Tools for Collaborating & Sharing Ideas

Previously Fenton staff suggested tools for better meetings and tools for better communications through listening. Today we’ll look at tools that help teams generate, share, and collaborate on ideas and projects.

Do you have other tools to add to the list? Tweet to @fentonprogress, and tag with #lifehack.

Liam O’Donoghue, Account Executive


Have you ever wanted to convert a PDF into a Word document, so you can edit the text? Or grab a video off the web to embed in your next presentation? Once you add the Zamzar button to your browser (which takes about 30 seconds), you can do either of these actions – or tons of other useful tricks – with a few simple clicks. This free conversion tool also allows you to transform image files, video, audio, spreadsheets and even e-books into whatever format you want, which comes in especially handy for collaborative design or multi-media projects. Now you’ll never have to bug your designer at 3 a.m. to ask them to convert your .eps logo into a 300 dpi .jpg again!

Jenny Park, Account Director


When was the last time you were on a conference call with multiple parties discussing a certain document, and someone asked, “Can you send us that version? I’m not sure we’re talking about the same document.” Or “We need to look through the photos from the event—is there a way for us to get those now?” Enter Dropbox: a great solution for storing, sharing, and syncing files with people who don’t have access to your office network. There’s also the added bonus (or perhaps downside) of making it much easier to work from home without having to remember to save files to a USB drive or emailing them to yourself.

Kara Masi, Account Manager, Digital

Open Atrium

Open Atrium is a free set of tools that allows organizations to manage projects and collaborate online. At Fenton, we use it for everything from managing our digital client projects to running our intranet, where our staff from all four offices can trade work files, blog together, access internal HR documents, share calendars and to do lists, and log/track tech tickets for our IT staff. It runs on top of an installation of our favorite open-source content management system, Drupal. It requires a little bit of tech knowledge for the initial set-up, but it offers the flexibility and room to add more functionality as your needs and organization grows.

John Gordon, Vice President Digital


Email boxes clutter quickly, and IM demands attention and response that can put a serious kink in productivity and the creative process. So, how can an organization engage ideas, share information, and collaborate on projects in real time? The answer is Yammer.

Yammer is essentially a private social network version of Twitter that we guarantee will replace much of your internal email communication. With Yammer you can test ideas, post interesting articles, make announcements big and small, and have threaded conversations by project, department, office, in the field, or across your entire organization. A definite must have that couldn’t be easier to set up and use.

Eric Antebi, Vice President


I am the kind of person who has ideas everywhere. For a long time, I have been carrying around the classic black and white speckled composition books from grammar school so I could take notes, capture my crazy/brilliant thoughts, and feel somewhat secure in thought that I had what I needed at my finger tips. But that system had huge limitations. My composition pad had no search function, and with more and more of my life happening digitally, a paper notebook began to leave out way more stuff than it was capturing.

Then I discovered Evernote, a note taking tool that works on multiple platforms (computer, iPhone, and iPad). You can file and tag your notes and search them. You can forward emails directly to your Evernote account so that they are archived and searchable with all of your other important notes. You can even capture PDFs, web pages, tweets, voice memos, and photos.

Now when I am at a meeting where notes are taken on a flip chart or white board, I snap a pic with my iPhone and then tag and save it in Evernote. And since I can access it on my phone, it’s with me wherever I go. The best part is that Evernote is free for up to 60 MB per month. Beyond that you pay a very small fee. I still use my composition book, of course, but only to doodle, “I heart Evernote” on its pages.

Hugh McMullen, Account Executive

Google Docs & Calendar

Nascent nonprofits, blogging enterprises, and even rock bands can often start out these days as a group of people interacting on various computer devices. You could have a development officer in Chicago on a brand new Macbook Air, an intern on a 1998 Dell desktop in the Bumpkin County Public Library, and a bassist on her iPhone between gigs all along the East Coast. How will these folks all collaborate on memos, schedules, and song lyrics when they’re not all in an office with meeting tables and desktops equipped with Outlook, Word, and Excel? If you have a Google Account, you can do this in The Cloud.

Google Docs allows you to create, update, store, and share word processing documents, spreadsheets, and even presentations for free. Collaborators can be invited and their contributions tracked so that you can access earlier versions of the document. With Google Calendar, teams of people can create shared and sorted calendars. Both of these tools, like all Google tools, are free and only require a browser of any type to use. And when you do have to deal with folks who aren’t quite living up in the cloud yet, both have options to sync or export to Microsoft Office software.