Workspace alternatives: a comprehensive comparison

Teamwork isn’t an easy sport: the bigger the team the harder it gets. If the goals/milestones are set clear, one person will probably complete the project just fine. If it’s a team of two they’ll probably split up the work, track each other progress and finish in time. If its one of three, four or five they’ll probably start calling meetings, send emails, update their progress. If it’s a team of over 20, there’ll probably be people working full time just managing the communication between teams.

As the team grows the overhead of coordinating work just increases. I’m sure everyone has realized at some point that emails and Excel sheets are quite limited at managing things as the project grows and sticky notes work good, but not with distributed teams.

Of course lots of others have realized this problem before and created software to aid this process: these tools are usually referred to as project management tools or (virtual) workspace solutions. The idea of these is to have users store and update documents in the workspace, be able to constantly track their and others’ progress and make collaboration easy in this space. There are lots of promising workspace solutions: when first searching I came across at least two dozen seemingly good products/services.

One of the most efficient and popular way to help manage comlpex projects is by providing workspaces to users – a common shared storage area related to a specific task. Users can upload and share documents related to the project to the workplace, collaborate with other users involved in the project and track what is going on in the workspace.

Back in September 2009 while I took up the task to test the major players in workspace management fields so that the company would have a picture of where their workspace module was on the market. This study never got published however while doing the research I didn’t find any useful comparisons that were not funded by some vendor. I’ve left Sense/Net in October 2009 and decided to publish my research as it might be a good guideline for someone looking for a short list of project management tools.

The products evaluated in this comparison are Central Desktop, Huddle, Office Live WorkspacesO3Spaces, ProjectPlace, ProjectSpaces, Sense/Net 6.0 and Sharepoint 2007. Evaluation criteria is detailed and is grouped into general overview, document management, collaboration and content publishing categories.

General overview
Central Desktop Huddle Office Live
Work
spaces
O3
Spaces
Project
Place
Project
Spaces
Sense
/Net 6.0
Share
point
2007
SaaS solution Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Self Hosted No No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Price estimate for small team (3-10 people,3-10 workspaces) $25-50/month $15-38/month Free with MS Office license €15-65/month (€177-790/year) $80-270
/month
$79-129
/month
Free (open source) $4800+
one-time
fee
Price estimate for mid-large team (50-150 people, 50-150 workspaces) $500-1500/month $200+/month, price provided upon request Free with MS Office license
Workspaces
€250-1000
/month (€2950-11850
/year)
$1100-3500
/month
$399-749
/month
Free (open source) $9500-
19500+
one-time fee
Detailed pricing See details See details See details See details See details See details See details See details
Company response time for e-mail inquiries * Within days Within days Within hours Within hours Never Within hours Within hours Within days


* an email was sent to the vendors asking to evaluate themselves on some of the functionality listed here and the response time to this email is featured.

Document Management
Central Desktop Huddle Office Live
Workspaces
O3Spaces ProjectPlace ProjectSpaces Sense/Net 6.0 Sharepoint 2007
Document Collaboration Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
File locking Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Document versioning Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multiple file upload Yes Yes Yes, with IE Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Drag&Drop Documents Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes
WebDav (enabling drive mapping) No, coming soon Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes
Personal Folders No Yes No Yes Yes No Limited Yes
Auditing (controlling space available for a user) Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes
Search in uploaded documents Yes, certain type documents Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes
Collaboration
Central Desktop Huddle Office Live
Workspaces
O3Spaces ProjectPlace ProjectSpaces Sense/Net 6.0 Sharepoin 2007
Permission Management Yes Yes Yes Yes (workspace members) No Yes Yes Yes
Contacts Yes Yes Yes Yes (workspace members) Yes Yes Limited Yes
Calendar Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Task Management Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Limited Yes
Email Notifications Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes
Annoncements Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Commenting Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No
Voting/Polls No No No Yes No No, can be integrated No, can be integrated No, can be integrated
Forum Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
RSS Yes Yes No No, in development No Yes Yes No, can be integrated
Content Publishing
Central Desktop Huddle Office Live
Workspaces
O3Spaces ProjectPlace ProjectSpaces Sense/Net 6.0 Sharepoint 2007
Publish/manage content on intranet/extranet Yes No No Yes, based on open standards and web services Yes Yes Yes Yes
Templates Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes
Complete web site customization Yes Yes No No No Sort of, can be customized to a certain level Yes Yes
Other
Workflow Yes, customizable In development No Yes, customizable Somewhat, review and sign No No, under development Yes, customizable
Users can register themselves No No No Yes No No Yes No, but can be done with add-on
Mobile access No, coming soon Yes, iphone app and browser access No Yes No No No, can be implemented Yes

Product screenshots

The larger the comparison table, the more confusing it can get. To help associate the products with an image we’ve included screenshots and a one-sentence description of the solution, listed in alphabetical order.

