Are you and your team suffering from the black hole of email? Do you receive more emails than you can manage? Is your inbox overwhelming despite trying new strategies for email management? If this sounds like you, it’s time to start using a communication app. This way, all of the communication styles that play out in the workplace will be easier.
In the age of remote work, investing in a communication or chat app is a no-brainer. These apps enable teams to collaborate through messaging, file sharing and other tools in one place whether you’re in the office, working from home or are on the go. Plus, they’re designed to decrease the number of emails you receive.
There are a ton of communication apps available with different features and at all prices points. Your goal is to find the tool that will improve your team’s communication and productivity without breaking the budget. Start by researching these 10 communication apps, which PCMag calls the “Best Business Messaging Apps of 2018”.
Slack was the first mover in the single workplace app market. 500,000 organizations use Slack to collaborate. The Slack App Directory offers 1,000+ tools you can integrate into Slack, including Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce and more essentials.
You can try Slack for free for a limited time, although the standard plan gives you access to the tool’s full array of features for $8 per user per month. Here's more on how to use Slack.
- Pros: “Rich set of tools and options. Highly customizable notifications. Integrates with many other collaboration and office tools.”
- Cons: “Expensive. Can be overwhelming for new users.”
- Bottom Line: “Slack is an excellent and powerful team messaging app with a rich collection of settings and options. While it's the best in the business, note that it's also the most expensive.”
2. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is similar to Slack, but it’s only for organizations that use Office 365. This is the app to try if you’re immersed in the Microsoft Ecosystem as Microsoft Teams integrates with other tools you’re probably using, such as SharePoint, OneNote and Yammer.
The app is included in the Office 365 Business Premium plan, which costs $12.50 per user per month. So, Microsoft Teams is the budget-friendly option if you’re subscribed to this plan.
- Pros: “Plugs into the Microsoft Ecosystem for embedded application access. Allows for super-organized channel management.”
- Cons: “Looks exactly like Slack. Can only be used as part of Office 365.”
- Bottom Line: “Microsoft Teams is an excellent collaboration service, with the large caveat that it's only available to Office 365 users.”
3. Glip by RingCentral
Forty-four percent of Glip by RingCentral users say “they didn’t collaborate enough” before using the app. Its notable features are collaborative document editing, a team calendar and task management tools.
Like Microsoft Teams, companies that subscribe to RingCentral Office’s VoIP service are already paying for Glip. Although, Glip is available to any company starting for free. For $5 per user per month, the standard plan offers 24/7 support, advanced administration controls, data retention, compliance reports and additional video chat minutes. It turns employees into more effective communicators.
- Pros: “Includes collaborative document editing, a team calendar, and task management capabilities. Good image and PDF markup tools.”
- Cons: “User's email account can only be used to join a single group as a full member. Not ideal for time-disparate teams. No keyword notifications.”
- Bottom Line: “Glip by RingCentral adds a few special components to business messaging, such as collaborative document editing and team calendars.”
“Less emails, faster communication, easier project coordination,” pretty much sums up Flock. Testimonials on Flock’s website demonstrate how communication apps like this one are time savers by reducing “emails by 40%” and “in-person meetings by 60%”.
Flock is free for small teams that don’t need more than 5GB of file storage. Larger teams can purchase the service for a steal at just $3 per user per month.
- Pros: “Offers read-only channels and integrated to-dos. Competitively priced. Attractive, professional design.”
- Cons: “No keyword notifications. No threaded conversations option for distributed teams.”
- Bottom Line: “Team messaging app Flock has a lot of similarities to Slack, though it looks very different. Flock's competitive pricing and strong features list make it an excellent alternative.”
5. Zoho Cliq
Like Flock, Zoho Cliq is affordable and is great for small teams.
The free plan is pretty expansive in terms of features and allows an unlimited number of users. Though, the unlimited plan, which starts at $3 per user per month, can support multiple teams and has infinite integrations.
- Pros: “Shows more than one chat at a time. Forking option for branching discussions. Innovative broadcasting tool. Inexpensive.”
