The Way We Work
May 15, 2012 by Jenna Weiner

Thanks to today’s dazzling array of communication, collaboration and project management tools, working with people around the world has never been easier.

While most of us are familiar with standard tools such as Skype, Google Docs and Dropbox, there are dozens of new and exciting services out there to help you work smarter.

We recently asked our savvy social communities about their favorite online work tools — from services that allow you to share files and communicate instantly, to ones that help with task management and version control. Here are our favorites.

Communication and File-Share Tools

Skype was the uncontested winner in this category, as the most-suggested tool across Facebook, LinkdedIn and Twitter. (As Kevin on Facebook said, “Skype makes the world spin round.”)

Aside from its ability to connect people around the world in real time — through voice calls, video calls and instant messaging — many people also praised Skype’s ability to share screens and send files. Of course, the fact that it’s free doesn’t hurt, either.

A close second was Dropbox, a cloud-based file hosting and sharing service. Dropbox comes in particularly handy when sharing large files (or just a lot of them) with many people or across multiple computers. It operates on a freemium model, where you can pay for more storage space if needed.

Some suggested alternatives to Dropbox included SugarSync and MediaFire, while Sendspace — suggested by Nishantha on Facebook — is a similar option that allows you to send, receive and track large files.

Here are some other favorite tools:

  • ScheduleOnce: According to Angela on Twitter, this meeting and appointment scheduling tool is “very easy,” free, and can be incorporated into Google Calendar. This is particularly useful for group meetings spanning multiple time zones.
  • MeetingBurner: Mouhsine on Facebook suggested this free online meeting and webinar tool, which offers features such as autopilot meetings, Paypal integration and meeting analytics.

Project/Task Management Tools 

Once again, there was a clear winner in this category — Basecamp. This web-based project management and collaboration service features team discussion boards, to-do lists, a file repository, a calendar and more. It does come at a price though, ranging from $20 to $150 per month. Other favorites included:

  • Asana: This team-oriented task management tool was called “hands down one of the best and free project management tools freelancers can use” by former oDesk blogger Stephanie. It also got rave reviews from Menjil on Twitter, who said, “Asana is the best! It makes my day more productive.”
  • Wunderlist: This free task manager — which syncs with iPhones, Androids, and iPads in addition to its software version and web app — was suggested by Hassan on LinkedIn. Its sibling, Wunderkit, is a more robust version with collaborative workspaces, similar to Asana.
  • Other runners-up include Flow and Freedcamp (both from Tristan on Facebook), Teambox (from Rojan on Facebook), and Trello (another suggestion from Mouhsine on Facebook).

Tech Tools

While Github emerged as the obvious favorite, Teamviewer was not far behind. There were also some other great suggestions:

  • Sublime Text: Pavel on Twitter said he is a fan of this text editor for code, html and prose.
  • Redmine: This project management web application, written using Ruby on Rails, was suggested by Лёха on Facebook.
  • Beyond Compare: Porrapat, also on Facebook, suggested Beyond Compare, which allows you to compare files and folders, merge changes and easily synchronize.

Screen-Capture and Image-Share Tools

  • Jing: This screenshot and screencast software was one of the most popular suggestions. Not only does it take screenshots, but it also records up to five minutes of onscreen video.
  • SnagIt: This similar tool (both are made from TechSmith) has more features and functionality than Jing, but it also carries a price tag. Xy-Za on Facebook said the tool “allows me to prepare short videos for tutorials, which I can easily share in screencast or download the video and send it to the client in no time.”
  • Greenshot: This free, open-source screenshot tool is another favorite of Hassan on LinkedIn. It allows you to annotate or highlight screenshots, and provides a variety of sharing options.

Miscellaneous Tools

  • Google Docs: You can’t discuss collaborative working without mentioning Google Docs. This was a consistent favorite across all three social channels because it allows you to easily share documents with people around the world. You can even simultaneously write, edit and comment on the documents together — and anyone who has seen text getting added and deleted by another team member in front of their eyes can attest to the magic of Google Docs.
  • Evernote: While this could fit into the file-sharing category, it could also fit into the task management category. Regardless of where it lands, this cloud-based note-taking tool was a popular suggestion. It works with notes, images, screensnaps and voice recordings, syncing them all across each of your devices and making them searchable. It’s free for a basic account — and yours truly could not live without it, for whatever that’s worth.
  • Pomodoro Technique: Looking to improve your productivity? oDesk’s Staff Economist John Horton suggested the Pomodoro Technique, a time management strategy created by Francesco Cirillo. (I would take his word for it — he is one productive guy.)
  • DisplayFusion: Does your work setup include multiple monitors? DisplayFusion — suggested by Florante on Facebook — allows you to make the most out of your setup, with features such as multi-monitor taskbars, title-bar buttons and fully customizable hot keys. 

Did we miss any great tools? Are you particularly passionate about any of the above? Let us know in the comments section below!

Jenna Weiner

Content Marketer

Jenna Weiner is the former content marketing manager at oDesk and was the editor-in-chief of the oDesk blog. With a background in business and technology writing, she specializes in content marketing and strategy, public relations, and branding. Before joining oDesk, Jenna was a writer and editor for Monitor Group’s marketing department (now Monitor Deloitte) and was the Business & Technology Section Editor for Brafton Inc.… read more