What is a collaboration tool?

A collaboration tool is anything that teams use to communicate, organize, brainstorm, and otherwise work together in an efficient, productive way. A collaboration tool can be anything from a document where team members add creative work to a workflow software that keeps everyone up to speed on tasks, subtasks, and deadlines.

Collaboration tools define the virtual office environment. Messaging apps and real-time video conferencing have become more prominent in recent years, and collaboration software is now the primary medium in which many on-site and remote teams encounter each other in the workspace, both for collaborating on projects and day-to-day check-ins.

When do you need collaboration tools?

In general, collaboration tools can be grouped into three categories: tools for planning and logistics, tools for communication, and tools for creating deliverables.

Logistical and organizational tools

Every organization, from a giant enterprise to a small business, needs to keep track of its employees’ work, responsibilities, and output. Any project manager can tell you that having a shared resource that explicitly states what everyone is responsible for improves workflow and clarifies project plans. Organizational and project management tools include time tracking and task management apps, a company CRM (customer relationship manager), a local intranet, file-sharing platforms, project management software, and cloud storage.

A person standing at their desk having a virtual meeting with another person using their laptop connected to a desktop monitor

Communication tools

Teamwork only happens if team members can talk to each other. Email is the original online communications tool, but now teams can also communicate via video calls, group chats, instant messaging, screen sharing, and comments within other apps. Even a whiteboard in an office filled with comments or announcements can be a communication tool, if used right — likewise for digital whiteboards with collaboration features.

Brainstorming and creative tools

Apps where team members do creative work should also keep online collaboration tools in mind. Most deliverables are the work of a team, and that team needs to be able to access, edit, and comment on their work quickly and easily. Apps for individual work also need to function for team collaboration, making everything from first drafts to final proofing much easier.

Collaborating on a PDF document by adding a comment

The benefits of collaboration tools.

Good collaborative tools keep teams motivated. Clear expectations about where a project is and what’s required specifically help team members stay connected and engaged. When your team knows what’s going on and what they’re supposed to do, they’re happier.

Plus, everyone loves positive feedback. When a coworker gets back to you with a thumbs-up or an acknowledgment of hard work, that feels good. Collaboration platforms give you the means to add motivation to any workflow.

What makes for good collaboration tools?

The best online collaboration tools are built with teams in mind and facilitate collaboration not only within a team, but also across an industry.

Purpose-built products

Good collaboration tools are purpose-built to enhance workflow. All sorts of common tools can be jury-rigged to do a task they weren’t designed for, and apps that weren’t made to work together can be combined to achieve a given result. As appealing as improvised solutions can be, they’ll always have some degree of friction everyone involved will have to correct for, and they also tend to have steep learning curves for those who are unfamiliar with them. Truly good collaboration tools negate friction rather than create it.

Industry-standard apps

Industry-standard tools are a key way to ease collaboration. New team members are more likely to be familiar with industry-standard software, and business partners, stakeholders, freelancers, and other outside collaborators can reasonably be expected to know their functionality too. The use of bespoke or proprietary tools means that you’ll encounter speed bumps whenever you collaborate with someone outside of your team, but it’s easy to avoid that outcome with proper training.

Adobe Acrobat has been the industry-standard app for PDFs for over 25 years. Adobe invented the PDF and continues to offer the most comprehensive support for the format for large and small businesses alike.

How to choose collaboration tools.

The best collaboration tools will meet the needs of your team, be simple to navigate, and ensure your security.

Understand your needs

Your search begins with understanding what you need from a digital collaboration tool. Ask yourself what actions your collaborative online tool needs to enable. Perhaps document collaboration is important for your team. You may also need clients to have limited access to the documents that your team creates. Depending on the size of your team, you may need communication to be well-organized and function across departments. A collaboration tool could even be a great solution if your team needs more engagement in projects.

Ease of use

How much time are you willing to spend training your team to use the newest collaboration tools? If you select a collaboration tool that is easy to use, you’ll be able to save the time (and goodwill) of your team members. While you may need to look into tools with complex features, make sure that you choose a platform that isn’t too difficult to navigate. With well-designed tools, it should take relatively little time for your team members to learn to use the product and customize their experience while avoiding issues like excessive notifications.


