This semester we’ve been assigned a lot of coursework that needs to be worked on in teams, with each team usually consisting of around 3-6 people. To help us share files, work on document together and generally stay in sync, we’ve started using a few different online services…
Yes – I know I’m raving about Dropbox again. But we needed a way to share files and code with a 5 member team, without resorting to e-mailing things back and forth. With various team members using Mac, Linux and Windows, Dropbox’s OS-level, cross-platform integration is a perfect fit.
Setting things up is simple too: Simply create a Folder on the Dropbox website and e-mail a link to that folder to your team-mates. They can free Dropbox accounts (which offer 2GB of storage) and simply drag & drop in their own files or revise yours. But don’t worry – Dropbox has a full revision history, so you can revert to an older version of your file if somebody screws up.
Whilst Dropbox is great for sharing files, there are occasions where you might all be working together on a single file or project in a local environment. In those cases I’d normally suggest using the excellent SubEthaedit collaborative writing tool, but unfortunately it’s only available for OS X.
Instead, we’ve recently started using Google Docs. It allows you to share a file you’re working on with other members of a team and is a good way to split up assignments without having the hassle of merging the work at the end.
The editing tools are fairly basic and there’s no easy way to redefine things such as headline styles without resorting to CSS hackery, but it’s a good way to pull your text together before you put the finishing touches on in a “real” word processor.
These tools are pretty good, but what’s really missing is a decent webapp to pull these types of tools together in a way tools such as Basecamp do. The free Basecamp account is pretty good, but the lack of file hosting is a pretty large omission and students aren’t going to pay for this type of service. A lot of colleges and universities use software such as Moodle to offer these types of services, but they’re mostly geared towards entire courses, rather than smaller group projects.
So if anyone feels like stepping up to the plate, I’m sure there’s a market for this type of webapp!