Looking for a free document collaboration software to get work done swiftly? Check out our picks for the best free document collaboration tools on the market right now…
Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have found ourselves working remotely.
While the shift to remote work has been an essential one, many teams are finding it difficult to collaborate remotely and get work done quickly.
It’s no surprise that most of our daily work revolves around documents- from meeting notes and product roadmap to marketing brochures and support docs.
However, working on documents when your peers are working from home is tough. This is where a document collaboration platform comes in.
But before we dive into the amazing free document collaboration software that are out there, let us first understand what we mean by a document collaboration tool and why such platforms are important for the modern workforce.
What is Document Collaboration: Document Collaboration Meaning
Document collaboration is the process by which multiple people work on the same document simultaneously.
It involves online document sharing and editing and is facilitated by a document collaboration tool.
A document collaboration tool is software that allows multiple users to create and co-edit documents simultaneously over the internet.
Such software tools are usually cloud-based and make use of the internet to allow teams to collaborate on documents without having to be present in the same room.
Before such tools existed, collaboration happened via email where teammates had to attach docs in an email and communicate changes.
This often lead to a lot of back-and-forth and inefficiency.
Such an approach was not document-centric as the discussions regarding documents occurred on an email thread and not the document itself.
Modern-day document collaboration software changed all of that, making the document, the centerpiece of all communication and collaboration.
A typical document collaboration tool has the following features:
- Ability to co-edit documents with peers
- Document access permissions
- Version history and track changes made to documents
- Real-time alerts
- Ability to store documents in different folders and/or workspaces
Benefits of a Document Collaboration Software
According to a 2018 survey by Nintex, 39% of knowledge workers observe broken document management within their organization. According to the report:
- 43% of workers have difficulty sharing documents
- 49% have trouble locating documents
- 43% struggle with document approval requests
- 33% struggle with document versioning
A good document collaboration software solves all of those problems and more.
There are many reasons why using online document collaboration software is useful for your business. Some of these include:
#1. Better collaboration
As more and more employees prefer to work from home, the need for technological solutions to facilitate remote work becomes all the more important.
A document collaboration tool provides a virtual space for employees to come together under a single roof and get work done efficiently.
This, in turn, leads to better online collaboration amongst team members who can create, share, and store documents in one central location,
#2. Improved office efficiency
Without an online document collaboration tool, employees are bound to share and review documents via email.
However, sharing emails to discuss documents and files is as inefficient as it can get. In fact, a 2018 survey by Adobe found that people on average spend more than five hours per day checking their email!
The survey also revealed that Email continues to be the chosen way to ask co-workers a quick question (39%), provide feedback (47%), or provide a status update (57%).
It’s high time that employees start using a document collaboration software to review documents and spend less time in dreaded email threads.
#3. Keep track of changes and versions
As changes are made to a document, there’s a lot of email exchanges for feedback and approval.
Sooner or later, you find yourself wondering whether you are even working on the current version of the document or not.
Online document collaboration software solve this email problem handsomely.
Many online document collaboration software have features like version control where colleagues can see which version of the document they are working on and can revert to a previous version if necessary.
Another common feature includes real-time updates of the changes made to a document, keeping every team member in the loop.
#4. Faster Editing & Approval
A document collaboration tool supercharges the document editing and approval process.
Without a document collaboration tool, one would send documents via email/Slack, asking their managers for feedback and suggestions.
This would result in a lot of back-and-forths and unproductive communication.
On the other hand, if your company uses a document collaboration tool, employees can simply invite others to a document and ask for their feedback.
Peers can then highlight, annotate, comment, and approve documents promptly.
Once the changes are made, team members can notify each other by @mentioning them in the doc. No doubt an online document collaboration tool improves workflow and reduces inefficiencies in the approval process.
#5. Enhances Brainstorming
An online document collaboration tool becomes your company’s single point of collaboration and communication.
Managers can easily invite team members from different departments on the same doc and work together.
This often leads to ideas being exchanged as having everyone under one roof breaks down departmental silos and leads to better brainstorming.
#6. Quick access to information
Another great benefit of a document collaboration tool is the quick access to information it provides.
A document collaboration software acts as a central repository to store all docs, files, and media.
This, in turn, makes it extremely easy for colleagues to find and access information. This is why many businesses use a document collaboration tool as their internal wiki as well.
