Real-time document collaboration is of paramount importance to the productivity of any team. Achieving common goals together and working cohesively on documents with other team members is often the key to success. It’s especially true for today’s companies with their employees working from different locations and across different time zones.
This is why real-time document collaboration tools can help remote teams increase their productivity making it easier for them to write and edit drafts online. Below are our tips on how to choose the best document collaboration tool for your team among those available on the market.
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What is a real-time document collaboration tool?
Before we have a deeper look at the features that are essential when looking for a real-time document collaboration tool, it’s necessary to understand what it is and what it is used for. As a rule, it is an office suite that is designed to help several users work together on a single document and draft up its final version online. Real-time document collaboration tools usually include at least three main components:
- A word processor;
- A spreadsheet application;
- A presentation program.
Such solutions make it possible to share documents with other users and co-edit them simultaneously by suggesting changes and leaving comments. Real-time document collaboration tools are often available in the cloud, although there are self-hosted versions too.
Let’s dive deeper into the most important features that a good real-time document collaboration solution must have.
Multiple format support
Electronic document workflows imply the use of various document formats. For example, DOXC, DOC, ODT, RTF, TXT and PDF are the most common file formats for text documents, and there are plenty of other file extensions used with spreadsheets and presentations. If you want to avoid compatibility problems when dealing with documents of different types, it’s recommended to pick a real-time document collaboration tool with multiple format support. The more formats are supported, the better.
File access control
Drafting a document online is a complex process involving a lot of users. When you belong to a big team and share something for real-time co-editing, it’s important to be able to configure the required access permission for each teammate. For example, it might be a good idea to provide full access to those who are competent enough to suggest valuable ideas. If someone is a good reviser, they can be given a permission allowing them to leave comments without changing the original text. Thus, flexible file access control gives you the freedom to quickly grant and revoke access permissions to your documents making the collaboration process more effective.
Sharing a document with appropriate access rights is not enough for productive online collaboration. There should be a set of certain features that make the whole process much easier. The recommended minimum list usually includes Autosave, Version history, Version control, Track changes, Commenting and User tagging. All these features prevent erroneous inputs by the co-authors and allow for a faster and more seamless document collaboration process.
Effective document collaboration is not possible without communication. Drafting up a document in real time requires an intense exchange of opinions and ideas to get work done faster. Miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to delays and reduce the productivity of the co-authors. If you want to avoid such problems during the collaboration process, you can rely on real-time communication tools, such as text messaging chats or audio calls.
Another important factor that you need to take into consideration while choosing the best real-time document collaboration tool is its integration capability. For example, if you have a powerful solution that perfectly suits your needs but you can’t integrate it into your existing IT ecosystem, this is really troubling. Trying to fit in the software that is not intended for this purpose and making all the programs work correctly together can lead to supplementary costs and a waste of time. That’s why the chosen real-time document collaboration tool must be easy to integrate with other software.
Online and offline access
Real-time document collaboration requires everyone to have a stable Internet connection so that the co-editing experience is always seamless. However, you might take a few days off work and go to a quiet place where the Internet is not accessible. In this case, it’s vitally important to be able to work on documents offline, without being connected to the Internet. It’s a big advantage if your document collaboration software can work both online and offline. Thus, you always stay involved in the collaboration process even if you don’t have WiFi.
Mobile device accessibility
Our life is dynamic as never before. Gone are the days when a desktop computer was the only device for collaborative work. If you want to keep up with the modern trends, you need mobile devices that help you stay connected in any situation. Having mobile access to your documents is a must-have feature now, so the best real-time document collaboration should offer mobile apps. Ideally, both for iOS and Android.
When collaborating in real time, it’s necessary to be sure that your data is always protected. This is especially important if you work on confidential documents, such as legal contracts and business reports. To avoid data leaks and unauthorized access by third parties, your real-time document collaboration tool must come with a set of security features. For example, Single Sign-On, two-step authentication, data encryption and backup are what allows you to ensure the maximum safety of your documents.
One of the most important tips to choose an ideal real-time document collaboration tool is based on its pricing structure. You might not always have the need to co-edit documents in real time, so investing a lot of money in the software that you are not going to use very often is not a good idea. However, this does not mean that you should choose a tool with pricing structures that are too cheap. Instead, you should choose pricing structures that are affordable to you. Ideally, there should be a free trial period so that you can try the solution for some time and decide if it suits your needs or not.
ONLYOFFICE Docs: a secure document collaboration tool for any team
Taking into consideration all the tips above, you can choose what you really need. There are many real-time document collaboration tools on the market, so the choice is not easy. If you collaborate a lot in real time and give high priority to data security, you can try ONLYOFFICE Docs. It’s an open-source office suite with three editors for text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. ONLYOFFICE Docs fully complies with the criteria above and have the following advantages:
- Full support of the Microsoft Office formats (OOXML) and compatibility with other popular formats;
- Flexible access permissions – you can share documents for editing, viewing, commenting, reviewing, form filling or revoke access;
- Multiple collaborative features – Autosave, Version history, Version control, Track changes, Co-editing modes (Fast and Strict), Commenting, User tagging, Instant messaging;
- Built-in chat for text messaging and an option to connect a Telegram account for communicating right in the document;
- Easy integration with various file&sync services and document management platforms, such as Nextcloud, Seafile, ownCloud, SharePoint, Alfresco, Plone, Confluence, Nuxeo, etc.;
- Free desktop app for offline document editing on Windows, Linux and macOS that is built on the same engine as the online editors;
- Free mobile apps for Android and iOS for collaborative work on the go;
- Full set of security features – self-hosted deployment, Single Sign-On, two-step authentication, HTTPS, Jason Web Token, real-time data encryption in Private Rooms;
- Availability of a 30-day free trial for enterprise versions and a free community version.
Download ONLYOFFICE Docs from the official website and decide if this solution is what your team needs to increase productivity while collaborating on documents in real time.