We love our downtown Boston office and try to meet and work in person whenever we can. But like many of you, we sometimes find outselves in complex collaborative relationships at a distance. Here we offer a selection of our favorite tools for facilitating effective communication.
Sharing Files and Screens
Join.Me provides free screen sharing so you can review documents and designs, troubleshoot software problems, conduct trainings without having to be in the same room.
LogMeIn offers free remote access to your desktop so you can open files, check your email, run programs and stay productive from your mobile device or any computer over the Internet.
When you need a shared file folder to hold project spreadsheets and documents actively being edited and Google Docs doesn't offer enough features. DropBox offers an easily and flexible way to share folders directly from your desktop. The free version offers 2 GB of secure storage.
Create documents and spreadsheets in Google Docs, share them with others and allow others to edit them in real time.
We use BaseCamp to organize project communications with our clients. This popular software-as-a-service meets basic need in an easy-to-use, flexible format. The 37Signals team who created Basecamp express this philosophy: "Projects don't fail from a lack of charts, graphs, stats, or reports, they fail from a lack of clear communication."
Please read our BaseCamp Guide for an overview of the basic features and some helpful tips.
Redmine for Issue Tracking and Task Management
We use the Open Source software application Redmine for managing issues and tasks. This software supports different "tracker" modules for different types of projects and flexible processes to keep things moving.
Harvest for Time Tracking
If you need to track hours at a fine level of client-project-task, you can't do better than Harvest, also offered as Software as a Service. Harvest can be integrated to Quickbooks.
Planning, Design, Architecture, and Software Management
Essential page mock-ups with Balsamiq
We use Balsamiq to quickly create web and database page mock-ups that can be easily understood, discussed and edited by client and developer team members. Balsamiq Studios offers donated copies to qualifying non-profit and NGOs.
On-line structure diagrams with Gliffy
While Balsamiq is great at the page level, Gliffy is great for technical specifications of system architecture, database structure and staff workflow. Working completely on-line, it is easy to set-up collaboration on diagrams among a project team. Get started for free at Gliffy.com
Snagit is a terrific, professional grade screen capture utility for Windows users (now also finally available for Mac users although Macs have their own built-in screen capture: just hold down "Shift" and "Apple" key and then hit "4"). Use Snagit for preparing documentation or for documenting support issues with your software or creating software documentation.
Phone Conference Calling
Code Repository with Codesion
For all our custom-built sites, we count on Codesion for SVN and Git code management. This enables developer teams to coordinate with each other flexibly, to control releases on our servers, and to ensure code bases exist separately — safe and secure — from the web sites themselves.
Voice Recognition Software
Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software is great for people dealing with injuries to hands and arms either due to to intense or improper computer use or other medical reasons. But those whose typing or mouse skills are limited will find it liberating as well. Your spoken words appear on the screen with no typos. You can use Dragon Home with your favorite applications to dictate reports and send email. Tell your PC what to do and it does it. Read Steve's blog post about this software.