Since most document collaboration tools work in the cloud, employees can access their files no matter where they are in the world.
Say goodbye to pesky USB sticks and hard drives! Just log in to your document collaboration platform and you’re good to go!
#7. Access Permissions
Emails can be accidentally sent to the wrong person. However, a document collaboration tool makes sure that the content reaches only the person it is shared with.
Many document collaboration tools give users the ability to restrict access to certain files. Employees can further restrict someone from editing a doc and give them ‘read only’ permission.
This provides better security to your data and makes sure only the right person has access to organizational info.
#8. No distractions
The average inbox is filled with a ton of noise. This is why sharing updates and feedback over email or Slack can be inefficient and distracting.
A document collaboration tool removes all distractions as it brings you and your team inside one document and focus on the task at hand.
As you can see from the above-mentioned points, there are numerous benefits to having a document collaboration tool in your arsenal.
In fact, according to an Alfresco survey, 83% of professionals depend on technology to collaborate.
So, without wasting any more time, let’s quickly explore some of the best document collaboration tools on the market right now…
10 Free Document Collaboration Software on the Market in 2021!
Here are our top picks for the best free document collaboration software out there:
Collaboration Tool #1: Zoho Workdrive
Zoho is an India-based online office suite that provides a ton of tools to make your work-life easy.
Zoho Workdrive is Zoho’s free document collaboration software that gives users a secured workspace to collaborate.
Work drive allows you to store, manage, and share work files easily. Different departments can create separate work folders to keep their files organized and safe.
With the ability to set permissions, managers can make sure teams have access to exactly what they need.
Workdrive has a fully-featured office suite- Writer for creating and co-editing documents, Sheet for analyzing complex data, and Show for creating amazing presentations.
Other notable features include an unlimited version history, a draft feature, a check-in/check-out feature to lock documents to avoid unnecessary editing, monitoring team activity, and more.
Some key features of Zoho Workdrive include:
- Smart search to look for documents using the file name, creator, or with a keyword from the document.
- Share files with external clients with a password or a link expiration date.
- Access team files without downloading them onto your desktop using Truesync.
- Free plan with 15 GB storage
- Paid plan starts from: Starter ($2.50 per user/month), Team ($5 per user/month), Business ($10 per user/month), Enterprise (contact sales for pricing).
Collaboration Tool #2: Google Docs
Kicking off our list is one of the most popular document collaboration software – Google Docs.
A free document collaboration software by Google, Google Docs allows you to collaborate with your peers and work on the same doc simultaneously.
Simply sign in with your Gmail ID and you’re good to go. Since Google Docs works in the cloud, there’s no need to download software or worry about saving your documents on your PC.
Google Docs, just like Microsoft Word, has a top bar loaded with all of your formatting buttons.
If you have used Microsoft Word on your PC, you will have no problem getting used to Google Docs.
With collaboration features built-in, adding your co-workers to a doc is as simple as sharing a link.
You can invite co-workers or friends to co-edit documents, add feedback and suggestions, and leave remarks via the comment stream.
The platform provides 15GB of cloud storage on its free plan. However, you can upgrade to a paid account if you need more storage.
All in all, Google Docs is a great free online document collaboration software for individuals and small teams.
Some key features of Google Docs include:
- Familiar interface
- Works on the cloud, mobile, tablets, and even without an internet connection.
- Chat and comment with teammates.
- Free plan with 15 GB storage
- Paid plan starts from: Business starter ($6 per user/month), Business standard ($12 per user/month), Business plus ($18 per user/month), Enterprise (contact sales for pricing).
Collaboration Tool #3: Dropbox Paper
Another free document collaboration software on our list is Dropbox Paper.
A free product by the file-storage giant Dropbox, Paper wants to bring your files and teammates, together in one document.
Dropbox paper brings your collaboration inside a doc, where you can create to-dos, assign tasks, mention people, and work done.
Users can give feedback and suggestions on a particular section of the doc by annotating and adding comments.
Teammates can create media-rich documents as they can add a Youtube video, Soundcloud music, Google Maps, Pinterest boards, and more and display them visually inside the document.
Users can add a collaborator to a doc or share it with someone by clicking on the “share” button and invite them to view or edit the document via a custom link.
The platform also has robust templates- from brainstorming and creative briefs to meeting minutes and roadmap.
