Best online document collaboration software tools

Ten years ago, workplace collaboration most likely involved sending multiple copies of different documents back and forth between staff members, with various versions and printouts causing undoubted chaos.

Now, with the proliferation of cloud document storage, there are multiple options available to companies looking to give their employees a simple hub for sharing and collaboration, from taking and sharing meeting notes, to allowing entire finance teams to simultaneously work on spreadsheets.

Read next: The best enterprise collaboration software of 2017

Here are the best options for real-time document collaboration.

Google Docs
© Google

Google Docs

Google's simple cloud-based tools - Docs for word processing, Sheets for spreadsheets and Slides for presentations - were built for real-time collaboration.

In Google Docs, for example, you can start from a meeting notes template, invite team members to join the document using their email address and leave in-line comments down the right-hand side of the document.

There is a full revision history to look at past versions of a document and simple sharing and download options. All content is discoverable through a search bar.

Read next: 13 Google Sheets tips for businesses | How to use Google Sheets for business

In practice, Docs is an intuitive word processing tool that looks and feels like a light version of Microsoft Word, with some simple formatting options.

Pricing: The whole G Suite of products, which includes email, is the most reasonable on this list at £6.60 per user per month for business customers and includes unlimited cloud storage in Google Drive.

Zoho Docs
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Zoho Docs

Zohois an up-and-comer compared to the likes of Google and Microsoft Office, yet it's fast gaining traction among enterprise customers for its sleek and intuitive product suite.

It offers a reasonably priced option for email, a range of collaboration tools, and an ever expanding range of features for a number of industry verticals.

Zoho Docs offers you the ability to share, manage and store your docs, as well as all the features you'd expect, such as group sharing and in-app chat - meaning you can discuss a document without leaving the Zoho ecosystem.

Pricing: For teams of 25 people or less, you can sample Box for free, for larger offices the standard package comes in at $4 per user/per month.

Box

Box

Box for the Digital Workplacepromises a suite of top of the range collaboration tools for agile teams.

More than that, it offers a central platform to accommodate all of your people, content and applications. Some of the features include the ability to comment and assign tasks within files, share content with external teams, and create automated workflows with Box Relay.

Pricing: Box comes it at £4 per user/per month for the Starter package for teams of up 10 people, while the Business package is available for £12 per user, per month with no maximum number of users.

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper

Paper is a super-clean collaboration tool for teams to concurrently work on documents, store them in shared Dropbox folders and even present straight from the platform.

Unlike its cloud document storage rival Box, which only offers integrations with Google and Microsoft products, Dropbox decided to design its own word processor as a differentiating feature. Paper looks a lot like Google Docs, in that it is a simple word processor, with a live comment feed down the right hand side, but far more elegantly designed.

It is easy to invite team members or external colleagues via their email address and keep things in a shared Dropbox folder. You can also work on documents offline and they will sync the changes when you reconnect automatically. You can even tag a colleague in an action item and set a deadline, complete with a reminder.

Read next: Dropbox vs Box: What's the best cloud storage for your business?

Through a range of integrations, and a simple drag and drop interface, Paper users can embed video, audio, social media posts, PDFs and code snippets into a document.

At the enterprise level Paper incorporates Dropbox's AdminX controls for granular sharing, read-only settings, auditing and security considerations.

Pricing: Paper is a free feature for Dropbox customers, with Business plans starting at £10 per user per month.

Microsoft Office 365
© Microsoft

Microsoft Office 365

The king of enterprise software released online versions of its wildly popular Office-suite back in 2011, as it started to shift users away from traditional 'boxed' Office software subscriptions and towards the cloud.

Read next: G Suite vs Office 365 - What's the best office suite for business?

Office 365 offers web-based versions of its super-familiar Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote products, which opens them up to real-time collaboration. Documents can be saved in Microsoft OneDrive and collaboration is made easy as your colleagues will presumably all be on the same Microsoft platform.

Pricing: Office 365 for business starts at £7.90 per user per month.

Quip

Quip

Collaboration software maker Quip was acquired by the software-as-a-service (SaaS) CRM giant Salesforce in a slightly surprising $750 million deal, back in August 2016. Quip became the company's first foray into productivity software, but the app had clearly caught the attention of CEO Marc Benioff.

Quip vows to marry documents with communications, as users can create, edit, chat and comment on shared documents within the consumer-grade app.

Naturally, Quip can be used to collaborate and discuss live Salesforce reports too, including tagging a colleague on an action item and setting a deadline reminder.

Then, in November 2017 Quip announced Live Apps, an upgrade which allows users to pull live data from various applications directly into Quip documents. So users can now drag things like a team member’s calendar, a Salesforce customer record, or a Kanban project management board directly into a Quip document, ensuring it is always up to date and saving users from copying and pasting data back and forth all the time.

As the company said at the time in a blog post: “Live Apps transform Quip from a standalone product into a mighty platform that empowers you to collaborate on every service your team uses — all on a single page.”

The company also announced that it was making Quip more extensible with the Live App API, which allows customers or third parties to build live app connectors into Quip beyond the ones Salesforce provides.

21st Century Fox, Facebook, CNN and Fender guitars are all named customers of Quip.

Pricing: The enterprise edition of Quip is priced at $25 (£19) per user per month.

Notion
© Notion

Notion

San Francisco-based upstart Notion bills itself as an "all-in-one workspace", combining a clean interface to write notes, documents and spreadsheets with project and task management tools and a searchable shared knowledge base across devices.

Notion already integrates with Slack and 50 other popular enterprise apps and has a loyal following, typically within the technology sector at this point.

Pricing: The business version is $8 (£6) per user per month.

Evernote

Evernote

The popular consumer app Evernote has branched into the business world as of late, offering its simple note taking and sharing application to business users. Evernote is probably best placed for taking and sharing meeting notes, but could have its exponents in other areas.

You can store documents in the cloud with Evernote itself or integrate with Google Drive or Salesforce. There is an admin console for user management, security and audit to keep IT teams happy.

Pricing: Evernote Business is £10 per user per month

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