Toolset for remote workers

Published at 2020/03/10

This article shows only my experience and my point of view about given topic - I am not related by any means to any company that developed software mentioned in this article.

Because of the COVID-19 spread many companies has enabled option to work remotely to their employees. I'm a (at least partly, since the last 3 years full-time) remote worker since the very beginning of my career (~2010) and I would like to share my thoughts about the available software for boosting cooperation in distributed teams.

DISCLAIMER: I am aware that this list might ommit some available options, but I've decided to mention only these which I've personally used and have an opinion about.

Remote work 101

There are couple golden rules to make remote work actually work:

  • communication,
  • communication,
  • communication,
  • documentation,
  • and - most important one - communication.

Tools to handle communication in distributed teams

E-mail - one of the oldest and well-known ways of communication in digital era. Despite the available range of desktop apps I personally prefer web interfaces - Gmail and Outlook do the job just fine.

Text Chat - this will be your new channel of daily communication with other team members instead of chit-chats near water cooler. Recently the market really grown in this field - listing most popular ones:

  • WhatsApp - in my opinion it's probably best way to be in touch with your family or friends, but not really good for professional work

  • Slack, Mattermost, Rocket.Chat - while 1st one can't be self-hosted, these three are very similar - really TONS of integration options, very clean, user friendly interface etc.

Video Chat - from time to time it's fine to see ant talk to other people:

  • Skype - for me, it's like WhatsApp - good for 1:1 communication, but its clumsy interface and not best reliability (at least for me, it had its moods in least expected scenarios couple of times) makes it not the best fit for daily calls

  • Zoom - very good app for video conferencing - no more, no less - doing its job perfectly

And one to rule them all

If you want to have a really good 2 in 1 app for text & video communication, Microsoft Teams would be your best bet. I was working in various teams who uses it on a daily basis and it has been always a pleasure. You can gain control remotely over shared screen, record meeting videos and more - it's really a killer app if you're using whole microsoft 365 suite - I totally recommend it 👍

Documentation for the remote workers

Here I can split this into 3 different groups:

Work documentation - issues, workflows:

  • GitHub - most popular option in open source community - I am using it for my side/personal projects, it really works well for small to medium-size issue management & wiki pages imho.

  • Jira - for a very long time it was my favorite one, but then a redesign has come. It become clunky, very slow and unresponsive, I do really miss classic version of it. It has TONS of integrations available though to various platforms which makes it a killer feature among competitive solutions.

  • GitLab - I think it's the best option currently for more advanced projects. There's a lot of integrations available, and you can even host it by yourself on your own server.

  • PivotalTracker - I've used it in the early days of my career so many things might have changed since then, but as far as I can remember it was a pretty decent issue tracker.

  • Podio - another one I've used in the distant past, but I am sure that it had many integration options at that time already (so recent versions can have even more of them available I believe).

Graphic documentation / collaboration - I can't really remember when was the last time I had to use Photoshop 🤔

  • Figma & Zeplin - very similar tools that enables you to share your graphic assets. Very comfortable to use and handy for front-end developers since you can inspect some elements and check the exact color HEX values, font size / weight / families, margins, paddings, borders and many, many more.

  • Photopea - if you really need to do something quick in Photoshop, you should consider checking this app - it's basically web version of the Adobe's product 😉

Code collaboration

  • Github - if your project is open-source then it's the only valid option out there 😉

  • Bitbucket - it was my favorite until github changed their offer to more affordable one for one-man armies 😎 It's still a good choice though 👍 Lots of integrations with (but not only) atlassian suite makes it even more attactive.

  • Gitlab - open source version of the options above. You can self host it if you want (haven't tried it personally, but worked in companies that it was doing it (from daily programmer usage point of view it makes no difference in comparison to hosted/cloud option))

  • Gitweb - oh boy, it was a little nightmare to work with 😂 A bit difficult to use (not really user friendly interface, very limited features available) but it might has changed in current versions, because I've seen it in action many years ago.


I really hope I won't mislead anyone about mentioned software as some of them I used couple years ago and its state might has changed since then.

And what software do you use on a daily basis while working remotely?


-- ł.

Click here to show comments