- Cons: “Can't edit messages. No keyword notifications. Better options needed in Do Not Disturb mode. No screen sharing.”
- Bottom Line: “Zoho Cliq borrows many of the best features from team messaging apps like Slack, and adds the ability to see multiple channels in one window, all for a very low price.”
Unlike its competitors, Ryver has a charitable component in its revenue model. 1% of all revenues are donated to Kids at Hope, which is a non-profit that organizes programs that empower children ages 3 to 18.
It’s pricing structure is also unique. Teams up to six users use Ryver for free. For all other team sizes, the cost is $99 per month, which could be attractive for large corporations.
- Pros: “Unlimited users and guests. Unlimited message search. Organized interface. Free. Supports Zapier. Administrators can delete messages.”
- Cons: “Lacks notification options for keywords. No visual customizations. Direct messages are one-to-one only. No voice or video calls. No screen sharing.”
- Bottom Line: “Team chat app Ryver is a great free alternative for those who find competitor Slack's interface too busy. But Ryver lacks Slack's rich notification options.”
Does your team work across multiple time zones? Do you find it harder to communicate and build relationships with coworkers who are out of the office? Twist is an app that was built for international companies in mind. Companies that use Twist say it’s calmer and more organized than the other apps they’ve tried.
The pricing options are a forever free plan, and an unlimited plan starting at $5 per user per month that includes two free months.
- Pros: “Good for conversations within organizations. Excellent time-off feature. Helpful Inbox collects unread messages across Channels. Solid editing tools. Reasonable price.”
- Cons: “No audio or video calls, screen sharing, keyword alerts. Can't pin a message to the top of a thread.”
- Bottom Line: “Twist by Doist takes on team messaging by making it better for distributed teams. It has a few standout features, but also some room to grow.”
8. Workplace by Facebook
For teams that love Facebook, Workplace by Facebook has a recognizable look and feel for group chats, video calls and other messaging tools.
The standard plan is free. The premium plan starts at $3 per user per month and goes down (not up) when you add more users.
- Pros: “Familiar Facebook interface. Easy for new members to join. Text, audio, and video chat are supported. Inexpensive.”
- Cons: “Doesn't encourage brief interactions. Weak support for third-party integrations.”
- Bottom Line: “Workplace by Facebook is a fine private social network for your business, but it doesn't offer much from a productivity perspective.”
Stride by Atlassian is one of the newer communication apps. It replaces the company’s previous collaborative app, Hipchat Cloud.
The free plan provides a lot of services compared to others. The standard plan is cost-competitive starting at $3 per user per month.
- Pros: “Good support for video conferencing, audio calls, and screen sharing. Competitive price.”
- Cons: “Lacks customization options and other settings. Doesn't solve the problem of buried posts.”
- Bottom Line: “Atlassian Stride, which is poised to replace HipChat Cloud, offers decent online team messaging, but the service's youth shows in its lack of customizability and group direct messages.”
10. SpiderOak Semaphor
In today’s age, every technology company needs to make security a priority. Though, SpiderOak Semaphor is the only app in this group with a “No Knowledge” policy. The “No Knowledge” policy means the company doesn’t have access to your encrypted data.
Semaphor is pricey, starting at $10 per user per month. The first five users are free.
- Pros: “Free for small teams. Secure messaging. Consistent, attractive design across platforms.”
- Cons: “Expensive. No integrations. Lacks audio or video call capabilities. Few customization options. No web interface. No push notifications on mobile. Occasional stutters on desktop in testing.”
- Bottom Line: “SpiderOak's Semaphor offers snappy, secure messaging capabilities for teams, but it does not support integrations, audio or video calls, nor does it offer much in the way of customization options.”
Communication apps are not meant to completely replace email, but they will help your team communicate more efficiently.
Kristen Farrell is a professional communicator who previously worked in human resources. She shares career lessons and everyday experiences on her blog: kristen-farrell.com. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her running, crafting, or spending time with her husband, Jonathan and cat, Trotsky.