Online Collaboration Tools for Inventors

by Tara

Collaborate online

I have never really needed to collaborate online before – apart from a bit of Skype Sharescreen. Recently however I have tried out a few online services which which allow you to collaborate that I thought I would share with you. Some of these services would work well if you are working with other inventors on projects, especially if they are on the other side of the world. I don’t mean a place to post your ideas up, but instead somewhere you can plan and schedule tasks and keep track of progress. Of course make sure you have signed NDAs if appropriate.

Google Docs – Sharing

One of the simplest ways you can collaborate on documents is through Google Docs. Google Docs are very similar to Microsoft Office with the option to create text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings but they are accessible online through your browser. Just create a document as usual and then choose the option to share that document with someone else. This is great for simple things, but not so good for big projects with many tasks.


Being a bit of a podcast junkie had heard a lot about Basecamp in the past but never actually needed to try it until recently. Basecamp is a online project management system which allows you to create projects, invite others to join, allocate tasks, show progress etc etc. Base camp is predominantly a paid service, but hidden very well in small text is a free option which allows you to create one project.


I was very recently introduced to Podio by Lisa Warner from Finkcards (check out the interview I did Lisa here). I haven’t had chance to explore Podio in full but it seems to offer all and more that Basecamp does and best of all it’s free (well for up to ten user accounts anyway). The thing that is interesting about Podio, is that you can adapt it by adding free apps depending on the type of project it is.


Freedcamp is another online project management service which promises to always be free – for its core features anyway. I have only briefly looked at Freedcamp, but it appears to offer similar features to Basecamp.


Mindmeister is online brainstorming software (also available as ipad and iphone apps) which allows you to collaboratively create and edit mindmaps. This is great for planning out projects and getting them straight in your head before you start. The free online version of Mindmeister allows you to create 3 free online mindmaps. With the apps you can create unlimited mindmaps, but you will only be able to share 3 of them with the free online version.

Also check out this article with other Mindmapping options
two of the free online mindmapping sites its mentions are and (I haven’t tried these)


Skype offers the ability to let multiple users talk in group calls (voice only) completely free. The premium service will also allow you to have multiple person video calls, although being quite camera shy :) I haven’t tried this yet. Skype also gives you the great ability to share your computer screen or send files to one another as you speak. Another great thing about Skype is that you are able to set your status, so your Skype contacts can see when you are on or offline, away and you can even set it to “do not disturb”. Skype is easy to set up to so if you haven’t tried it give it a go.

What tools do you use to collaborate online?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Molloy August 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm

At the moment I’m looking for some kind of project management software but for now it only needs to be me (so no collaborative features needed) although could be useful to use some service or software that can be expanded for collaboration in future. Ideally something that at least could tie into my Google calendar and tasks/email. This is really for self motivation and (time) organisation more than anything for multiple personal projects and of course ideally be free or have a free plan. I’m going to give a few things a try, e.g. Podio sounds interesting.


Tara August 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Hi Andrew, Good to hear from you. I am just getting the hang of Podio and really liking it. I am not sure if there is anyway to tie it in to Google Calendar or not but it does have its own calendar app. I have been using it for collaboration but have also started using it as a planner for my freelance work. I add each task can set timing and it will email me with my days tasks which is great. Podio also have an App for iphone and ipad which is helpful, previously I was using the ipad App “things” for this along with good old fashioned notes on paper :) . Let me know how you get on


Tara August 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Hi Andrew – looks like your Google calendar can be exported to Podio


Andrew Molloy August 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Thought I’d also add couple of suggestions from a podcast I listened to this morning. apparently very feature rich has google docs and evernote integration

I’ve signed up to both but I think I’ll concentrate on giving Podio a really good try first. Stop myself from procrastinating too much which is the whole point of me doing this in the first place. :-)


Tara August 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hi Andrew – thanks for those – I will have to check them out when I get through my Podio To do list :)


Andrew Molloy August 10, 2011 at 2:08 pm

The more I look at Podio the more I like it. I think its huge advantage is the flexibility and potential with the Apps. I think I’ll make a snap decision and stick with it for now as it seems if there’s anything missing either there’s an app for it or you could write one for it.


Roman (Conceptboard) August 12, 2011 at 9:47 am

Wow, that’s a very nice list.

I have one great addition:

It’s a whiteboard-like space to upload images and documents, to scribble and to give visual feedback. Wrapped up in real time collaboration features such as presentations and guest access.


Tracy September 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: