Collaboration is the bedrock of productivity and performance in most business settings. The ability for teams to communicate freely and conveniently, coupled with other important features like audio and video communication, file sharing, and integrations with third-party tools can transform any workflow and lead to a more productive team. In this day and age, online collaboration tools are used frequently by businesses all over the world. Many of them are also free to use or have free tiers that pack in a lot of features and functionality.

In this blog post, we talk about 5 free online collaboration tools that can help you create and support productive communication and workflows for your business. Each of these tools brings unique features and is a perfect fit for specific use cases. Depending on what you want to accomplish and the features you are looking for, you can easily choose between these to facilitate simple, seamless, and effective collaboration free of cost.

Free Online Collaboration Tools. Microsoft Teams, Discord, Slack, AirSend, Chanty. Audio visual chat apps. Task manager. Public communication channel.

Microsoft Teams

An immensely popular collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams was designed initially as an added feature for businesses with Office 365 subscriptions. Over time, it has grown and evolved and currently features a free plan for small businesses and individual users. One of the most important features is seamless integration with Office 365, a platform most businesses use.

Teams supports up to 300 users and allows unlimited channels, messages, and search queries. It also has support for audio and video communication with up to 250 concurrent participants. It includes a generous storage offering of 2GB per user along with 10GB for team storage. Currently, it has native integration for more than 140 services and apps, most important among them being Microsoft’s own solutions.

With Teams, you also get a host of innovative features like the ability to record complete meetings with automatic meeting transcriptions and support for inline translation of messages. However, many of the advanced features only become available if you opt for an Office 365 paid membership.

Discord

Well-known in the world of gaming, Discord is a communication and collaboration platform that focuses primarily on voice communication. You have the option of putting multiple channels on one server to keep your conversations organized. With a voice channel, there can be seamless communication among a virtually unlimited number of people.

The free tier packs in a ton of features, including video conferencing with up to ten participants, easy screen sharing, unlimited texts and voice channels, and unlimited file sharing with a size cap of 8MB per file. You can use the push-to-talk feature to be heard only when you want and the text-to-speech function to have the program read out whatever you type.

Certain features, like high-definition audio and video communication and an increased file sharing size limit, are available when you subscribe to the premium Discord Nitro plan.

Slack

One of the most popular collaboration tools for businesses, Slack has a lot going for it. Slack divides communication into workspaces, channels, and threads, making it exceptionally easy to categorize and organize conversations meaningfully. Coupled with a powerful search function, this makes recall a breeze. The free plan supports unlimited users and a history of 10,000 messages.

Audio and video chat capabilities are built-in but are limited to one-to-one use as a part of the free plan. There is also a total of 5GB space for file storage. While one of the most powerful features of Slack is its nearly 1400 integrations with third-party utilities that can make for a highly efficient, feature-rich solution, the free plan only includes ten integrations for apps and services. While this is a limiting factor, you can choose wisely and still benefit from Slack.

Support for guest accounts and multi-user video conferencing requires you to upgrade to a paid plan. There are several tiers of paid plans that add more features and functionality.

AirSend

While a fairly recent innovation, AirSend is an exemplary product that has a lot to offer in terms of easy, convenient, and highly productive collaboration. AirSend has simple text messaging, audio chats, and video calls integrated into the ecosystem. It also includes a highly effective task manager that allows users to plan and track tasks.

One great feature is the ability to create public communication channels and invite people to view or join them using just an email address. This gives you the ability to interface with people both inside and outside the organization without having to leave the platform. The UI is fresh, simple, and easy-to-use.

While not as extensive as Slack, AirSend also bundles multiple integrations that can help add features and cross-compatibility and serve to create a more unified workflow. Integrations with popular solutions like Gmail and Office 365 really enhance the experience of using AirSend. While the free tier includes many of these options, the Pro plan is relatively inexpensive. Moreover, all new users receive a one-year trial of the Pro plan free of cost, making it an excellent alternative to more popular collaboration platforms.

