For all its ubiquity, low cost and cross-platform friendliness, theres no disputing that e-mail is, at best, a mediocre tool for conducting ad hoc collaboration. Project threads can quickly get out of hand, and the large files that team members must shuttle back and forth can leave users scrambling to trim their mailboxes to stay under storage quotas.
Companies out to find a better way to work together without having to roll out a server-based collaboration product or impose particular operating system requirements on potential team members may find what theyre looking for in Collanos Softwares Collanos Workplace 1.1.
Collanos Workplace, the latest version of which began shipping in May, is a bare-bones alternative to Microsofts meatier Groove 2007 peer-to-peer collaboration product that makes up for its somewhat spartan feature set with support for Windows, OS X and Linux operating systems and a rather attractive price: free.
As with other peer-to-peer collaboration solutions, Collanos Workplace 1.1 can spell relief for IT managers too pressed for time to evaluate, deploy and maintain a server-based collaboration platform.
In eWEEK Labs tests, we were pleased with Collanos Workplace 1.1s capabilities for rounding up the files, folders and discussions that comprise collaborative projects into single, easily accessible and well-synchronized spaces.
Whats more, while Collanos Workspace does not offer the useful calendar-based tools and customizable form functionality that Groove can boast, we found it much easier to get down to business with the core functionality that Collanos does offer. In our opinion, getting a solid grip on Groove requires a more rigorous employee training than whats required for Collanos.
New in Version 1.1 is a central user directory, maintained by Collanos, thats meant to enable users to search for other Collanos members by entering their name, user name or e-mail address. However, in our tests, we found this feature to be a work in progress —our team members came up empty-handed when we searched for each other via the directory.
Wed also like to see Collanos bolster the apps facilities for tracking changes to shared files. As we mentioned above, Collanos Workplace 1.1 is freely downloadable at www.collanos.com. Down the road, Collanos plans to roll out optional paid add-ons to extend the products functionality.
We kicked off our tests of Collanos Workplace 1.1 by installing the software on two machines, one running Windows XP SP2 and the other running Ubuntu Linux 7.04.
As an Eclipse-based application, Collanos Workplace 1.1 requires a JRE (Java runtime environment) to operate. For Windows, we had to install the JRE separately, but the Linux version came bundled with a JRE of its own.
We could also can engage in discussion forums within the work space, post notes and send instant messages. We didnt have much use for the products IM capability—we preferred the discussion module for communication.
When a team member first joins a work space, and when elements of the work space change, the software automatically synchronizes with team members workspaces so up-to-date versions of the content are available to all peers.
When team members make changes to a document, other members are alerted by a small red dot that appears next to the icon identifying the file type. Older versions of the files are accessible through a conflict bin, from which we could revert to older versions.
We think the alerts to file modifications should be more obvious to users. For example, when we opened a Microsoft Word document, made changes, and then saved those changes and shut the application down, Collanos Workplace 1.1 asked us whether we wanted those changes updated in our work space.
Itd be great if this kind of notification could pop up on other members screens to alert them of file changes. Collanos Workplace 1.1 keeps information secure with 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption.
According to the products documentation, TCP ports 9701 and 80 must be open for the software to operate behind certain firewalls. We were able to use the product from behind our corporate firewall without making any modifications.
Technical Analyst Tiffany Maleshefski is at [email protected]