What do you think of when you hear the word "collaboration"? Do you associate it with the frustrating clunkiness of trying to synchronize everyone's work? Many collaboration tools require an account to even get started before you benefit from their collaboration features.
That in itself negates the act of swift collaborating, with people coming from all ends of the spectrum to combine ideas, talent, and work.
Many believe that collaboration should be as "painless" as possible. This article presents you with a worthy collection of no-signup tools for the ultimate collaboration experience at work or school.
Tool Selection Considerations
We dug through the web with these simple guidelines in mind.
Our criteria for these tools includes:
- No download
- Shareable link
- Quick to start (10 seconds or less)
- Accessible from any Internet-enabled device
Our preferred features for these tools are:
- Intuitive and mobile-friendly user interface
- Save to browser cache/local storage
- Real-time collaboration
- Collaborative features like chat, username change, and so on
Note: Using a tool without signing up can deny you access to extra features. A prime example of this would be the mind mapping tools mentioned in this article.
For the most part, you shouldn't have to sign up to collaborate with others using these tools. So, let's take a look at these "rule-breakers" of traditional web apps.
Visual Creation and Expression
For creative work to succeed, collaborative work is next to none.
Padlet used to allow you to get started without an account, and come back to your creation later. However, recently, it has implemented the quick signup process through one-click Google, Microsoft, or Apple account.
You may already be familiar with it from our brief overview of Padlet. If you are creative, discover its features and tell us what you like.
Padlet is attractive to educators with its ability to create visual interaction in the classroom. Its use is open to interpretation. If you need a creative tool to collaborate with others on, Padlet it is.
If you want to save and access your walls later, we highly recommended you create an account. You want to avoid losing all your work, after all. You can create several walls, and with an account, you'll find all your creations organized in your account.
Collaborative Note-Taking and Document Editing
There are a lot of great web apps for quick note-taking, but here is one of the best collaborative options.
Etherpad allows you to do a lot more than just simultaneously take notes with others without having to sign in. You can import documents and then export the changed document.
Within its clean and highly functional interface, Etherpad has collaborative features many alternative web apps don't have, like real-time video, and color-coded cursors to know who else is editing. You can even save revisions without having an account.
Whiteboard Apps for Visual Collaboration
CoSketch is a multi-user whiteboard with an interface that needs almost no learning curve. Its design is not "up-to-date" in today's terms, but it is one of the best, considering the features and its usefulness.
It supports hotkeys, provides undo-history, an array of tools, an image library, image upload, Google Maps embedding, and chat. You can also quickly change your username to something that your teammates will recognize you by.
Just share the custom link in any form with your teammates, and they can start working on any device that has a web browser.
A great minimal alternative for just sharing a drawing is Draw.to. It's the perfect online tool for capturing rough sketches of websites, mobile apps, blog images, and so on.
The Ultimate Meeting Tool
No-signup meeting tools are hard to find, but the following is the popular and reliable option that you can try out:
Twiddla is an all-in-one tool to jot down notes, edit docs, sketch, tinker with code, upload images, browse websites, even input mathematical formulas, and more. Its audio and chat features earned it a spot on our online meeting tools lineup.
It offers two types of collaborative online whiteboarding: a public board where you'll meet strangers and a new whiteboard for personal work.
Quick Screen Share is a little-known screen-sharing tool. We published a full review of Quick Screen Share a few years back. It is a side project from the creators of Screencast-O-Matic and only requires Java to be used.
To get started, choose whether you want to share your screen or see someone's screen. Type in your name and click Start. Share the custom link with the person, approve the Java service, and you're in!
Screenleap is a viable alternative we also recommend for instant screen sharing. It offers screen sharing via mobile apps and web browsers.
A few cool features that you should try on this tool are audio conferencing, cloud recording, viewer registration, and video conferencing.
There are several collaborative coding websites available. We narrowed it down to one for the sake of brevity.
Firepad seems to offer the best features coupled with an intuitive interface. In addition to changing your name and choosing from several stylistic preferences, perhaps the most useful feature is a dropdown menu of all past Pads automatically saved.
This is always a plus if a tool has this without needing to create an account or even click Save.
Collaborative Task List
Collaborative task lists help you and your team to stay on schedule for the ongoing project. Here are two examples of ideal online tools for digital and shared task lists:
Flask is a simple task list web app with a modern and mobile-friendly user interface. Each task list has its own custom link, allowing you to share your tasks.
You can mark tasks as Starred, thus moving them to the top of the list. You can also tag tasks with different colors. If you're expecting a full-featured task manager, Flask isn't it.
There is no admin account/controls, so anyone with access to the link can modify the tasks. You can suggest a feature to Flask through UserVoice, and you'll see that they have actually implemented many of the suggestions.
Planleaf is an alternative tool you might consider. It is an email-based task list, which doesn't require signup either. Compose an email with tasks (starting each one with a dash), add [email protected] in the cc field and send it to your fellow team members.
You can send this task list back and forth when tasks are completed or new ones are added to keep everyone in the loop, without creating a new list.
Schedule a Meetup
Never, we mean never, again will you have to sit around in a group trying to figure out the best time to meet up again. You can try the following online apps for convenience:
Doodle is one of the simplest ways to find a time that works for everyone. One person creates the Doodle, an event invitation where you input some available time slots (optional) and send out a link to others, where the recipient can enter the times that work for them.
As the event creator, you have a special Admin link that allows you to edit and manage the event. Note that the only reason Doodle requires your email is you have to send out the invite through email.
Mind Mapping, Diagrams, and Flow Charts
Brainstorming may be one of the first tasks you do with your group, and web-based mind mapping is a powerful tool for group creativity.
Bubbl.us provides a happy medium. It's a very popular mind mapping tool, one we even recommend to kids. Start creating without an account, but if you want to save or share (pretty important features), you do need an account.
However, an account is not needed to access the mind map link you share with others, so that is a plus.
There are many free web-based video conferencing tools, freeing you from Skype and other pro-registration services.
The vLine version of this tool supported no-signup usage. The newer version Airtime doesn't support no-signup use. You need to log in by entering your mobile number.
Which Are the Easiest Collaboration Tools You Use?
Some of the tools mentioned have a lot of alternatives, and we had to narrow down the selection based on ease of use, features, and functionality. Others had few to none, and we had to scour the internet so that you wouldn't have to.
But the great thing about the Internet is there's always something someone hasn't heard of.
Collaboration is essential in the workplace, but too much of it can be bad for you. Here’s how to fix that.