Project management software like Basecamp and Asana let team members create to-do lists, receive project assignments, and comment on uploaded files.

In spite of using the above tools, a recent Nintex study found that 39% of employees still struggle with live file collaboration and editing.

The top document collaboration tools in 2020 let multiple team members both write and edit drafts in real-time. These tools help to prevent miscommunication while allowing for a faster and more streamlined document creation process.

 

Essential Features to Look For

In addition to real-time in-line editing, look for file collaboration tool features like:

  • Autosave
  • Version history
  • Version control
  • Track changes
  • New changes notifications
  • Multiple file formats
  • Commenting
  • User tagging
  • Chat instant messaging
  • Pre-made file templates
  • App integration
  • Mobile device accessibility
  • File access control
  • Online and offline access
  • Scalable file storage space

 

The Top Document Collaboration Tools

The below document management tools include the above features and have the best user reviews in 2020.

 

Google DocsGoogle Docs Collaboration

With over 800 million active worldwide users, Google Docs is the most well-known of all the document collaboration software on this list.

However, many don’t realize that, in addition to adding comments and making edits to a finished draft, real-time online collaboration is possible with Docs.

Up to 200 people can simultaneously view a Doc, and 10 users can make simultaneous real-time edits.

All edits are automatically updated in the same master doc and saved in the cloud, so there is no need to create a new document for every draft. This version control feature prevents teams from making edits to outdated drafts.

Documents are shared via email or through a URL, and team leaders can select which specific employees can directly edit, suggest edits, or have view-only access.

The “Live Edits” feature shows real-time, color-coded updates that multiple people have made to a file. Users can track changes to see previous file versions without the new changes, approve or deny edits. They can also make comments in the sidebar, tag each other in these comments, or communicate via chat messaging.

Docs also allows users to save files in multiple formats, including PDF, plain text, web page, and rich text. It’s a wise choice for teams with a focus on user-friendly software, or for smaller companies that need a free editing tool.

 

Pricing and Plans

Google Docs can be purchased as a part of the G Suite product package or on its own. The below table compares the prices and plans of the free Google Docs Personal plan and the paid Google Docs Business Plan.

Features Personal Plan  Businesses Plan
Cost Free $10/user per month
iOS and Android Mobile App
Autosave
Real-Time Collaboration
Work Offline
Voice typing
Revision History
Comments and In-Line Edits
Includes Google Meet X
Cloud Storage 15 GB per user 100 GB per user

 

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 document collaboration

Microsoft 365 (formerly Microsoft Office 365) allows simultaneous users to create and edit documents via SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

Once a document has been created and saved to the cloud, users can invite other team members to collaborate with them by sending them a link to the file or via email.

As in Google Docs, each user has specific file permissions for accessing the knowledge base, set by the file’s creator. Access can also be controlled via 365 Groups, which divides all users into teams. Each team can be granted or denied access to specific documents, speeding up the collaborative process.

New document changes are automatically synced and can be shown in-line or in the sidebar. Reviewers can track changes made by specific employees only, or see a summary of all new changes a team made. Markups can be previewed before suggested changes are accepted, and reviewers can accept changes en masse or individually.

In addition to making direct real-time edits, authors can communicate with each other via commenting, user tagging, and chat messages in the Microsoft Teams app.  Best of all, because it comes with Microsoft Teams, it’s one of the few tools here that allows for video conferencing while editing files.

Microsoft 365 allows for up to 99 simultaneous editors per document.

It’s a good fit for teams who want to switch to the Microsoft Teams update from Skype and other business communication tools, and for those who need to divide larger teams into smaller editing groups.

 

Pricing and Plans

Microsoft 365 has three paid business plans, which can be billed on an annual or monthly basis. As shown below, the only real differences between the three plans are related to security and storage, so most companies can get by with the Business Basic version.

