DesignFeature

12 amazing tools for online collaboration

These interactive, real-time collaboration tools make designers' work easier - wherever you are in the world.

A team of designers does not always work in the same office; you work in distributed groups, and clients can be based all over the world. This is where collaboration tools come in - they make it easier and faster for designers to get feedback and approve artwork in a professional manner.

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These apps come in many varying formats, with some that are created specifically for designers, some that serve as a concept crafting whiteboard, those with tools to make simple annotations, and some are all-in-one web apps that include an element of project management.

Here we gather together some of the best available online tools to allow designers to take part in collaborational work in real time. The first five collaboration tools, from concept drafting and brainstorming to working on mock-ups and live projects.

01. Mural.ly

HTML5 - Murally
Gathering and sorting ideas and resources in different formats

Mural.ly is a creative tool for you to drag-n-drop rich media files, links, and documents onto a big HTML5 drawing board, which is a great way to collect inspiration and gather thoughts. It also supports collaboration that allows designers to brainstorm cool ideas remotely. Plus, it is optimized for iPad and made gesture-friendly.

Mural.ly is not just designed as a pinboard like Pinterest - its main goal is gathering and organizing ideas. Anyone can join you to edit and collaborate, and changes are reflected on the board in real-time. Just send an e-mail invitation or set up a password for the board and you are ready to go.

Tools like this are lighter than some of the more traditional brainstorming tools, and if you're new to collborative brainstorming then this could be a good place to get started.

02. GoVisually

 GoVisually 1
GoVisually allows you to comment, annotate, and discuss

Free tool GoVisually allows you to mark annotations and place comments on any part of your project - so designers and clients can collaborate to revise projects online without sending painful e-mails, which should ultimately increase productivity.

Elliptical, rectangular, and lasso selections are available for annotation - you can easily select these options at the top of the screen, as well as colour and weight of the shapes. These functions are very useful, and are as simple to apply as you'd find in a basic drawing app.

When multiple team members are on the same page, GoVisually applies layers for each user, like in Photoshop. Clicking on each user hides or displays relevat content, which is particularly useful when collaborating with different departments. Revisions can be easily upload and it is simple to switch between different versions of the same document or project.

03. Cage

 Cage
If you want an online collaboration tool that's specifically for designers, try Cage

Cage is one of those collaboration tools that is specifically built for designers. The original Cage allowed you share images of designs and get contextual feedback on them, but in the latest iteration of the app collaboration is more comprehensive.

You can add tasks, approve files, and even have a more engaging experience by using web-based presentations. If project management features like to-do lists were included, this would virtually be a one-stop solution for designer collaboration.

04. Draftboard

 Draftboard
Draftboard is specifically designed to work with PSD files

If Cage is for gathering feedback on image-based works, Draftboard is designed for managing and collaborating on mock-ups - specifically  Photoshop .psd files.

The overall layout and functions are almost the same as Cage, including annotation, managing multiple projects, and collaboration tools. It's a good, basic tool to share mock-ups, get feedback, and keep your team updated.

05. Canvasdropr

 Canvasdropr
A blank canvas to drop and share your documents on - that's Canvasdropr

Canvasdropr is a file sharing and annotating tool that supports many filetypes, even including MS Office documents. The interface is very simple and easy to navigate.

All you see is a 'canvas' that can be used as a blank sheet of paper, and then files can be added either from your computer or using Google Drive, Instagram, Flickr, etc. AS collaboration tools go, it's great, and Canvasdropr also allows you make presentations and synchronize with mobile devices, including iPads.

06. Marqueed

 Marqueed
Upload and discuss your images on Marqueed

No fancy features or price plans here - Marqueed is a free, simple tool to upload images and discuss them. You can add multiple images to the board plus labels and descriptions, and it allows you to easily make revisions. You can also grab any image on the web and drag it to Marqueed, which is a very practical feature.

07. Stixy

 Stixy
Stixy is a shared area for post-it style notes and ideas

Stixy is an online note tool for personal projects, co-workers, families and anyone who wants to gather resources, add to-dos and make comments and notes on those files.

It may not have been created specifically for designers, but designers can certainly use it to get feedback on images as well. Plus the drag-n-drop sticker-like notes and to-dos are very easy to use for managing simple schedules.

08. MindMeister

 MindMeister
Mindmeister is a collaborative mind-mapping tool

Mindmeister is a powerful mind-mapping tool, but also has the functionality of many collaboration tools. Designers can use this to craft ideas and concepts. It's maybe a bit quirky to organise a design idea through mind mapping, but this is still a great collaboration tool to try out.

09. ConceptBoard

 ConceptBoard
ConceptBoard is more than an online whiteboard, it is a one-stop shop for creative collaboration

ConceptBoard is an instant whiteboard tool for teams and projects. Creative designers can reap benefits by using this tool to collaborate as well. Inded, it's optimised for creatives and is more like a one-stop solution for crafting concepts, managing projects, and providing feedback at any time.

The tool has recently added integration with free project management app Trello. This lets you link tasks organized in Trello with your visual designs, annotations, and mockups in Conceptboard.

10. GroupZap

 GroupZap
GroupZap is a simple board with a skeuomorphic-style layout

Think of this app as any whiteboard in a boardroom! GroupZap is a tool for you and your team to collaborate on ideas in real-time. It utilises a sticker system that is easy for anyone to use - you drop and move buttons and badges just like magnets on a whiteboard. It's definitely worth a try for brainstorming ideas.

11. Scribblar

 Scribblar
Scribblar is the only app here that also has live audio chat capabilities

Scribblar is more like a chat room - it even has audio available - and as such it is very useful indeed. Creative brainstorming and artwork revision can be collaborated in the 'room' you create. It's an effective online collaboration tool and is available for free.

12. BinFire

 BinFire
If you want an all-in-one project management collaboration tool, BinFire is the one

BinFire is an all-round project management tool. It's described as being designed for team project follow-ups and collaboration, but the whiteboard and markup function make it useful for designers too. If you are looking for a collaboration tools that have powerful project management feature, this is the one to try.

Words: Justin He

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