10 Unsung Collaboration Tools — Many of Them Free

Collaboration is in full swing on the web, for both social and work-oriented purposes. Most of us can rattle off the well-known applications that are available, but there are many targeted, useful collaboration apps that are more offbeat. Here are 10 of them, many of them free.

Redliner. If you’ve ever tried to collaborate with others on documents over email, you know that version control problems and many other issues can arise. Redliner is becoming one of the more popular online tools to get around these problems. Unlike, say, Google (s goog) Docs, it offers a complete commenting and revision system. Check it out in the screencast here. Redliner is currently being beta tested and you can use it for free, although it will eventually move to a paid monthly model.

doingText. Also on the document collaboration front, doingText has steadily grown into a robust, hosted platform. It’s available in a version for $5 a month, and you can share documents via randomly generated, unique URL.

Kablink. Kablink is a free and open source collection of collaboration components that lets groups work offline and online. When work is produced offline, it can automatically be synced with other users’ work online. Conferencing and wiki-like features are available.

Collanos Workspace. The motto of the Collanos Workspace free, open source collaboration platform is “Think outside the inbox.” To set up a team work environment, you click Create Space and begin inviting people. You can post files of many formats to collaborate on, instant message while you work and track pending tasks.

PBworks. At November’s Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco, the folks behind PBWiki announced the addition of real-time collaboration tools to their wiki platform. The new PBworks suite of tools includes in-app instant messaging, live notifications of changes to an organization’s workspaces, live editing of documents and voice collaboration. There are also business and legal document templates available in an online store. Businesses, legal firms and schools pay just a few dollars per month per user (pricing varies by package) for PBWorks’ hosted collaboration apps.

Drop.io. The free file-sharing service Drop.io is used by many editors and writers across The GigaOM Network to easily upload files that can be shared with collaborators by simply providing a short URL to visit. Drop.io also now offers real-time collaboration features for tasks such as sharing files during phone conferences.

Socialtext. Based on the concept of combining a wiki with a blog, Socialtext provides an enterprise-level group collaboration platform. Every person who is a member of an organization’s Socialtext account gets their own dashboard –- or personal homepage –- where they can embed and arrange via drag-and-drop both personal and work information, images, and widgets. Email and microblogging are also integrated with the platform in useful ways. Socialtext is free for groups of 50 users or fewer who want basic features, and reasonably priced fee-based packages with all the bells and whistles are available.

e-tipi. e-tipi incorporates elements of Twitter, Digg, wikis and blogs to create a shared workspace through which ideas are fleshed out. Each user page is called a tipi, and it contains various ideas submitted by the tipi’s users. You can export data to HTML for sharing on web pages, too. You can watch a demo here, and free accounts are available.

MemberHub. Group management and communication service MemberHub equips users with dashboards, discussion forums, shared calendars and many other tools for sharing ideas and collaborating. You can see how it works in this video, and pricing is found here, including a free version. 10 cents per person per month, purchased in blocks of 100.

Colaab. If you want a very feature-rich collaboration platform with a slick user interface, check out Colaab. Once you sign up for an account, you begin by creating a workspace. As Pamela over on WebWorkerDaily notes, “the workspace includes an integrated IM feature, and discussions are displayed in the upper part of the right-hand panel, while the lower part shows which users are participating.” Colaab is available in a starter version for $24 a month, which includes 1GB of storage and 10 workspaces.