Features  Business Basic Business Standard Business Premium
Cost $5.00/user per month $12.50/user per month $20.00/user per month
OneDrive
SharePoint
Microsoft Teams
iOS and Android Mobile App
External File Sharing
Real-time Co-Authoring
Autosave
Track Changes
Unlimited Cloud Archive X X X
Advanced Threat Protection X X

 

Zoho WorkDriveZoho File Editor

Zoho WorkDrive’s Writer is a real-time online document creation and editing platform ideal for businesses that have numerous files requiring frequent collaboration across devices.

It’s “blank page” interface is designed to eliminate distractions when writing or editing. For reviewers who must perform especially detailed edits, the tool’s “Focus Mode” highlights only one line of text at a time.

Zoho also comes with a virtual writing assistant, Zia, that scans documents for grammar errors and readability.

It integrates with Microsoft Word and WordPress and comes with a template library for drafting documents like HR policies and event invitations. Zoho WorkDrive includes a “Content Mask” feature that allows admins to hide sensitive information or specific parts of a document from selected reviewers. Its “Content Lock” lets the document’s creator select which parts of the text they don’t want to be changed.

Additional Zoho WorkDrive features include:

  • Quick chat messaging tool
  • Live cursors
  • Offline editing
  • Access receipts on collaborators
  • Comments and user tagging
  • Track changes
  • Document merging
  • Digital signatures

 

Pricing and Plans

Zoho WorkDrive offers three paid plans that can be paid monthly or annually. Additional storage is available for purchase.

Features Starter Team Business 
Cost $2.00/user per month $4.00/user per month $8.00/user per month
File Upload Limit 1 GB 5 GB 50 GB
Storage 1 TB/team 3 TB/team 5 TB/team
Team Folders/Subfolders
External File Sharing
iOS and Android Mobile App
Content Search Bar
Real-Time Collaboration and Commenting
File Activity Timeline
File Access Statistics X X
Team Activity Timeline X X
File Locking X X

BoxBox file sharing

Box is a secure document sharing and lives collaborative authoring tool used by top companies like Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Olympus.

In the past, Box was exclusively a file sharing and storage system, but it now allows simultaneous users to create and edit documents in Microsoft 365 and Google Docs.

It provides both internal and external document editing, has no user maximum, and offers unlimited document storage in the Box Drive. Edits are automatically saved, and each editor has color-coded notations and comments.

When compared to the other tools on this list, Box has the highest number of third-party app integrations.

It works with Salesforce, Zoom, popular Zoom alternatives, Slack, Microsoft 365, and over 1,400 other team collaboration platforms. This makes it an excellent option for teams that need to communicate over video or share their screens when making real-time edits together.

It’s also one of the few tools on this list capable of making video calls when integrated with Zoom.

Additional features include:

  • File and drive search bars
  • File locking and unlocking
  • Document version control
  • Offline document editing and access
  • Two-factor authentication
  • HITECH and HIPAA compliant

 

Pricing and Plans

Box has four paid Business Plans, each of which is paid on an annual or monthly basis. The majority of companies will be best served by the Business Plus plan.

Features Starter Plan Business Plan Business Plus Plan Enterprise Plan
Cost $5.00/user per month $15.00/user per month $25.00/user per month $35.00/user per month
Storage 100 GB Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
File Upload Limit 2 GB 5 GB 5 GB 5 GB
External Collaborators X X Unlimited Unlimited
Real-Time Editing
Version History Up to 25 50 50 100
iOS and Android Mobile App
Enterprise App Integrations X 1 3 Unlimited
Template Library X X

 

Dropbox PaperDropbox paper

Dropbox Paper is similar to Box’s collaboration system in that, in the past, Dropbox was solely a tool to store and share files.

Dropbox Paper is a completely free document editing tool that lets simultaneous users make real-time edits and suggestions. As with Zoho WorkDrive, Dropbox Paper’s interface is uncluttered and free of distractions like menus and toolbars, which are only available when specific text is highlighted.

In addition to making live line edits, users can use the comment and tagging features to make suggestions in the sidebar. They can also mark comments as unread, and edit and delete past comments. Comment history is also available.