In the end, Dropbox Paper is a light-weight and worthy document collaboration tool for remote teams.
Some key features of Dropbox Paper include:
- Tons of templates to quickly get started with the platform
- Rich media embeds for documents
- Assign tasks, add due dates, comment, and chat with teammates.
- Free to use
Collaboration Tool #4: Notion
The ‘all-in-one workspace’ for your remote team, Notion is next up on our list of free document collaboration software.
Valued at over 2 billion dollars, Notion is making waves in the document collaboration market.
Thanks to its generous free plan and a simple UI (user interface), Notion has managed to garner over 4 million users since its inception in 2013.
The crux of Notion revolves around its massive template library. Team wikis, product roadmap, meeting notes, applicant tracker, content calendar, mood board, reading list, user research, Sales CRM, competitive research, task lists, help center, and much, much more.
Users can quickly create a workspace, invite co-workers or friends, and start c-editing documents together.
You can embed over 500+ tools like Google Drive, Slack, Figma, Google Docs, Typeform, Github, etc inside Notion pages and bring all your work under a single workspace.
I have been using Notion for over a year for personal documentation and it has been a lifesaver. It’s easily one of my favorite tools on this list for documentation.
However, if you have a group of people wanting to edit the same document in real-time, there are better tools than Notion out there.
Some key features of Notion include:
- Free for personal use with all the features
- Hundreds of templates to make every task easy
- Workspaces can be customized according to one’s needs.
- Free for personal use.
- Paid plan starts from: Personal pro ($4/month), Team ($8 per user/month), Enterprise (contact sales for pricing).
Collaboration Tool #5: Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word has been around for over 3 decades and still continues to be the go-to word processor for the average user.
With the growing needs of the consumer, Microsoft has evolved the good old Word and supplemented it with an online version.
The classic Word editor can now be used over the cloud, without having to download any software onto your computer.
Simply sign up with your email or phone number and you are good to go.
If you have used the classic Word, you would have absolutely no problem getting a hang of the online version. You have the classic ribbon-style toolbar at the top to format and edit text.
To keep Word up-to-date with competitors, Microsoft has added collaborative features to its editor.
This allows remote teams to create and edit documents simultaneously, no matter where they are in the world.
If you have a diverse workforce, you can easily translate documents into your non-native language with just a click.
Microsoft Word Online has over 40 templates to jumpstart your documents and is also equipped with dedicated Android and iOS apps.
Some key features of Microsoft Word Online include:
- Co-author documents in real-time
- Familiar interface.
- Tons of templates.
- Free plan available
- Paid plan starts from: Office 365 Business ($10 per user/month), Office 365 Business Premium ($15 per user/month), Office 365 Business Essentials ($6 per user/month).
Collaboration Tool #6: Onlyoffice
Onlyoffice offers a range of productivity and office apps. Apart from spreadsheets and PowerPoint tools, Onlyoffice also has a powerful collaborative document editor.
The platform provides two co-editing modes – real-time or paragraph-locking.
Simply go to the collaboration tab, add team members to your doc, and give them access permission.
You can use the built-in chat or Telegram to communicate with co-workers while editing docs or leave comments and suggestions.
Users can also track changes made to any document using the ‘track changes’ mode.
A great feature of Onlyoffice Docs is the ability to compare two documents and see the differences. You can then accept or reject changes or can merge changes into one single document.
Onlyoffice supports a wide variety of doc formats including PDF, TXT, DOC, DOCX, ODT, and HTML.
You can connect a cloud storage service with Onlyoffice to store your documents and spreadsheets in one place. Connect Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and OwnCloud with one click and store docs easily.
Some key features of Onlyoffice include:
- Apps for Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, and Android.
- View doc word count, replace words, merge documents, view version history, track changes, and more.
- Different co-editing modes to suit your needs.
- Free plan for 30 days
- Paid plan starts from: Home server ($149 for 10 users), Single server ($1200 for 50 simultaneous connections), Cluster (contact sales).
Collaboration Tool #7: Quip
Quip is part of the CRM giant Salesforce. A team collaboration platform, Quip combines documents, spreadsheets, and chat, all in one place.
Quip documents allow live editing and real-time collaboration amongst team members. With offline mode, you can work on docs even without an internet connection.
Quip documents also come equipped with access permissions and version history.
Need to give suggestions or feedback, use the in-built chat to communicate with co-workers without the to-and-fro emails.
