The Best Collaboration Tools for Software Development
Collaboration is essential today, whether you work on a small or large team of software developers. Collaboration tools are used by businesses of all sizes, from the smallest to the largest. Why is this the case?
Since the emergence of the coronavirus, business practices have had to change quickly. People relied heavily on the Internet at the time, and as a result, they realized that it provided some previously insignificant benefits. Working from home, video meetings, increased team member engagement in all project activities, and reliance on applications for reminders and noise reduction are just a few of the advantages that the new way of doing business has introduced.
Collaboration tools have taken on a much larger role than before for all of this to be feasible and beneficial to the employer. Collaboration tools assist software developers in staying on the same page. There are numerous such tools available, making the selection difficult.
Collaboration tools can be divided into several categories:
- Communication tools
- Team collaboration tools
- Tools for issue tracking
- File and document sharing tools
- Code review and version control tools
- CI/CD tools
To make the selection of collaboration tools easier, we have chosen tools that we believe are leaders in their respective categories.
Everything in business begins with communication. Even software developers attend daily meetings and must communicate with clients, project managers, and the rest of the team.
Communication tools are one of the most important and communication means chat, audio, or video meetings.
In this category, two tools stand out: Slack and Microsoft Teams. Slack is a communication app that pioneered the idea of grouping other communication elements such as chat groups, file sharing, audio and video meetings, and chatbots. It now has a slew of competitors, including Microsoft Teams and Discord. Fortunately, Slack has maintained its lead and continues to outperform the competition in terms of communication.
Slack is now a team collaboration tool with a primary focus on communication. It provides a comprehensive list of additional tools and services that can be integrated into Slack to make the tool even more tailored to the needs of users.
Microsoft Teams, on the other hand, is a very popular communication tool, but unlike Slack, its primary focus is complete team collaboration rather than communication. However, it should be noted that Microsoft Teams was inspired by Slack. Slack currently has an advantage because of this, as well as the fact that it is a much younger tool.
Discord is also a popular communication tool, though not as much in the business world as it is in the gaming world. This tool was created to facilitate communication between organizations, communities, and gamers in mind.
Other communication tools worth mentioning are Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet, which are frequently used but are not high on our priority list.
Team collaboration tools
We mentioned Slack and Microsoft Teams as communication tools in the previous category, but we also stated that they are complete team collaboration tools. Slack continues to trail in this category, while Microsoft Teams takes the lead. However, are there any other tools in this category that could be better than these two?
Confluence is a team collaboration tool that allows for the general exchange of knowledge within a team. These tools are frequently referred to as Team Workspace tools. To put it simply, think of Confluence as a modern digital whiteboard with all the collaboration add-ons you could want. Unlike Slack and Microsoft Teams, which are more general tools for everything, Confluence focuses solely on tools that aid in the processing of the most commonly done topics. It concentrates on the essence of each conversation and ensures that the message is communicated to all team members.
Tools for issue tracking
Issue tracking is a critical component of team collaboration with software developers, and this process must be accompanied by a high-quality tool. When it comes to issue tracking, there are several options, but two that stand out are Jira and GitHub Issues.
It is critical during software development that each team member has a clearly defined task and that its life cycle can be followed from beginning to end. The entire project is divided into a series of small tasks that are distributed among the team members. These tasks have a deadline and must go through certain stages before being marked as completed. As a result, all members of the development team have a clear picture of the project’s current state, which provides a clear picture of the direction and speed with which development will continue.
Jira is the market leader in this category. Originally designed only for bug tracking, it has evolved into a full-fledged work management tool. The story is similar to that of Slack in that it is the tool that has been around the longest and is most concerned with resolving this specific issue. It provides the most widely used templates for implementing Kanban, Scrum, Bug tracking, and DevOps.
GitHub Issues is Jira’s only real competitor, but because GitHub is behind it, the tool is still in its infancy. GitHub is attempting to develop tools in almost all of the categories we listed, but it will take time to determine which of those GitHub tools has the potential to replace one of the current leaders in their respective categories. In other words, while GitHub has many high-quality tools, it lags behind the competition because all of the tools are relatively new.
Asana, GitLab Issues, and Trello are also quality issue-tracking tools worth mentioning, but they are not as well-known as the two already mentioned.
What is important to understand about these tools is that they can also be used as team collaboration tools, as issue tracking is only one aspect of team collaboration.
File and document sharing tools
Files and documents are the foundation of every individual’s computer work, especially for software developers because they are the ones who create such files or software in the first place.
Previously, all data was stored as physical copies inside folders and physically copied in multiple copies for team members. Now, everything is done virtually. That is why it is critical to have specific tools for this as well as private storage where the data will be saved. By data, we mean files, documents, and other material required for software development in general.
