online collaboration tool? (ideally open source, i.e. free!)

Hi OAs, can anyone recommend a half decent online collaboration space? It would be for just three of us, just to store and edit documents to avoid repetition or losing changes, and to account for different softwares. features like web chat etc. may be useful but not essential. The key feature must be that it's free, ideally open source and won't require a special e-mail address.

Thanks in advance

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Elaine, I son't know about open source alternatives. For several years now, The Word Works has used Basecamp. I once used it to coordinate an international group producing a publicity toolkit for Democrats Abroad. Was very, very happy with it. Today, I might think of using Evernote, which now has a reminder feature that would make it straightforward to set up a Notebook as a project timeline. Evernote's big advantage is access via free clients for virtually every device on the planet. Neither Basecamp nor Evernote is free. But both are relatively cheap.

Thanks John, well I finally managed to wangle a free version of "central desktop", and I will post as to it's usefulness in case anyone has need of something similar

Hi Elaine, my recommendations would depend on what kind of online collaboration are you planning to do, but here are a few comments and suggestions.

  • Wikis have been all the rage as intranet solutions for the past few years. The easiest ones to use are commercial (like Confluence for example), Mediawiki is open source and arguably most feature-rich, but it's definitely not the easiest one to learn. A freemium wiki service that I can recommend is http://www.wikispaces.com.
  • A Zotero group. Zotero is a great open-source solution as a personal research database, and supports private groups too. Does not do version control, so you would need something on top of that as well, maybe Google services for document management, chatting and so on.
  • I second John's recommendation of Basecamp, I've used it a few years ago and it was pretty great. Unfortunately, not free. In my opinion, Zotero is in many ways superior to Evernote, except that it's mobile client support is not good. However, I have no experience using Evernote when collaborating with others, so it might have some superior functionality in that regard.
  • Just for tracking changes in text documents, in my opinion, your choice is clear: Use a wiki. If you have to use Word documents (think again, do you really need to?), none of the free open-source solutions I know of do this in an user-friendly manner. There are more complex open-source software solutions for this like Alfresco, but I have no experience in using them, and probably it would cost you some money to set it up.  

Thanks a million, Heikki, I've started a wiki, the software discrepancy was too risky.

I haven't got to grips with "central desktop" so perhaps no write-up will happen now

PS- love the name "freemium"

Good luck with the wiki! The key to collaborating effectively with a wiki is to document your changes. When saving a new version, write a short edit comment summarizing the most important changes. Also, wikis let you compare versions, seeing what's new in a glance. This is invaluable when there are several editors.

Also, if you are working on a long document, consider splitting it to many shorter wiki pages. This makes simultaneous editing easier.

This new service is in beta, but looks interesting: http://liveminutes.com/en/beta

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