Just a few years ago, effective coordination and collaboration between a group of people required physical proximity, or regular e-mails, phone calls and meetings. Nowadays, however, it’s possible to work on a single project with people from all over the world without ever meeting or speaking to them. Indeed, the emergence of online collaboration tools has revolutionized the way individuals and business work together. Best of all, most online collaboration tools are simple, easy to use and inexpensive. If you haven’t already begun taking advantage of these powerful tools, here are four great ways to start.

Basecamp

Basecamp is an extremely powerful and useful online project collaboration system designed for entrepreneurs, small businesses, freelancers and business groups. The most used online project management application in the world, the company claims over 4 million users have used the program to collaborate all manner of projects. The application allows you to upload, store, edit and share documents and files online. The interface also provides users with a convenient overview of the project schedule, was well as an account of who is working on what. To-do lists and time tracking ensure that everything is kept in order and on-schedule, while an in-built messaging system allows for effective communication between team members.

Skype

Online video conferences have become widespread in the modern professional world, helping to cut down dramatically on travel costs and expensive long distance phone calls. Although scores of online video chat services have emerged over the past few years, Skype remains the most widely used and convenient. Apart from the standard face-to-face video conference chat, Skype’s Screen Sharing feature allows users to show others whatever is on their screen, which is perfect for presenting slideshows or making visual presentations. A convenient app for portable devices means that Skype can be easily accessed on the go.

Trello

Although Basecamp reigns supreme in the online project management systems market, other contenders have emerged that cater to more specific project types. One such tool is Trello – a simple and free online collaboration tool perfect for individual or smaller group projects. Trello’s friendly interface allows users to create a project by adding items and lists, and assigning people to specific tasks. The online tool then provides real time updates on all actions and progress to members of the project team.

Sync.in

Sync.in is online collaboration in its simplest form. This web-based word processor enables users to view and co-edit the same notes and documents in real time from anywhere in the world. Numerous users can collectively plan projects, brainstorm and compose documents, while color coded text allows people to easily identify who made which edits. A handy time-slider also allows users to recount earlier versions and edits of the document and edit any changes made, while a chat box enables communication between the various collaborators. Sync.in is incredibly easy to use, the basic service is free, and it requires no logging in or signing up.