So you want to share files or collaborate online: Goodbye FTP

Two are happy - online collaboration There are tons of ways to share files or collaborate online, be it Google Docs (now supporting the upload of any file format), drop.io, Opera Unite (using the Opera web browser to turn your computer into a file sharing service), dropbox or a simple FTP server. There are also send it and forget it services like yousendit which allow you to get around e-mail attachment size limitations (the recipient receives an e-mail link, where they can download the shared file directly).

Notes about these tools:

The issue with Opera Unite or hosting an FTP server is that they require the machine hosting the service to remain online, for others to access shared files.

While Opera Unite and yousendit allow file sharing, they do not allow real-time collaborative*editing*, which is a bit of a limitation.

Dropbox has problems dealing with simultaneous file editing, where if two people try to modify a file at the same time, two versions of the file will be created.

My suggestion:

Google Docs is probably my favourite solution, given all you need is a Google account, and you’re good to go with collaboratively editing files stored in virtual folders (or just making them accessible to other Google users). You don’t need to install a local application as everything is run through your web browser. This can save *tons* of time, working on files in a group, minimising the e-mail back and forth, and keeping on top of latest file versions. This is definitely a superior way to collaboratively develop projects (yes, they have a commenting system ala Microsoft Word), for teams which are not collocated.

Up until this semester, I’ve admittedly been a luddite, preferring the antiquated back and forth e-mail method for group work. This method introduces several problems, in that if one person’s work quality is poor, their section is not focused, or they contradict what you say in a later section, you can only really deal with these issues once everyone has submitted their sections. By using online collaboration tools, you can really head off these types of problems early on, by being able to progressively see the document develop and provide real-time feedback. This can only increase the quality of the end project (though of course, used in moderation, so you don’t annoy the bejesus out of your team mates *note to self*).

If you’d like to read more about these tools:

Google Docs Review @ NotebookReview

drop.io Review @ ArsTechnica

Opera Unite Review @ Addictive Tips

yousendit Review @ WorkHappy

Dropbox Review @ MakeUseOf

Happy (legal) sharing,

Syd

Image courtesy of Let Idea’s Compete – Two are happy.

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Author: sylint

I'm a business analyst, working in Information Management and Information Technology. Technically, I'm a librarian, though I prefer to think of myself as professionally varied.

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