Tools for working on projects online.

Tools for working in on-line projectsIf you are working on a project and you and the other project members find yourselves at opposite ends of the world, or if you work from abroad, these tools for working on online projects are essential.

Thanks to the internet the world is communicating more. The ease with which can connect via the web is creating new work possibilities and new work forms and customs: Today it is possible to work on projects where team members are separated by thousands of kilometers.

However, it can be difficult to establish efficient and fluid communication with project co-workers- this may hinder the efficient organisation and development of the project.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is quite a controversial tool as far as working methods go, however personally it has proven handy in certain moments, especially when finding myself in places with a terrible internet connection or where some of the participants were not working in their mother tongue. In addition in certain cases it is more convenient to be able to exchange comments from time to time while one is working rather than sending an e-mail full of little notes.

A piece of advice: I usually temporarily save these conversation- this way i avoid stopping my work-flow to take notes (which saves me time) , allowing me to go back to these conversations at a later point in time. This is an effective measure to decrease the probability of errors.

In terms of which tools specifically may be used: although most people use Microsoft Messenger, I prefer Adium (for Mac), which integrates my hotmail, yahoo and gmail accounts in appearance and that I can work with all of them at once. Skype is another tool that is used a lot because it is very practical: along with its use as instant messenger it instantly also allows audio and video conferences, as well allowing you to share what you are seeing with the caller on a common screen.

E-Mails

Although it s a well-known tool I want to stress how important it is to stop an think a moment before writing the subject line of the E-Mail. This may seem obvious but is often overlooked (writing “hello” as subject is not very clever). Writing a fitting subject line helps when searching for the E-Mail in future.

In addition I recommend using programs which permit desktop E-mail download and management such as Outlook or Mail (for Mac), allowing for faster access to E-Mail even when not connected to the internet. Another advantage of these types of programs is that they notify you of new E-Mails immediately upon arrival, which means that you don’t have to constantly check your account (this helps not waste time and to not forget E-Mails by marking them as unread).

Calendars

Google has created Google Calendar for the sharing of calendars. I consider this as a seriously practical tool because it allows you to create a project calendar and share it with the other project members.

If you are using a program such as iCal you can add your project calendar along with others that you have and always have them synchronised with modifications that your co-workers might have made. In this way you will always stay on top of meetings and delivery times throughout each project phase.

Documents

I am going to mention two tools: Google Docs and Evernote

Google docs is a free tool which allows you to create, share and edit of documents online.

Evernote is an application which allows you to create notes(with images, PDF or web pages) and files which you can share with your team members via internet.The program is in charge of synchronising the shared file on your computer with those saved on the Evernote server. There are two options to choose from: the free or paid version.

File Sharing

If you need to share large files and if Evernote may seem a bit limited then you can open a Dropbox account. With Dropbox you get 2 and 8GB of free server space (which for pay is) expandable up to 100GB. This application allows you to share contents of a specific file with the contacts of your choice.

In case the free option can’t accommodate the size of your project, either because of the volume of tasks, the number of people involved in the project or other technical reasons don’t be discouraged, there are more options out there!

A Private Project Intranet

If you have a server with enough free space withe PHP and MySQL you can create a subdomain (yourproject.yournet.com) where you can install a private intranet for the project (or if the project is too big you can always pay for a project server).

In this private net you can connect the project members by using a username and password- you can integrate anything you like: chats, conferences, files, calendars, user profiles with different permissions, etc.

Suipit

Suipit is a web application allowing you to manage your project. It posesses many options depending on the plan selected. This may be a good (and cost-efficient) option for projects on a bit of a larger scale. I have used the free version but due to my personal way of working it seemed a bit slow to me. The paid version will surely work quicker.

Other applications

The task managers Toodledo or “Remember the milk“ are two applications which manage project to-do lists. Personally they have not proven useful to me, however maybe they will prove useful to somebody else.

I hope that these tools will help make your long-distance projects easier and more productive.

Javier Acebal

About the author: Javier Acebal

I'm a photographer based in Dakar (West Africa). I love to document cultures and people! (but also working for tourism industry).

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