Collanos: in the groove.

Anyone remember Groove? I first saw it about 6 years ago (can it really be that long?) and I got quite excited. Our peripatetic CEO at the time got enthused because it would let him share files with all of us while he was on the road, which he was for most of the year. But then Microsoft bought the company, and our plan to use it foundered. Recently it popped its head up again in the context of Sharepoint, but I get the feeling that Microsoft has never really pushed it.

So I was quite interested when I found out about Collanos (http://www.collanos.com/), which does the same thing. Even better, it is a cross platform application, running on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I made a note of it and waited for an excuse to try it out. Finally that excuse arrived.

I’ve been working with a couple of people on a project. One of them is in China, one is in Hong Kong, and I’m here in the Philippines. We set up a demo workgroup and started throwing files in there. All seems to be working well so far, and in fact one of the guys is now busy piling files in there faster than my paltry bandwidth can soak them up, making sounds like “This is just what I’ve been waiting for!”.

Key points for me:

  • Cross platform.
  • Sharing files like this means they’re automatically backed up to several locations.
  • Open Source goodness means a low barrier to entry. I can use it for small projects as well as big ones.
  • You set up workspaces according to project or workflow. This is a different way of thinking to piling files onto a fileserver, but it makes more sense once you’ve got used to it.
  • You keep all files, notes, discussions relating to a project in one space.
  • Communication between group members can be done asynchronously in many to many Discussions, or in real time in One to one Chats.

Things which weren’t so cool.

  • You can’t drag and drop between workspaces. This means you have to plan your workspace in detail before constructing it. Drag and drop is coming in a future release.
  • A small glitch meant it took longer to join everyone to the group than it should, but that eventually ironed itself out.

All in all a keeper. I’ll run it for the length of this project and see how I go with it.

UPDATE: August 2011

I just revisited Collanos’ website, and was dismayed to see that it hasn’t been updated for over a year, and the last version of the software was released in Nov 2009. I guess this is now dead, which is a shame.

4 thoughts on “Collanos: in the groove.

  1. Collanos is a good (perhaps better) substitute for Groove particularly if you’re working for a company that doesn’t have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. If you do have a large Microsoft investment particularly with Sharepoint, MS Communicator and Active Directory you’ll find Groove fits a very underserved area for project collaboration. The real power lies in the peer-to-peer architecture which allows for offline support and its ‘container’ approach to managing all project related activities. It would be great to see Microsoft Office more tightly integrated with Groove (it is after all bundled with it) and file versioning similar to Subversion (with a Windows Explorer shell extenions). However, there is nothing else out there other than Groove and Collanos (although there is a Mira Groupware opensource initiative http://miragroupware.org/wiki/doku.php that is planning on releasing a multi-platform with a broader feature set than what Groove currently supports).

  2. Thanks for the comments Bryan, especially the Mira link. I wasn’t aware of that one, and think I even prefer its interface to Collanos’. However the fact they don’t have a stable release out yet is a bit of a deal breaker!

    I hear what you’re saying about Microsoft Enterprise Agreements. As it happens, for this project none of the entities is big enough to have that kind of agreement, and that’s precisely why Collanos is a good fit for us. I’m also finding that it doesn’t scale very well — the more people we add, the more problems we get — so I’d say there’s definitely limited usefulness for larger groups. If I had to puts some limits on it, I’d say maybe groups of ten people or less, geographically dispersed, and not sharing any large files such as video content.

    Versioning: one of the things I looked at while I was evaluating various groupware solutions was Alfresco (www.alfresco.com). While it works in a totally different way to Groove, Collanos etc, it certainly has the versioning thing nailed. SugarCRM addresses this to some extent as well.

  3. Just came across another Groupware solution, which I hadn’t found before, so I thought I’d add it to the list.

    03spaces is apparently integrated with OpenOffice and MS office, and allows people to collaborate on documents. It is mainly server based, but works over Webdav. It has document versioning and checkout.

    http://www.o3spaces.com/

    Not sure when I’ll get the chance to play with it, but it looks interesting.

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