Best Free Document Collaboration Tools

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A great way to save time is the usage of some special programming. For example, if you need to develop a corporate website, which will be responsible for improving your brand and showing services, there are some best free document collaboration tools that can make it possible.

The best collaborative document editing tools are available for free. You’ll get the chance to see some of them detailed in this article as you find out what is a collaborative writing system and what is the difference between collaborative writing tools, social network and other document collaboration software. Be prepared to learn more on how they work, what they can do and which one you should choose when you need to collaborate with co-workers, family members or friends on documents.

Document collaboration tools are widely used by the individuals and businesses. Document sharing, tracking and editing are the most important tasks of document collaboration. Here, we have listed some of the best free online document sharing and editing tools that can be used to share documents online.

Document collaboration is a great way to reduce the time you spend working on projects. Online document collaboration can help teams work better and faster. Learn which are the best free document collaboration tools and how they can help your business succeed.

7 Essential Features For A Document Collaboration Software

Besides real-time editing functionality, here are seven essential features your document collaboration software should have:

1. Autosave

Most project management apps have an autosave feature that ensures teams don’t lose important information. Additionally, you won’t have to manually save the doc each time you make an edit. After all, we all know how forgetful we can get! 

2. Version control 

Version control is a document collaboration feature that lets team members revert back to previous versions of the doc. It ensures that your team doesn’t lose important info, especially during online collaboration. 

3. Edit tracking

This one’s pretty obvious

A collaboration tool should quite literally let you and your team keep track of any changes or edits that have been made to the document, along with who made them. 

4. Multiple formats

Your document collaboration software should support different file formats to ensure that you’re not limited to just one kind of document. Imagine being forced to always collaborate over spreadsheets, the horror!

5. Comments 

Commenting is a collaboration tool feature that lets you and your team members ask questions and provide feedback without altering the document. You can also use comments to assign tasks to one another easily. 

6. Mobile-friendly

Mobile accessibility is an integral feature of any collaboration app. It ensures team members have access to the online collaboration tool for remote work.

Imagine not being able to reach coworkers during a work emergency!

7. Large storage space

Document collaboration involves several people and documents, so of course, the collaboration tool you choose needs to have a lot of storage space. 

Discord

Discord bills itself as an all-in-one voice and text chat for gamers, and it’s clear why. In addition to the usual private and group DMs, Discord offers a new way of collaborating in real-time: Voice channels. Think of them as always-on radio channels to talk to your team. Loved by gamers, voice channels can also be an easier, less stressful way to collaborate remotely on shared documents. More importantly, Discord offers unlimited voice, video, and text chat—all for free!

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Image: Hacker Noon

Discord’s free plan

  • Unlimited users, messages, text and voice channels, and file sharing (individual file size < 8MB)
  • Unlimited video conferences with up to 10 participants + screen sharing
  • A cool Text-to-Speech function that reads out what you type!

Discord Nitro Classic lets you upload a GIF avatar, use custom emojis everywhere, and ups that pesky file size limit to 50MB – for $4.99 per user per month.

Zoho Cliq

Zoho Cliq lets you view multiple conversations—each in its own column—so you don’t have to shuffle back and forth between a channel discussion and a private chat with a colleague. Also, host video conferences with up to 100 participants on the free plan. 

Unsurprisingly, Cliq integrates smoothly with other Zoho apps, but there are also integrations for third-party services such as Asana, Wrike, and Zapier.

team-communication-cliqImage: Zoho

Cliq’s free plan

  • Unlimited users, messages, and channels (up to 100 members in each)
  • Video conferencing with up to 100 participants + screen sharing
  • 100GB storage for file sharing and 10K message history
  • 10 third-party app integrations

For $3 a user per month, Cliq Unlimited offers unlimited message search, ups file storage, and lets you connect up to 100 third-party integrations. It also unlocks the PrimeTime Assembly feature, so you can stream live video to as many as 10,000 participants.

Rocket.Chat

If on-premise software is a must, look no further than Rocket.Chat’s open-source team collaboration app. Easily deployed to on-premise or cloud servers, Rocket.Chat is free with zero restrictions on core functionality. It’s your server! Just one caveat: If there’s trouble, you’re probably on your own – the free plan doesn’t come with any web, email, or phone support, so be prepared to hunt through pages of technical documentation for any fixes.

