The latest COVID-19 pandemia has transformed our reality in all aspects of our society. From the way we interact with our relatives and friends to our labour interactions. In many organizations, remote working has not only been encouraged but imposed due to necessity. According to the news of the last weeks, it seems that this trend is consolidating as part of our new daily normality.
But, whether or not you are part of a small enterprise or you work as a freelance, the question of how to put into practice this trend arises. And even more important, which new tools are available for not failing when trying and driving ourselves crazy.
There are many commercial solutions, such as the office suite O365 and Teams by Microsoft, but if you are reading these lines, I am quite sure you are not interested in those and you are looking for more friendly open-source solutions.
Therefore, in the present article we are going to enumerate a list of applications designed to help us to overcome these hurdles:
Jitsi for comfortable remote working
To work remotely in a comfortable way, we need to feel close to our colleagues. But nowadays, it is not always possible to be in the office and, therefore, we need a tool to allow us to keep that level of human contact. This is also essential to keep up our motivation and the coordination with the team.
Of course, there is an almost infinite list of alternatives to do this videoconference in the market, but in my opinion, the best is Jitsi.
It is a platform based on open source and very easy to use. After creating our meeting room, we generate a URL that we can share between our contacts – this URL acts as an invitation to our meeting room. Anyone can participate and registration is not required. We simply go to meet.jit.si, we create a conference room with a randomly generated URL and ready to go.
Continuing with our list. It is important to take notes in meetings. Etherpad is an interesting resource for sharing a document or working while taking notes in a collaborative way with our teamwork. Etherpad works like a simple shared word processor in real-time which allows inviting several people and each one can simultaneously make additions.
There are several ways of using Etherpad. In a private way, inside our own organization by installing EtherPad within our server or publicly using the service offered by RiseUp.
We keep up with our list talking about Taiga. Taiga is a virtual board with “sticky notes” to help teams tracking the individual tasks by using a method for organizing and planning called Kanban. This method is quite used by software development teams.
Taiga is an online shared space. Anyone who collaborates with you can share and keep the tasks on the board. As soon as the task is completed or progress is made, the owner can simply move the sticky note from left to right through the columns. Who does not like that satisfying feeling of moving the task towards the finish line?
Of course, Taiga is not the only Kanban tool available. However, it is a great option.
If you are looking for a complete open-source platform for project management, LeanTime may be the option you are searching for. It is a web based interface which uses mainly the Lean method for project management. It allows several teams to work together in multiple projects.
GNUCash: Accounting and remote working
Whether or not you are self-employed or if you manage a small enterprise, you will find in GNUCash a very useful desktop application for working remotely. This tool helps you to keep the general accounting and finances up to date. It is a software tool that works on Windows, macOS and Linux.
NextCloud is an Open Source Software that allows us to create our own personal Cloud. Thanks to NextCloud, we can save our files and also visualize them directly in a website or application, share them and so on. We can deploy it very easily on our Cloud Servers. In this way, we have a flexible safe environment and it is always available, such as it is required in this kind of projects and, more specially, in a corporate environment.
NextCloud not only allows storing and sharing our information, it can also be used for many goals, such as a calendar service, an email service, a team management service and much more.
An application for management of our remote desktops could not be missing at our list of tools. Most likely you are thinking of Remmina. However, this software can only be executed on GNU/Linux and, therefore, we need a different alternative to access our desktop machines from everywhere. Apache Guacamole is one of our favourite tools. This software has two parts, a software that is first installed as a server, and its API which allows accessing this server using any web browser.
Riot: an alternative to communicate in remote working.
We need to communicate. We are social animals, not only it is going to be sending and receiving emails with our team colleagues. The tools for chatting are very useful to share ideas, ask quick questions which cannot wait and similar. We all hate the long email threads discussing issues that could be solved just in a quick conversation… However, what can we use as an alternative to a phone call? What about a chat for the team?
Riot is another of our favourite open source tools. It uses Matrix, an open standard protocol which is quite light for real time communication. However, if this is a problem, it is also compatible with VOIP in the twinkling of an eye. Riot is an open source tool which also contains tools to interconnect with other services using IRC, Slack or Gitter. That allows to replace several clients with a single open source alternative.
Sometimes the easiest way of explaining and exposing ideas, or just simply working on a brainstorming, is drawing them. Drawpile is an application for collaborative drawing in real time. We can organize drawing sessions and invite our work colleagues.
Its advantages include its ease of use and that it is powerful enough to be an art tool available in case that the general ideas become something more relevant.
Our main tool is the operating system which is executed in our computers. There are several options but the most popular ones, Windows and macOS, don’t have an open source license, and they are not transparent for the user. Therefore, if you are already using the tools we have presented in this article, the question is why not moving to Linux? Its kernel and set of applications are based on open source. Under the GNU License, it is possible to modify them completely, customize them, and they give us free use for profiting from them since the very beginning.
To make things easier, there is a great variety of distributions. The most popular ones are Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, OpenSUSE and Debian, but there are many others much more specialized and contain pre-installed tools to make our job easier.
And we come to the end of our article. Of course, there are many other alternatives but naming all them would not be possible in a single article like this. That is the reason why we have decided to make a selection. If you liked this article, do not hesitate sharing it in social media and if you know another alternative or an application suitable for remote working, just leave it in the comments.
Translation by Santiago Moreira