Since I’m in the business of remote collaboration, I’ve attempted numerous different ways to collaborate with remote teams over the past year and a half.
These have included a variety of both synchronous and asynchronous methods including voice calls, Skype calls, Yahoo Messenger, Jabber, Webex, oDesk Share, chat conferences, email lists, webcams, and screensnaps. Screensnaps (or web-based screenshots – see example here: http://url.odesk.com/y0ut ) have become one of my favorite tools for communicating with remote individuals. What I’ve found interesting in the last few months is that it’s become the tool of choice even for communication within our own office. They are extremely efficient in quick communication of bugs, ideas, spreadsheets, documents, UI designs, and more. I’ve found that it’s a great replacement for emailing files around for feedback, since often I just need feedback from a peer on one particular aspect of a spreadsheet. I can take a screensnap, ping the URL to my colleague through chat, and get the feedback immediately through our chat conversation. It’s also the best tool that I’m aware of for reporting bugs – I could of course take a full-size screenshot, turn it into a .jpg, and email it to QA; but it’s much faster and easier to take a screensnap and send just the URL.
Another important metric that we track at oDesk is the usage of all of the tools within the suite of management tools that we provide. Within our own company, screensnaps have gone up in usage more than any other feature over the past several months. This is nice confirmation that it is indeed one of the most effective collaboration tools out there today. Check out our usage statistics over the past 6 months. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least used features by our other users, and I believe that many more users could benefit from using this feature.
If you want to use screensnaps, you must have either oDesk Team or Share running on your computer, and then click Ctrl-Alt-S to capture the entire screen or Ctrl-Alt-A to capture just the active window (default settings – you can change the shortcuts in the Preferences menu). This will upload the screenshot along with your comments to a secure server and automatically copy the URL into your clipboard. Just hit Ctrl-V in an email or chat to send the URL to someone else for their review. Alternatively, you can right-click on the systray icon of either client application and select ScreenSnap.