Chanty

Chanty is built with simplicity in mind. It promises to deliver simple communication abilities in a neat, attractive package that is extremely easy to use. The Teambook feature allows teams to easily view and manage shared files and links while the integrated task manager allows users to turn any individual message into a task and share it with team members.

Chanty’s free tier is particularly attractive, with unlimited messages and message backups. The platform has support for voice messages, audio chats, and video calls. Chanty already has support for several third-party integrations (including Zapier) which opens many doors in terms of features. The development team is well-known for providing regular feature and usability updates. The premium plans offer excellent value and come much cheaper than alternatives like Slack.

Verdict

While these are all excellent free online collaboration tools, they all have particular strengths that may come in handy for your specific workflow. The best way to go about making a choice is to understand the pros and cons of these solutions while keeping your requirements in mind.

Slack vs. Discord - which is better?

Two team communication solutions that most people know about are Discord and Slack. While Slack has long been a favorite for business use cases, Discord is more known for providing an optimized voice communication experience that is popular with gamers. Both Slack and Discord can be successfully employed for a variety of use cases, and businesses use both tools regularly to ease team communications.

In this blog post, we take a look at these two solutions, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses, focusing on special features and abilities. This information should make it easier for you to choose between the two, although you should keep in mind the aptness for your particular use case.

Slack, Discord, team communication apps comparison, channels, organize conversations with threads, voice channels, video conferencing, costs, third-party

Features and Capabilities

Slack and Discord Overview

Both Slack and Discord feature a channel-based system of communication. With Discord, you use one login to access all your servers, while with Slack, you can have multiple workspaces which require separate login credentials. This can be good for keeping work responsibilities categorized and separately arranged. To this end, another Slack feature lacking in Discord is threads. You can directly reply to a message in any channel to create a separate thread. This can keep conversations organized, prevent clutter, and make it easy for you to retrieve and consult old communication.

Slack Voice Calling

When it comes to audio communication, Slack operates similarly to any standard voice calling and conferencing solution. You can initiate a call with any user on a particular channel using the call button. Channel-wide calls are also possible but are only available in the paid tier. You can create a shareable link for channel calls, and a maximum of 15 participants can join.

Discord Voice Calling

With Discord, voice channels are separate from other channels. The voice communication experience is simple, seamless, and intuitive as the voice service runs in the background and remains active. Voice channels can accommodate up to 99 participants at the same time. One interesting feature is “push to talk” which allows the microphone to capture audio only while a button is pressed. It can also operate automatically. Therefore, you have the option of hands-free operation or choosing to be heard only when you want.

Slack and Discord Video Calling

As far as video conferencing is concerned, this is possible on both platforms. On Discord, you can initiate this by starting a group DM and then calling on the video chat feature. In Slack, the process is the same as initiating voice calls. Both platforms offer you the option of screen sharing during calls but Slack provides a markup option that allows you to annotate, highlight, and take notes.

Slack Integrations

One aspect that is important in most workflows is integration with third-party services. This is where you find a wide range of options with Slack. There is a huge library of almost 1000 native integrations that allow you to bring in connections with popular solutions like Google Drive, Google Docs, Office 365, Trello, Zoom, and more. These native integrations can help bring in important features and functionality according to what you want to accomplish with the platform.

Discord Integrations

Discord has very few native integrations and most of them are geared towards the gaming community, although you can find helpful integrations like Skype, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify. However, a much wider range of integrations can be brought to the table through the use of a unique feature – Discord bots. Bots are integrations that are developed by the community. Bots can serve a wide variety of functions and can be invited to any server. Apart from bringing more integrations, bots can also moderate communication channels and automate simple, repetitive tasks.

