The Best Online Document Collaboration Tools in 2021 (Free & Paid)

Collaboration in teams provides almost endless opportunities when it comes to sharing knowledge, making decisions and solving problems effectively. Teamwork is part of everyday life and takes place across all industries and businesses.

Faced with the need to improve collaboration and electronic document workflows, teams and companies of any size look for reliable tools to make it easier to co-author content online. Some of the most popular and well-known solutions for real-time document editing and co-editing include Microsoft Office Online and Google Docs.

However, there are other options that can help you to streamline workflows in your team. In this article, you will find a brief overview of 5 free and paid tools to facilitate document collaboration among your team members.


The Best Online Document Collaboration Tools in 2021 (Free & Paid)

Created and developed by Ascensio System SIA, a Latvia-based software development company, ONLYOFFICE Docs offers a full office suite with collaborative editors for text documents, spreadsheets and presentations that are accessible via a single interface.

The editing experience you get using ONLYOFFICE Docs is quite similar to that offered by Microsoft Office. All editing, formatting and collaborative tools are divided into tabs that are located on the top toolbar. Getting familiar with the interface won’t take you a lot of time as it’s very intuitive.

ONLYOFFICE Docs is natively compatible with the OOXML formats (DOCX, XLSX and PPTX), which allows you to open and edit any Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. The solution comes with a full set of features for collaborative work — various sharing permissions, two co-editing modes, version history, track changes, comments and a built-in chat.

ONLYOFFICE Docs is great when it comes to integration into existing IT environments. The office suite can be seamlessly integrated into different DMS platforms and file-sharing systems. Some of the available options include Nextcloud, ownCloud, SharePoint, Confluence, Seafile, Nuxeo, Alfresco, etc. A free desktop app for Windows, Linux and macOS and free mobile apps for iOS and Android enhance your editing experience.

ONLYOFFICE Docs stands out among other document collaboration solutions because it’s completely free and open-source. Another difference is that ONLYOFFICE comes as a self-hosted solution that gives you total control over your data.


The Best Online Document Collaboration Tools in 2021 (Free & Paid)

Box is a secure document sharing and collaborative platform tool that is used by some of the world’s leading companies like AstraZeneca, Morgan Stanley, Allstate, etc. Box used to be exclusively known as a file-sharing and storage system, but now it comes with document collaborative features allowing users to create and edit documents using Microsoft 365 and Google Docs.


Box makes it possible to edit and co-edit both internal and external documents and provides unlimited document storage within Box Drive. When you collaborate with other users in real time, all your edits are automatically saved in the cloud. All comments left by your co-authors are highlighted with different colours, which makes the collaboration process as easy as possible.

In comparison with the other document collaboration tools on this list, Box offers the highest number of third-party app integrations. Currently, there are more than 1500 integration options including Salesforce, Zoom, Slack, Microsoft 365 and other popular apps. For example, when integrated with Zoom, Box is the only solution on this list that is capable of making audio and video calls.

When it comes to pricing, Box offers flexible tariff plans both for individuals and businesses. The free tariff plan for a single user comes with 10 GB of storage and allows you to keep only 1 version of your documents. For more storage and collaborative features, you need to upgrade to a paid tariff plan.

Zoho Docs

The Best Online Document Collaboration Tools in 2021 (Free & Paid)

Just like other solutions on this list, Zoho Docs is an online office suite that provides tools to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations right in your web browser. Zoho Docs not only makes it possible to edit and keep your documents in the cloud but also allows you to upload other files to your personal storage, such as music, video, images, etc.

Zoho Docs comes with a file management system that lets you create folders and subfolders to organize all your documents and files more effectively. You are even allowed to create team groups and share content privately. The ability to organize all your files by teams, file types and authors makes it easy to access the required files within seconds.

When it comes to real-time document collaboration, Zoho users can share files using various access permissions, use passwords to protect confidential information and even set a timer after which everyone can’t access the document. Zoho Docs also allows co-authors to chat with each other in real-time to make the whole collaboration process easier.

Zoho’s free tariff plan comes with 5 GB of free storage space and a desktop app for Windows, macOS and Linux lets you work on your desktop or laptop while being offline. All your edits will be synced across all devices.

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Dropbox Paper

The Best Online Document Collaboration Tools in 2021 (Free & Paid)

At its core, Dropbox Paper is a document collaboration tool that is quite similar to Google Drive. The solution is designed to manage projects and documents both individually and in groups. One of the basic differences with respect to the Google software is that Paper is limited to creating text documents, while Google Drive offers the ability to create text documents, spreadsheets, questionnaires and other types of office documents. However, Drobox Paper offers a wide set of ready-to-use templates for text documents such as meeting minutes, brainstorming sessions or project overviews, which is very convenient in some situations.

One of its greatest strengths is its notification center, which will let you know when someone shares a document or file with you, when they leave a comment in one of the shared documents or when you are mentioned in another project or document. In fact, when you write comments, each one will generate a small chat box where you can have conversations with other co-authors.

Every document and folder you create in Paper is stored in Dropbox, and you must have a DropBox account to access Paper. At the moment, Paper sets no limits on the number of documents you can create and includes an unlimited history of versions and edits in each one. The interface looks minimalistic and unusual at first sight, but you quickly get acquainted with it.

Dropbox Paper is free but there are plenty of Dropbox paid tariff plans. The cheapest one for individuals costs $9.99 a month. The biggest advantage is that this tariff plan offers 2,000 GB of storage, so you can keep as many documents as files as you need without being worried about free space.


Online document collaboration is often about choosing the right software tools. If you have always relied on Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online, you might need to have a look at alternative solutions and try another approach to real-time document co-authoring. We hope that this list of the best software tools for collaborative work helps you streamline your collaboration processes and achieve better results.

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