoo or Hotmail account. But obviously, from a professional point of view, replying as your own domain is better than replying as a Gmail or Yahoo user.

If you prefer to, you could also access your domain email wihout a browser, by using popular clients like Outlook or Outlook Express or Mozilla Thunderbird.


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