User Friendliness

Both Slack and Discord employ modern, minimalistic UIs which are pleasing to the eye and deliver most of their information and settings in a single screen. However, there is a lot more under the hood with Slack and you might have to navigate through a large tree of options to reach specific settings. Also, it is important to remember that Slack has a lot of added functionality. Depending on whether those functions are central to your workflow, you might consider Slack to be more user-friendly.

Discord Wins in Voice Calling

If you are looking for seamless audio communication without hassle, Discord is a clear choice. Since it has been constructed to facilitate easy voice communication, the integrated features can be used to create hands-free or low-intrusion voice communication workflows that can be perfect for certain use cases.

Slack Wins for Business Messaging

If you are looking for a collaborative platform for business messaging, Slack is a better alternative for many. It has robust file sharing options and the presence of channels and threads can keep conversations organized, easy to find, and easy to search. Slack also gives you 1GB of file sharing with no limit on file types while you can only share audio and video with Discord.

Price

Discord Pricing

Price is one area where Discord is hard to beat. Most of its functionality, including text messaging, audio communication, video calls, and screen sharing, are available entirely free of cost. This means that you can communicate with a very large number of people and teams using Discord without having to pay anything on top of the free plan. They do have a paid tier called Discord Nitro, which brings higher file upload limits and high-definition audio and video chat to the table. For one Discord server, the cost of Nitro is $9.99 monthly or $99.99 for a whole year.

Slack Pricing

Slack, on the other hand, can be cheap or expensive depending on your requirements. A limited number of features are available free. However, to get access to a comprehensive portfolio of features, you need the standard paid plan that typically costs $6.67 per month for every user. There are several higher tiers of pricing that bring more features, like multiple workspaces and DLP. The larger your team, the more you pay for Slack and its features.

Final Verdict

With clear strengths in different areas, Slack and Discord are two very different products which focus on different features. For a business environment, Slack has a lot of dedicated solutions and comes with complete security compliance. Its large number of integrations makes many workflows possible. On the other hand, Discord is hard to beat when it comes to its free functionality and its voice communication features. Keep your requirements in mind and choose wisely.

Have you been looking for an alternative to Google Hangouts?

In these times, there is more need than ever for an easy-to-use, feature-rich, and efficient messaging app. For a long time, Google Hangouts has been a popular solution, both among personal users and businesses. However, a lot of its adoption has to do with users looking to remain in the overall Google ecosystem and some of its cons have been on display for a while.

Enter AirSend, a new alternative that has excellent features, a modern design and UI, and a simple, user-friendly workflow. In this blog post, we take a detailed look at how AirSend compares with Google Hangouts in terms of features and capabilities, user friendliness, and price. This analysis can help you with the relevant information and insight to make up your mind.

AirSend as Google Hangouts Alternative. Messaging. Collaborative tool. Hangouts phased out. Integration with Office 365. Actions management. AirSend Channels.

Features and Capabilities

Google Hangouts Overview

Google Hangouts was created as a messaging platform that integrates easily with other products in the Google ecosystem. Its functionality has always been basic, with only a few new features added along its development cycle.

With Google Hangouts, you have the ability to have text-based conversations, either one-on-one or in a group. There is an option to integrate the SMS functionality of phones within the Hangouts app for a centralized display of messages. During the conversation, the rudimentary feature set allows for the sharing of photos and the use of emojis.

Google Hangouts Integrations

As far as integration with the ecosystem goes, Hangouts can be accessed from within Gmail, through dedicated mobile apps on Android and iOS, and from the Google Chrome desktop browser using a browser extension. The Hangouts API has been shut down and the version of Hangouts in the G Suite product portfolio has already been replaced with two separate applications – Google Meet and Google Chat.

Google Hangouts Voice and Video Calling

Users can directly audio call other Hangouts users and can even use the app for landlines and phones for an extra charge. Initially, the app had a live streaming component, but that was disabled and absorbed into YouTube in 2016. There is support for group audio and video calls for up to 25 users.