Sample integration of a Drones Fleet Management SystemImage: GitHub

Rocket.Chat’s free plan

  • Unlimited users, messages, channels, video calls, and file sharing 
  • It’s open-source, customizable, and you own all your data (again, it’s your server)!
  • Inline message translations

Rocket.Chat offers cloud-based deployment plans with 24/7 email support at $2 a user per month.

Confluence

confluence homepage

Confluence is an online collaboration tool that focuses on keeping teams up to date and working efficiently. But just how confluent is this collaborative platform? 

Let’s find out.

Confluence key features

  • Meeting notes to help your team stay organized 
  • Compartmentalize client information for easy access
  • Comments and mentions for team collaboration 
  • Version control ensures information isn’t lost
  • New changes notifications to help teams stay updated

Confluence pros

  • Designated client info spaces 
  • Collaborators are informed whenever changes are made
  • Integrates with tools like Jira and Trello
  • Exports to various formats, like PDF and EPUB

Confluence cons

  • High dependency on plug-ins, rather than built-in features
  • Multiple users have to share one account, which can make it harder to track changes
  • Doesn’t support offline use

Confluence pricing

The pricing plan for this collaboration app starts at $5/user per month. 

Confluence user ratings

  • G2: 4.4/5 (1600+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.1/5 (4000+ reviews)

Google Docs

google docs homepage

Google Docs is a free document collaboration software that is super-popular for its autosave feature. This collaboration platform also offers smart editing and formatting options to help organize information easily.

Google Docs key features

  • Ready-made templates provide teams with quick formatting
  • Access multiple different sharing permissions over your Google Doc
  • The drawing feature lets you add unique drawings to your document
  • Autosave feature ensures your team doesn’t lose any critical info 
  • Find and replace functionality helps find terms quickly
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Google Docs pros

  • Easy to use interface
  • Has rich-text editing features
  • Integrates well with other Google apps
  • Import/export flexibility for document sharing

Google Docs cons

  • Requires internet connection unless you use the Chrome extension 
  • Doesn’t support PDF annotation
  • Difficult to use as a knowledge base system 

Google Docs pricing

The essential features for this team collaboration tool are available for free. For added functionality, paid plans start at $6/user per month.

Google Docs user ratings

  • G2: 4.7/5 (5000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.7/5 (22000+ reviews)

Microsoft OneDrive

microsoft onedrive homepage

OneDrive is a Microsoft cloud storage app that lets teams collaborate by storing and sharing files in the cloud. 

But will this tool actually drive your team to success? Let’s take a look:

Microsoft OneDrive key features

  • Cloud storage space for file sharing
  • Version control helps your team manage drafting and revisions
  • Comment notifications for real-time alerts
  • Permission management functionality
  • Document review and feedback collection features

Microsoft OneDrive pros

  • Easy onboarding 
  • Offers 5 GB of free file storage space and teams can earn more space through the referral incentive
  • Compatible with iOS, Chromium, Android, and Mac devices
  • Integrates with other Microsoft Office apps like Microsoft Teams

Microsoft OneDrive cons

  • Difficulty with proofing, editing, and sharing docs outside of Microsoft365
  • No built-in notepad functionality
  • Privacy concerns as it scans stored files for ‘objectionable content’

Microsoft OneDrive pricing

The team plans for this document collaboration tool starts at $5/user per month.  

Microsoft OneDrive user ratings

  • G2: 4.2/5 (7000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.4/5 (8000+ reviews)

BoxBox file sharing

Box is a secure document sharing and lives collaborative authoring tool used by top companies like Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Olympus.

In the past, Box was exclusively a file sharing and storage system, but it now allows simultaneous users to create and edit documents in Microsoft 365 and Google Docs.

It provides both internal and external document editing, has no user maximum, and offers unlimited document storage in the Box Drive. Edits are automatically saved, and each editor has color-coded notations and comments.

When compared to the other tools on this list, Box has the highest number of third-party app integrations.

It works with Salesforce, Zoom, popular Zoom alternatives, Slack, Microsoft 365, and over 1,400 other team collaboration platforms. This makes it an excellent option for teams that need to communicate over video or share their screens when making real-time edits together.

It’s also one of the few tools on this list capable of making video calls when integrated with Zoom.

Additional features include:

  • File and drive search bars
  • File locking and unlocking
  • Document version control
  • Offline document editing and access
  • Two-factor authentication
  • HITECH and HIPAA compliant

Pricing and Plans

Box has four paid Business Plans, each of which is paid on an annual or monthly basis. The majority of companies will be best served by the Business Plus plan.

