With the Covid 19 lockdown digital collaboration tools have had a huge take up and I am not sure any have had such a huge increase of use than Microsoft Teams (OK maybe Zoom!). I also think Microsoft Teams has probably spent more on advertising than anyone else although many people already had the potential to access teams through an Office 365 subscription.

I have not used the Windows client for MS Teams and find the Mac client is not very intuitive but it is great to see there is an official teams client for Linux. Indeed there are two in the Linux Mint repository.

Does anyone have any much expereince of the difference between the different clients on Windows, Mac and even Linux?

Google is not the only company that offers collaboration software online but they are expanding their services all the time and with their new social service Google+ they are moving into the area of Enterprise Social Collaboration. When looking at Google+ many people have made a direct comparison with Facebook and concluded that Google+ is failing when actually Google is adding additional tools to Facebook that may create a collaborative platform that could work for small teams and huge projects alike.

Although Google+ may become a great collaborative tool Google already have many great services that can be used for collaboration for teams and businesses. I have listed below the seven I think can be the most useful:

1 – Google Sites

Google’s website builder allows people without any knowledge of HTML or web design to create relatively simple sites quickly and easily. While currently it is not that popular for building your main business website it is a very useful tool to create sites for events, projects or a one-off requirement. You can have a custom domain URL such as mycompany.com or use the standard free URL’s such as https://sites.google.com/site/eduonair. For collaboration a Google site can have many users who can either view or edit content. Importantly the viewing of the site can be restricted to a small or large group which is very helpful if you are working a project either internally or involving external people. One of the best things about Google sites is that you can easily include other Google services within the site for example if you are using Google Groups, Google Calendar or any Google docs, all mentioned below, they can all be shown on the site giving you a central area for all project related information and services.

Link to Google Sites – https://sites.google.com/

Google Sites Example Screenshot

2 – Google Groups

Google’s group discussion software will allow you to create your own discussion or forum group where users can post comments or questions which other users can read, discuss, answer or comment on in a threaded conversation. A threaded conversation means that you will see all comments and updates on one discussion going down the page. One of the benefits of groups is that it can keep group discussions out of email and kept in a designated place making it easy to be very active in one discussion while being able to effectively ignore topics that do not interest you. But if you do like to be updated by email on discussions you can choose to receive email on group discussions either by an email for each post or a summary digest. The email options will allow a user to do all discussion by email without ever having to visit the group web page. Groups can be public or for collaboration can be private to only the members you invite. A Google Group could be used for many purposes including a specific event, project, subject or just for a group or team who need a space for online discussion. If you have used a Linkedin Group and then you could think of a Google Group as private (or public) Linkedin group. A Google group can also be shown on your own a Google site.

Google Groups Home Page
Google Groups Home Page

Link to Google Groups – https://groups.google.com/

3 – Google Docs

Google’s online office suite allows you to create and upload documents. The main two programs that many of us would use would be the word processor and spreadsheet. While neither the Google spreadsheet or word processor can compete on advanced functionality with the products of their Microsoft equivalents the Google products are great for collaboration and sharing. Documents are hosted online and can be shared, for viewing or editing, with a group of the document owners choice. You can collaborate on documents in realtime actually seeing other users type letter by letter and can have a chat window so editors can leave messages for each other. As well as a spreadsheet and word processor there is a presentation program similar to Powerpoint, a drawing program and math calculation. The last application worth a mention is an online form builder which can be used for creating web questionnaires which could be used for internal teams right through to being made available to all web users.

Link to Google Docs – https://docs.google.com/

4 – Google Calendars

A big part of team collaboration can be time management. Tracking where people were in the past, are at this present time and where they will be in the future can help manage projects. Time is the knowledge workers greatest asset and it’s not just for meetings and milestones that teams need to work on calendars together. Google Calendar is an online calendaring system that will allow you to share a calendar with a single person, a team or even the world. As with many of the apps we have already mentioned sharing can be set to read only or edit. There is also an option to show time as busy without detailing any information which is useful if you are not looking to share all of your calendar information. Being able to view all of a teams calendars is very useful but you can also create project or team specific calendars which can detail any time sensitive information such as deliverables or schedules.

Google Calendar Screenshot
Google Calendars can be shared publicly or privately

Link to Google Calendar – https://www.google.com/calendar

5 – Google+

This is Google’s answer to Facebook and social networking like Twitter but also it is so much more. In many ways Google+ could be the platform that glues all of the items in this list together making the project ‘joined up’. Google+ for businesses could be seen as an Enterprise Collaboration tool allowing you to communicate and collaborate with other team members quickly and easily. Two great features of Google + are Hangouts (mentioned below) and Circles. Circles allow you to easily add contacts to groups. So if you had a team for a specific project then you can add all of those people to a named circle so you could share information with just them. If you have more than one project team you could set a circle for each one and if there is someone who is a member of more than one group then they can be a member of more than one circle.

Google Plus for Team Collaboration
Google+ can be used for team collaboration

Link to Google+ – http://www.google.com/+/business/

6 – Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a new product which is part of Google+ their social site to rival Facebook. Essentially Google Hangouts is a video VOIP conversation (a bit like Skype) which can include a large or small group of people. As well as being an excellent way for disparate teams to meet and discuss their projects it is also adding even more collaborative tools such as sharing and working on a Google Doc (see above) directly in the hangout and also screen sharing allowing you to show your computer screen to a group of people on a hangout or for you to see someone else’s.

Google Hangouts for Business screenshot
Google Hangouts can be used for Business Collaboration

Link to Google Hangouts – http://www.google.com/tools/dlpage/res/talkvideo/hangouts/

7- Blogger

Blogger has been part of Google for many years. This blogging software allows anyone to quickly post information on to the web whether a web diary or a detailed information website. Blogger is a great tool for teams who want to post information on to a central site that could be seen by the group. Because commenting on a blog post is standard functionality within Blogger it can also be used for discussion on the posts that are uploaded. As with many of the systems mentioned above you could share a blog publicly or keep ir private just to team members.

Google Blogger Screenshot
Google Blogger for Collaboration

Link to Google Blogger – www.blogger.com

Note: To use any of these services you will need to have signed up to a Google Account whether this is a via your own email, a Gmail account or a Google Apps account.

If you are looking to get tools to help with your collaboration then Google has quite a bit to offer whether with just one of these solutions or by using a few of them for an integrated way

Google also of course provides email but it is my view that as useful as email can be that the tools above are better used for collaboration.