Google Hangouts Security

Apart from this very limited feature set, one important issue is that the platform does not use the open standard XMPP protocol, preventing third-party integrations. It has also received criticism for having key security issues, including a lack of documentation for the security design, no option for users to verify contact identities, and no support for independent code review.

The most important thing to remember about Hangouts is that it is being gradually phased out for newer solutions.

AirSend Overview

AirSend brings many modern features and functionalities to the table and is truly  a collaborative tool thanks to its wide feature set. It implements the creation of public and private channels, the ability to share and organize files internally, a complete task management solution, and communication through audio and video calls.

AirSend Integrations

AirSend has native integration with Office 365, allowing users to open and edit documents. It also has built-in email integration that allows for easy communication with users who are not on the platform. One of the most interesting features is the ability to create public channels that are accessible to anyone with a link, enabling them to easily be shared through email. This way, users can invite other users who are not on the platform to work inside AirSend without the need for complex permission management or administration.

AirSend’s built-in actions management system is well laid-out and efficient, preventing the need for third-party integrations to achieve the same functionality.

User Friendliness

AirSend UI

AirSend brings to the table a modern, minimalistic UI where all the important UI elements are prominent and accessible, making usage a breeze. The large text bar, located at the bottom of the screen, makes it easy to instantly start communicating without a learning curve. A dedicated file tab lets users browse through shared files in chronological order. Audio and video calls are also easy to accomplish with clearly marked designated buttons.

Similarly, the channel-based model allows for easy categorization of communication. Within each project-related or group-specific channel, users can easily create and manage tasks, have individual or group discussions, upload important files, and create a fully customized workspace. Moreover, AirSend can be used seamlessly through both the dedicated mobile app and on the web, with a fairly simple login process.

Google Hangouts UI

In comparison, the Google Hangouts UI feels dated and a little clunky, with several important options hidden behind obscure menus. While its integration with the broader ecosystem can make it accessible in various ways, the limited functionality and the dated design can definitely be a turnoff for those looking to use it regularly and for important work. Moreover, since it is on its way to being phased out, no major feature updates or UI enhancements are expected to occur.

Price

Google Hangouts Pricing

Hangouts is free for individual users still using the legacy version of the product. For business users, a freemium model is employed. The free tier is limited to 100 participants at one time with 15GB storage per user. The basic business plan comes with a 14-day free trial and costs $8 for each active user monthly. This comes with a pooled storage of up to 2TB with 100GB available per user. These plans come with much-needed features like dial-in phone numbers and automatic cloud backup of meeting records. Pricing for the highest tier is decided on a case-by-case basis.

AirSend Pricing

AirSend, on the other hand, has a free tier with no participation restrictions. 5GB of storage is on offer. The Pro plan brings 100GB storage and custom branding for $4 per month per user while the Business plan contains a host of added features and 2TB of storage for only $5 per month per user. Most importantly, AirSend is currently offering its Pro tier for one year for new accounts, entirely free, with the option of users signing up for multiple accounts.

Conclusion

While Google Hangouts continues its journey towards being phased out, it can be a great time to look for alternatives that bring modern features and better usability to the table. If the Hangouts experience and its close integration with the Google ecosystem is all that matters to you, it might still be viable. If anything else is your priority, a modern, full-featured solution like AirSend would definitely serve you better.

The AirSend team was recently interviewed by App of the Day! You can read the full interview here.

AirSend's latest updates.

When we first started on our journey to create AirSend, our goal was simple: create a simple contextual workspace where people can get work done all in one place. Over the past year, we worked tirelessly: talking to customers and adding, removing, and refining features. We are happy to say that with the latest update, we have finally accomplished our original goal!

The latest AirSend update was a big one. We added many features that our customers asked for, including the ability to create website contact forms that link to AirSend, a Kanban view for Actions, the ability to group Channels, and more.

Here is a blog post talking about all of those exciting new features, as well as reviewing some lesser known things you may not have known were possible in AirSend.