While primarily a file editing tool, Dropbox Paper also offers project timelines. This allows admins to manage deadlines, use task management features, and set project milestones to ensure responsibilities are clear.

It’s a good choice for businesses that require specific document outlines, have a high number of people collaborating on files, and those that rely heavily on images and URLs when creating content.

Additional Dropbox features include:

  • Real-time comment notifications
  • Searchbar
  • Pre-made template library
  • Keyboard shortcuts for document formatting
  • Emoji comment reactions
  • Drag-and-drop image insertion
  • Automatic image gallery creation
  • Link embedding
  • Ability to connect multiple documents

Paper is 100% free to use.

 

Bit.aiBit.ai comment tagging

Bit.ai is an end-to-end file collaboration platform with users in over 100 countries including well-known companies like Canon, MIT, and Accenture.

In addition to real-time editing, Bit.ai’s Integrated Smart Documents allow users to add content from Google Drive, cloud files, weblinks, SharePoint, Box, and more. Bit documents are compatible with numerous file types, including PowerPoints, Excel, Word, and more.

Users can also interlink documents for better file organization, and access smart document tracking during the review process. This provides information on engagement levels from external collaborators. For increased security, users can set expiration dates for internal and external files.

Files are organized by workspace and arranged in folders and subfolders. Wiki pages make finding past content and answering common questions simple. Unlimited document version history and tracked changes are also available.

Note, however, that it does not offer a chat messaging tool like Slack alternatives such as Chanty and Twist.

Bit.ai works well for teams that frequently reuse and repurpose past content, as well as businesses that frequently collaborate with editors outside of their organization.

Additional features include:

  • Co-authoring
  • Live line editing
  • Integration with Github, Miro, and social media platforms
  • Pre-made template library
  • Upload past content to new documents
  • Color-coded editing notifications
  • Mentions
  • Commenting features

 

Pricing and Plans

Features Free Plan Pro Plan Business Plan Enterprise Plan
Cost Free $12/user per month $20.00/user per month Unlisted
Maximum Collaborators 5 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
File Limit 5 MB 200 MB Unlimited Unlimited
Storage
Real-Time Collaboration X
Document Statistics X
Inline Commenting X
Version History X
File Expiration X X
Real-Time Notifications X X
App Integrations X

 

NotionNotion Roadmap

Notion is a real-time collaboration app designed to replace a variety of popular workflow management tools like Trello, Confluence, and Asana.

It has the most customizable interface of any tool on this list, allowing users to create their own sidebar file organization system, add action items, and create tags and labels for files.

In addition to standard features like live co-authoring and editing, Notion provides version history, unlimited team member access to documents, and multiple view options.

It’s ideal for companies who need to consolidate the number of collaboration software programs they’re currently using, but still, need project management features.

Additional Notion features include:

  • Distraction-free interface
  • Mobile and desktop versions
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • User tagging
  • Commenting feature
  • Due dates
  • Notifications
  • Drag-and-drop content organization
  • Kanban board and to-do list formats
  • Template library

 

Pricing and Plans

Notion offers one free plan and three paid plans, billed monthly or annually. The most important file collaboration tools come with the Team or Enterprise plans.

Features Personal Plan Personal Pro Team Plan Enterprise Plan
Cost Free $4.00/user per month $8.00/user per month Unlisted
Android and iOS Mobile App
Guest Access 5 maximum Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Version History X
Commenting and Real-Time Editing X X
Advanced Permissions X X
Wiki X X
Multiple Views X X
App Integration X X

 

Using Video Software to Make Real-Time Edits

In addition to the above document collaboration tools, web conferencing software can also be used to edit files in real-time.

Features like screen sharing, a whiteboard tool, and remote desktop control allow dozens of employees to simultaneously access and edit files with the added benefit of face-to-face communication.

Our side-by-side comparisons of popular tools like Zoom vs WebEx make it easier to evaluate which video calling tool is right for your team.