Collaborative tools offer many features, and you’ll want to prioritize those that meet the unique needs of your team. These might include storage and security features, messaging and notification features, document sharing features, and calendar and scheduling features. It might also be important to have a tool with an intuitive interface that is mobile-friendly.

Integrations and compatibility

Before you decide on a collaborative digital tool, you’ll want to take a look at its integrations and compatibility. If, for example, you already have a messaging or video-conferencing channel that works well for your team, you may want to find a collaboration tool that can be integrated with it. You’ll also want to make sure that your collaboration tools are compatible with your team’s preferred document and image format and with the devices that your team members use.

Opt for cloud-based technology

Cloud-based technology is a must-have for collaboration tools that your team relies upon. The security of all of your files and documents is automatically ensured when your collaborative online tools back up to the cloud. Team members won’t be occupied with worries about saving or backing up documents, and they can rest easy knowing that their work won't be lost.

Adding a comment to a PDF document on a tablet device, mobile phone, and a laptop

How Walgreens Boots used Adobe to boost collaboration.

In 2020, the Walgreens Boots Alliance needed to update the pharmacy experience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through collaboration and planning, the worldwide chain transformed how customers interacted with its 10,000 storefronts. Everything from ordering medicines to prescription pickup went digital, all while giving over 120 million customers personalized recommendations and reminders for everything from prescription renewals to flu shots.

Collaborate with Acrobat.

Adobe Acrobat is one of the most powerful, agile, and versatile collaboration tools a team can have at their disposal. Each team member can:

  • Share files with collaborators both on your team and beyond your organization
  • Take advantage of interoperability and compatibility with other industry-standard tools like Microsoft Office
  • Add comments from anywhere with the Acrobat Reader mobile app or sign in to Acrobat online
  • Share and track documents across multiple devices
  • Protect sensitive information with passwords or redaction

It doesn’t matter if you use a Mac or PC, if you work on a desktop or mobile device, or if you’re on a large team within a major enterprise or a small team at an independent firm. Adobe makes collaboration as easy as possible. Reduce friction and increase connection with Acrobat.

Explore Acrobat capabilities


Can collaboration tools help companies grow?

Yes, collaboration tools can help companies grow by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s team. They can help team members in different locations to seamlessly connect in real-time. They can also prevent inefficiencies like poor communication or duplicate work.

How do businesses use collaboration tools?

Businesses can use collaboration tools to streamline management of projects and teams. Collaboration tools can also allow different teams, like marketing and product development, to work together and easily access each other’s work. Businesses may also use collaboration tools to encourage engagement while enabling remote work.

Can collaboration tools help students excel?

Collaboration tools can ensure that students’ work and assignments are organized and accessible. They can also improve communication between students and encourage collaboration — a strategy long proven to help students excel.
Collaboration tools are seeing more widespread use as businesses are taking advantage of digital resources to keep up with the increasingly fast-paced demand from clients and customers. Collaborative digital tools cut out delays so that teams can work together more smoothly. They also enable remote work.

How easy is it to use Adobe Acrobat?

Adobe Acrobat makes using PDFs simple and saves you time finding original documents to edit. It has an interface that was created with your ease of use in mind and allows you to easily share images and documents with team members and clients alike.

How do team members share files within their organization on Adobe Acrobat?

You can grant team members permission as collaborators. This allows them to edit and change files that were shared. You can also give them read-only permission.

How does Adobe help keep files secure?

Adobe encrypts documents for your security. You can easily password protect or redact sensitive information. With cloud-based technology, your team’s work is safe from being lost.

What are the integration opportunities with Adobe Acrobat?

Adobe integrates seamlessly with a variety of other tools, including Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, Google Drive, Workday, Box, and more.

What are the advantages of using PDFs in a team setting?

With Adobe, you can easily edit, secure, and send your PDFs. You can also collaborate on PDFs in real time. No matter the device, PDFs are easy to read and compatible for both sharing and printing.