Month: August 2014

Best Tools for Distance Collaboration

Best Tools for Collaboration

When half your staff is here and the other half are scattered around the country on assignment, you’ve got to have ways to stay connected.

Dropbox

It’s simple, elegant, and very effective. Dropbox may not have as many features as other file-sharing programs, but it’s good at what it does. Dropbox is a cloud-based drive where you can store and share virtually any kind of file, music and movie clips included. If you’re looking for a simple and secure platform to keep documents, you really don’t need to look further. Since your files are stored in a cloud, you don’t need to be at a specific computer to access them. You can get to your documents from any computer (or smartphone) at any time. Dropbox also has desktop access capabilities – if you install the application onto your PC you can get to your files even if you’re offline. The drawback: it’s free, but only up to a certain point. When you reach the capacity of your free Dropbox account, you’ll either need to delete files or pay to get more storage space.

Google Drive

There’s a reason so many people use it. If you want a step up from the file-sharing capabilities of Dropbox, Google Drive is a free and easy way to collaborate in real time with everyone you’ve shared your project with. (And when we say real time, we mean real time. You can watch words and edits appear before your eyes as colleagues move through the documents.) Google Drive allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, slides, and more, making it a great tool to collaborate. It also has chat capabilities – you can chat with any and all people on the document with you, enabling faster communication. And if you can’t remember what’s been done or who’s edited what, you can go through the history of your project for up-to-the minute details.

Skype

Though Skype might be more readily associated with long-distance lovers and college study-abroad students calling home, Skype has no limit to its uses, and can be a great business tool for communicating with your staff.

Basecamp

Basecamp knows its users well – they’ve been in business for 15 years! Basecamp is project management software that has nearly everything you need and allows for real-time collaboration. It operates on the metaphor of a sheet of paper. You start with a blank page and build from there. You can invite people, create a calendar, create subprojects, upload and open nearly every type of file, and create threads for discussion. If you’re on-site and your staff is back at the office, you can upload pictures from your phone and communicate in real time. Since everything is in the cloud (what isn’t these days?) you can access the site from anywhere. These kind of capabilities don’t come cheap, but they are well-worth it.

Great Creative Programs

Great Creative Programs

Nothing spiffs up your website or event schedule like cool graphics and infographics. Read on to find the programs best for you.

Good – visual.ly

Visual.ly takes the hard work out of designing and produces beautiful infographics very quickly. Simply use its user-designed templates and input your data. Visual.ly also offers infographics based on your social media use. If you like your Facebook or Twitter to the site, it will create a fun graphical representation of your activity. Visual.ly is also a repository for public/government data and pre-made infographics on just about any subject you can think of. If you need to spice up a blog post or report quickly, infographics from Visual.ly can be incredibly helpful and aesthetically pleasing.

Better – GIMP

If you want the basic tools of Adobe Photoshop at no cost, you may want to check out GIMP, an image manipulation software compatible with almost every mainstream operating system. GIMP will help you to create simple graphics and edit photos using the same basic tools as Photoshop and more expensive programs. It allows for photo retouching and color correction. It takes up a lot less space on a hard drive than a professional program does, and is easier to learn. However, it’s color capabilities aren’t suited for print media, and its open-source platform mean less user support (you didn’t pay for it) and more bugs.

Best – Adobe Creative Suite

We’ll just say this right off the bat: the Adobe Suite is professional software, and it is pricey. But this high-end, versatile software is well worth the money if you know how to use it to your advantage. Once you and your team are trained to use it, you’ll be able to design page layouts, vector graphics, webpages, videos, and more. Use Adobe Illustrator to create infographics to your exact specifications. These files are vectors, which means that you can make the poster or images as large or small as you like without losing definition and clarity. For photos, use Adobe Photoshop to edit and manipulate images for online use and for printing. However, the programs have a fairly steep learning curve, and you’ll likely want to take a class or two to learn how to use them. Buying these programs will require a large investment, but the returns can be huge if you use it right. But if you aren’t a designer, and don’t want to be, purchasing these programs isn’t likely to benefit your business.