When it comes to file sharing, the choice usually comes down to Google or Microsoft because they are the leaders in organizational tools. For file sharing, Google offers Google Drive, while Microsoft offers OneDrive. Microsoft has Sharepoint as well, but it is far less popular.
When it comes to document sharing, the choice is once again between Google and Microsoft, with the exception that their other tools are used. Google provides Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, whereas Microsoft provides Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
These two companies are not by chance the leaders of the world’s leading tools. Both companies provide toolkits that cover nearly all of the categories we’ve mentioned. Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) includes all of the tools mentioned above, as well as many more. Furthermore, Microsoft includes all of the tools mentioned above, as well as many more, as part of its Microsoft Office 365 package.
Confluence, which also provides excellent options for document sharing, is the only tool that comes close to these two titans in this category.
Code review and version control tools
Code review is critical for software developers not only for code correctness, finding and removing errors but also for team synergy and knowledge sharing.
Code review is typically done by software developers in a team so that everyone reviews the code, but in smaller teams, this responsibility is frequently delegated to one software developer.
Version control tools enable a team of software developers to develop faster, safer, and more productively, as well as to experiment while having visibility into code errors.
Because GitHub is the leading version control platform, it has the best built-in code review tools that can be used concurrently during development. GitHub is not like other platforms for this purpose, especially since Microsoft acquired it. Fortunately, Microsoft did an excellent job here and continued to develop the platform in the right direction, allowing the open source to gain significant popularity. GitHub is an excellent platform for both business and personal use.
GitLab and Bitbucket are the only two platforms that are alternatives to GitHub. The two platforms also support code review and version control tools, but they have fewer active users than GitHub.
The differences between the three platforms are minor. However, because GitHub is the oldest platform, it has the largest market share and the largest community. GitLab and Bitbucket are much younger, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be better platforms.
Because today’s software is so complex, it takes a significant amount of time to make adjustments before beginning development, during development, and after completion to maintain it. Automation emerged as a solution to this issue.
CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment or Continuous Delivery) is a concept that represents a series of steps that must be taken to deliver a new version of the software. All of the necessary steps can be completed manually, but because they take a long time, they are automated, and this process is known as the CI/CD pipeline. The most common application of automation is in the phases of development, testing, production, and general monitoring of the software development lifecycle. Automation allows software developers to concentrate on writing code as much as possible, which improves code quality and development speed.
Jenkins is the most well-known tool in this category, and it currently produces the best results. It is a free and open automation server. It includes a plethora of plugins that can be used to create, deliver, and automate any project. Jenkins can be configured as a simple CI server as well as a continuous delivery hub for any project.
Another CI/CD tool that stands out in this category is GitHub Actions. Jenkins is a much more mature tool that is open source, as opposed to GitHub Actions, which is not entirely free but does offer paid packages. Both tools do a good job, but Jenkins is more popular in the corporate world and is preferred by businesses, whereas GitHub Actions is more popular among software developers for personal use.
In addition to the two tools mentioned above, CircleCI, GitLab CI, Travis CI, Azure DevOps, and many others compete in this category.
We can draw several conclusions from this post about collaboration tools used by software developers.
Collaboration tools were developed not only because the new situation demanded a change in business practices, but also to increase the productivity of software developers.
Choosing a tool from the above categories is frequently influenced by several factors. These elements may include the following:
- How old is the tool?
- Which tool is most familiar to the majority of the development team?
- Which tool is currently the most popular, and what distinguishes it from the others?
- What is the IT company’s current tech stack, i.e. which tools are already subscribed to?
Does this imply that the oldest tool is also the best? Of course not, as previously stated, older tools have an advantage because they built a large community during that period and have the most popularity. That doesn’t mean that some younger tools can’t outperform the current leaders in their respective categories.
Another important factor in tool selection is the IT company’s technology stack. Even if a tool is the best in its category, there are times when IT departments will choose less popular tools. The reason for this is that other companies that provide them with services as part of the package also provide their versions of those tools, and using those tools is more profitable for the IT company because they are already subscribed to their services.
This is completely normal, especially since software developers are already accustomed to using specific tools from those packages, so switching to others may take more time and introduce new potential problems. Google and Microsoft are perhaps the most basic and best examples. What are the chances that an IT company will use Microsoft OneDrive if it uses Google Mail, or Google Drive if it uses Microsoft Office365? So you get the idea.
When selecting a tool, keep in mind that tools designed to perform one or a small number of similar and related tasks are usually of higher quality than those designed to perform a large number of different tasks from different categories in parallel. This is not always true, but it is in most cases.
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