Since both 39 and Fifth Layer (the company behind SyncPad) are completely distributed, I’ve been dealing with remote collaboration for the past few years. Heck, SyncPad itself was born out of the need of a better tool to visually collaborate remotely. Here’s a list of some of the tools I found helpful when dealing with remote teams:
SyncPad (link →)
I know, I know, it’s a shameless plug but I do use it almost every day when collaborating with the rest of the team. Sure, it will never truly reproduce the experience of a real meeting room whiteboard, but at the same time it has some features that its real life equivalent doesn’t have. For those who don’t know SyncPad, it’s a whiteboard application that allows you to share and collaborate with drawings, images and PDFs and works on iOS, Android and browsers.
HipChat (link →)
We tried several group chats in the past few years, including 37 Signals’ Campfire, but HipChat ended up being the winner. They just released a native app for Mac OS to replace the old Air application. Big win. Their mobile clients still suck but we hope Atlassian–they recently acquired HipChat–will make some improvements on that front as well.
Skype (link →)
I don’t think I need to introduce Skype to anyone. It’s still the quickest way to get a call started from my Mac. It has plenty of bugs I could complain about (like switching the audio input every time I plug my headphones) but it’s still better than any other alternative. HipChat has a video conference feature but it feels buggy and everyone already has Skype installed anyway.
Asana (link →)
While we tried for a while both Pivotal Tracker and Trello, we settled on Asana because of its flexibility. It won’t give you the classic kanban view, but it suited better our way to work and it’s a better choice when it comes to use it for regular tasks. You really need to feel comfortable with the tool you use to manage your tasks, since this will be most likely the center of your operations.
Idonethis (link →)
One thing I often do when I connect in the morning is to check with everyone all the progresses made the day before. It’s very hard to keep the pulse on what everyone is working on, especially when working at very different hours through out the day. Idonethis is a very simple tool that allow everyone to email every evening a list of all the accomplishments of the day and you’ll get a digest that shows you the team’s accomplishments from the day before.
Dropbox (link →)
Simply the best way to share files within the team. We just have a common folder where we save files and assets we need to share.
GitHub (link →)
If you have anything to do with software development and don’t know about Github, shame on you. GitHub is a web-based hosting service for projects that use the Git revision control system. Lately I’ve been using Bitbucket as well for some other projects, definitely a solid alternative (it’s also cheaper).
Hackpad (link →)
While we often still use Google Docs, I’d like to give this spot to Hackpad. I personally like it better, also because it allows to easily connect other documents and mentions (a-la Twitter) other users. I’m also getting tired of Google everything, so alternatives are always welcome.