Without further ado, here’s a tour of the new, most recently updated AirSend!

Simple AirSend Account and Channel Capabilities

Create a New Channel Using the Channel Sidebar

You can now make a new Channel by clicking the blue plus button on the upper left side of the sidebar. A window will pop up where you can name your Channel.

You can also write a description and choose a Channel template by clicking “Advanced.”

Create a new Channel in Airsend.

After clicking “Create Channel,” you will be taken to the inside of your new Channel.

Run a Comprehensive Search

Using the search bar in the upper right corner, run a comprehensive search of all messages, actions, files, and users in your Channel.

You can run comprehensive searches with AirSend’s search bar.

After you have run a search, you can click the “Show All” button at the top right of each search result category. A window will appear with a full view of all of your search results.

Switch Between Light and Dark Modes

Click the profile name in the upper right corner to switch you between AirSend’s light and dark modes.

You can also choose “Auto Color Schema,” which will match AirSend to your preexisting settings.

Did you know AirSend has a dark mode?

Change Account Settings

You can also choose “Settings” in the same menu as above to see where to change the profile name, phone number, email notification frequency, and audio and video settings.

This is also where you can change your password, delete their account, or create a contact form to add to your website that links to AirSend Channels.

More AirSend Channel Capabilities

As you may already know, a Channel is where you can collaborate and get work done all in one place.

There are five main areas of a Channel: the Channel bar, the messaging space, the Actions tab, the Files tab, and the Wiki tab. Let’s explore these areas a little further to talk about what’s new.

The Messaging Space

The messaging space is the biggest, most prominent space in a Channel. This is where you can send and receive messages, photos, videos, documents, and more.

The Channel Bar

The Channel bar is on the left side of the Channel. This is where you can see a list of all of your Channels and direct messages with notifications.

You can also pin Channels, display Channels with a simplified or full view, and create new Channels or Channel groups here. You can click the highlighted icons to explore the bar’s capabilities.

Finally, you can collapse or display the Channel bar using the wall and arrow icon next to it.

The Actions Tab

Now let’s look at the right side of a Channel. The first tab on the right side of a Channel is the Actions tab. We’ve made many highly requested updates to this tab, including a full Kanban view.

Create an action by typing something in the “Add Action” bar, then click the plus icon.

You can sort actions by person assigned, date, and status.

After creating an action, hover your cursor over the action to find the icons to create subactions, assign responsibility, and add a due date.

You can also move an action to another Channel, edit its details, or delete it.

After exploring what you can do to individual actions, click the four icons highlighted below to sort by person, date, and completion status, and to enter the full Kanban view.

AirSend now has a full Kanban view.

The Files Tab

You can click the Files tab to see all of the files in the Channel. The three icons in the top right of the tab let you upload a file, enter a full Files view, and create or download folders.

AirSend’s full file view. You can share, organize, and update files here.

Now, click the three dots icon that appears when you hover your cursor over the file name and click “Share.” You can use the link that appears to share that file with someone else.

Quick reminder: AirSend provides automatic versioning, meaning it automatically updates and saves all versions of a file that you change and upload again.

To test this out, feel free to change any file you already uploaded and upload it again. Then, click the three dots icon that appears when you hover your cursor over the file name and click “Previous Versions” to see all versions of your file.

The Wiki Tab

Finally, we come to the Wiki tab. This is where you can take and keep notes. You can now click on the blue icon on the top left corner to see all existing pages.

Next, feel free to explore the three highlight buttons to share Wiki files, enter the Wiki full view, and edit the Wiki. We made some UI changes here to make your experience even smoother.

What’s Next in the AirSend Journey?

We hope you enjoyed the tour and are grateful for your time and interest! Although we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, the AirSend journey still has a long ways to go. Have any features in mind that you think would be great for AirSend? Let us know here.

If you don’t already have an account and would like to sign up for one, please visit:

www.live.airsend.io/signup

Thank you from the AirSend Team!