Since Quip is part of the Salesforce ecosystem, teams can connect their Salesforce account and integrate their docs and spreadsheet data.
The tool also offers Android and iOS apps to take your work with you and even work offline. A great document collaboration tool indeed.
Some key features of Quip include:
- Use chat anywhere in the doc or spreadsheet while collaborating
- Easy integration with Salesforce
- Version history and access permissions
- Free trial available
- Paid plan starts from: Quip starter ($10 per user/month), Quip plus ($25 per user/month), Salesforce anywhere advanced ($100 per user/month).
Collaboration Tool #8: Confluence
Calling itself a ‘remote-friendly team workspace’, Atlassian Confluence is next up on our list. Everything in Confluence revolves around ‘pages’ and ‘spaces’.
Pages are nothing but documents that teammates can create, co-edit, and work on simultaneously.
On the other hand, spaces are places that contain pages for individuals, teams, and projects.
Team members can edit documents in real-time, add inline, file, and page comments, and leave feedback on a document.
Managers can even alert teammates in case they tag them in a doc or assign them a task.
Confluence wants to be the ‘single-source of truth’ for your teams by allowing you to build robust knowledge bases.
Users can quickly search any file or document and get work done swiftly. Confluence was named the #1 knowledge management software on Capterra.
From marketing and sales to product management and customer support, Confluence has a plethora of templates to help you do your work efficiently.
If your team already uses Jira and HipChat by Atlassian, Confluence is a nice add-on.
Some key features of Confluence include:
- Integrates with JIRA, Box, Google Drive, Lucidchart, Miro, and more.
- Used by over 60,000 customers worldwide including companies like Hubspot and Audi.
- 75 customizable templates to kickstart work.
- Free plan for 10 users
- Paid plan starts from: Standard ($5 per user/month), TeamPremium ($10 per user/month), Enterprise (contact sales for pricing).
Collaboration Tool #9: Slite
Next on the list is Slite, the tool that wants to put clarity at the center of your team.
A knowledge management platform, Slite keeps all your documents organized in separate folders and workspaces.
You can either start from scratch or can use one of Slite’s numerous templates. Users can even import their existing documents from Google Drive, Quip, Evernote, and more.
Remote teams can co-edit documents, @mention anyone to get their attention, or invite external clients as guests for short-term projects.
With fast and reliable search, finding documents is just one click away.
Slite has rich documents, meaning that you cna embed anything- from a Google Spreadsheet to a YouTube video inside a document and make them interactive.
If you are a heavy user of Slack, you can share documents directly from Slite to Slack channels using the “/Slite” command.
All in all, Slite is a great free document collaboration software for remote teams, especially if your focus is on knowledge management.
Some key features of Slite include:
- Integrates with Figma, Google Drive, Asana, Github, Trello, and more.
- Rich embeds that make your documents interactive
- Easy organization of information.
- Free plan for 100 documents
- Paid plan starts from: Standard ($6.67 per user/month), Enterprise (contact sales for pricing).
Collaboration #10. Nuclino
The last tool on our list is Nuclino. A knowledge management platform, Nuclino wants to be your team’s collective brain.
Nuclino is a simple yet powerful tool that allows you to create a company wiki, knowledge base, or simply store company documents in a central location.
Users can create private and public workspaces to store their documents. Employees can simultaneously work on a document and see who’s editing what.
Create rich documents by adding files, code blocks, images, videos, tasks, and more inside a document.
Nuclino allows you to view your documents and items in different views- the ‘recent‘ view shows all the recently updated items, the ‘board’ view lets you track your items in a workflow, while the ‘graph’ view creates a mind map of your items.
The platform also has powerful search functionality that quickly lets you find the piece of info you are looking for.
Some key features of Nuclino include:
- Different ways to view items (board view, graph view, etc)
- Simple and easy to use and organize info
- Works great as an internal wiki.
- Free plan for 50 items
- Paid plan starts from: Standard ($5 per user/month)
There are many free document collaboration software on the market that can solve all your collaboration worries. It all boils down to your budget, your requirements, and your personal preference.
You cannot go wrong with any of the above-mentioned document collaboration software. Just try them out one by one and see which one fits your needs the best. Good luck!
Did we miss out on your favorite collaboration tool for business? Do let us know by commenting below!