Central Desktop

Central Desktop is a mature project management application with numerous advanced features. Its interface is clean and easy to navigate. Visit their website for more information and a trial.

Central Desktop

Huddle

Huddle is an advanced online collaboration tool with lots of advanced features. Its interface is self-explanatory. Visit their home page to learn more and try out their solution.

huddle

Office Live Workspace

Office Live Workspace – unlike the other products – is the tool offering the least collaboration. It is basically an add-on to the Microsoft Office suite enabling one to store and share documents online. Its collaboration support is very limited, however it is freely accessible with a Microsoft Office license. Visit their home page to try it out.

officelive

O3Spaces

O3Spaces is a mature document management solution plugging in to OpenOffice, StarOffice and MS Word allowing documents to be simply transferred to and from the workspaces. Go to their website to find out more details.

o3spaces

ProjectPlace

Projectplace is a project collaboration solution. See their home page for more details.

projectplace

ProjectSpaces

ProjectSpaces is an online collaboration space which enables users to collaborate on projects (essentially these are workspaces). It has a clean and customizable interface. Go to their web site for details and to try out the solution.

projectspaces

Sense/Net 6.0

Sense/Net 6.0 is an open source enterprise content management system built on the .NET platform with some support for collaborating in workspaces – though this feature is not the most polished point of the system. The software however can be entirely customized or even modified for specific needs. Download the software from the download page or find out more about it on the Sense/Net homepage.

sensenet

Sharepoint 2007

Microsoft Sharepoint is a mature collaboration and process management solution. Its user interface is not entirely straightforward but it can be customized to support a wide range of use cases. Find out more on the website of the product.

sharepoint

Conclusion

This article intended to help give an overview of some products worth considering to use in the crowded workspace alternatives market. All products have different characteristics and price range so finding the right one for a team or organization is not a simple task. However once aware of the requirements for the workspace tool these tables are likely to provide help in identifying products suiting those needs.

Even though we’ve evaluated eight products in this article the workspace and collaboration market is booming, there are other good alternatives apart from the ones listed above.  These include:

  • ActiveState Firefly
  • BaseCamp (even though a big player, still didn’t respond to my email though)
  • Box.Net (this solution focuses more on sharing though)
  • Colaab (a visually really appealing solution, written fully in Silverlight. It’s actually developed in Edinburgh, down the street from me :) )

If you know of other good alternatives these are welcomed in comments for this article.

Note: this evaluation was carried out in September 2009 therefore some data may be inaccurate. If this is the case, please get in touch so I can correct these details.

9 Responses to Workspace alternatives: a comprehensive comparison
  1. Alan

    Hi,

    Really good article, It is good to have a full breakdown of features of all products.

    I am writing as you have some of Huddles features wrong.
    Templates – Yes
    Multiple upload – yes
    Customisation – Yes
    Workflow – in development
    Mobile Access – yes, iphone app and browser access

    Thanks,

    Alan

  2. Gergely Orosz

    Alan, thanks for correcting those details, I’ve updated the tables.

  3. Andrew Aylett

    I’ve used Plone to good effect, also plenty of people use a wiki — MediaWiki seems inexplicably popular, while TWiki is more targeted to enterprise deployment.

  4. Priyanka D

    Another one you should look at is DeskAway. Free basic, free trials for paid plans, powerful and feature rich.

  5. Robert Bonay

    Hi Greg,

    Really cool article, thanks!
    I did a small research about workspace solutions which can be integrated with source control/bugtracking/issue management systems.
    Did you find any product, which provides some of this by default? I think this is one of the most important features for the IT sector.

  6. Andy

    Thanks Greg! This is an incredible resource for finding an online collaboration tool. We appreciate the Office Live Workspace mention! If you have any more questions about it head to http://www.facebook.com/officelive

    Cheers,
    Andy
    MSFT Office Live Outreach

  7. Jamelia

    Great article. Another solution I use is called Dooster which is a great alternative workspace to use online: http://www.dooster.net

  8. jack

    This is a good article. It’s one of several that we used in our search for alternative workspace software which led us to Dooster. Many thanks.

  9. Pankaj

    We would love for you to consider HyperOffice as well.