FeaturesStarter PlanBusiness PlanBusiness Plus PlanEnterprise Plan
Cost$5.00/user per month$15.00/user per month$25.00/user per month$35.00/user per month
Storage100 GBUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
File Upload Limit2 GB5 GB5 GB5 GB
External CollaboratorsXXUnlimitedUnlimited
Real-Time Editing
Version HistoryUp to 255050100
iOS and Android Mobile App
Enterprise App IntegrationsX13Unlimited
Template LibraryXX

Dropbox PaperDropbox paper

Dropbox Paper is similar to Box’s collaboration system in that, in the past, Dropbox was solely a tool to store and share files.

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Dropbox Paper is a completely free document editing tool that lets simultaneous users make real-time edits and suggestions. As with Zoho WorkDrive, Dropbox Paper’s interface is uncluttered and free of distractions like menus and toolbars, which are only available when specific text is highlighted.

In addition to making live line edits, users can use the comment and tagging features to make suggestions in the sidebar. They can also mark comments as unread, and edit and delete past comments. Comment history is also available.

While primarily a file editing tool, Dropbox Paper also offers project timelines. This allows admins to manage deadlines, use task management features, and set project milestones to ensure responsibilities are clear.

It’s a good choice for businesses that require specific document outlines, have a high number of people collaborating on files, and those that rely heavily on images and URLs when creating content.

Additional Dropbox features include:

  • Real-time comment notifications
  • Searchbar
  • Pre-made template library
  • Keyboard shortcuts for document formatting
  • Emoji comment reactions
  • Drag-and-drop image insertion
  • Automatic image gallery creation
  • Link embedding
  • Ability to connect multiple documents

Paper is 100% free to use.

Bit.aiBit.ai comment tagging

Bit.ai is an end-to-end file collaboration platform with users in over 100 countries including well-known companies like Canon, MIT, and Accenture.

In addition to real-time editing, Bit.ai’s Integrated Smart Documents allow users to add content from Google Drive, cloud files, weblinks, SharePoint, Box, and more. Bit documents are compatible with numerous file types, including PowerPoints, Excel, Word, and more.

Users can also interlink documents for better file organization, and access smart document tracking during the review process. This provides information on engagement levels from external collaborators. For increased security, users can set expiration dates for internal and external files.

Files are organized by workspace and arranged in folders and subfolders. Wiki pages make finding past content and answering common questions simple. Unlimited document version history and tracked changes are also available.

Note, however, that it does not offer a chat messaging tool like Slack alternatives such as Chanty and Twist.

Bit.ai works well for teams that frequently reuse and repurpose past content, as well as businesses that frequently collaborate with editors outside of their organization.

Additional features include:

  • Co-authoring
  • Live line editing
  • Integration with Github, Miro, and social media platforms
  • Pre-made template library
  • Upload past content to new documents
  • Color-coded editing notifications
  • Mentions
  • Commenting features

Pricing and Plans

FeaturesFree PlanPro PlanBusiness PlanEnterprise Plan
CostFree$12/user per month$20.00/user per monthUnlisted
Maximum Collaborators5UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
File Limit5 MB200 MBUnlimitedUnlimited
Storage
Real-Time CollaborationX
Document StatisticsX
Inline CommentingX
Version HistoryX
File ExpirationXX
Real-Time NotificationsXX
App IntegrationsX

How we sourced our data

The research outlined in this article is sourced from 1.1 million page views of data, as of Jan 2022.

We grouped the articles into four cohorts:

  • <5.000 page views;
  • 5.000 – 50.000 page views;
  • 50.000 – 1.000.000 page views;
  • over 1.000.000 page views.

Sources used include review articles, comparison articles, and user reviews for each of the tools mentioned. Most articles come from specialized SaaS and tech publications with substantial experience in the industry, specifically software reviews.

Otherwise, for factual and up-to-date information, we consulted the blogs and other online assets owned by the mentioned tools’ developers.

Conclusion

Document collaboration is a great way to work with others on projects and communicate effectively. Collaboration tools, or document collaboration software help you to share content and information quickly and easily, so team members can stay up-to-date and in sync on their documents.

Many people are looking for the best free document collaboration tools for their team. The problem with that notion is that no definitive answer exists . It depends on your needs and collaboration style. Naturally, your best collaboration tools will depend on what you plan to achieve from the project. You may need something light weight and simple like Google Drive or Microsoft Office for an individual or group project – or something robust like Raiser’s Edge if you’re working with multiple teams who have different needs and goals.

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