Workspace tools can be thought of as virtual offices in which collaboration apps, file sharing, project management and messengers can be integrated. Most of the following tools already bring the connection to a lot of services, for example all from Google, Slack, Skype and many more. Others, on the other hand, also allow the integration of their own services. Because basically workspace tools work like closed browser containers. They bring a lot of convenience functions and features and help you to focus on your project, your startup or the next big thing.
In the spirit of the ring poem from Lord of the Rings, Station advertises that it is an app to subjugate them, to find everyone, to drive them into darkness (dark mode) and to bind them forever. Like the other apps presented here, Station allows you to integrate exactly the services you need to work. After the installation, Station suggests you the most popular services, which include G Suite, i.e. Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs or Hangouts, as well as Dropbox, Slack, Trello, Asana, GitHub and the popular messengers. Each service then appears as an icon on the left-hand side and has to be confirmed once with your password. Just like it works in the browser.
Station offers a very tidy surface in material design without wild flourishes and allows the “installation” of more than 670 cloud services . From collaboration and communication tools to CRM systems or blog platforms, everything that works cloud-based is included. You can also include your own URL and thus, for example, run services from your own NAS with web server if you want.
For those who are easily distracted, the workspace tool has a so-called “focus mode” that switches off all notifications at the push of a button and then no longer informs you about incoming mails or messages. The “Boosted Apps” are also very practical, as they allow you to search for files across all apps, for example. What is also helpful is the multi-account function. With that you can log into several Google accounts at the same time, which only works with a lot of tricks in the browser.
In order to solve the problem of the confusion of cloud apps in browser tabs, Station summarizes them in a kind of task manager. This actually makes it very easy to navigate between the apps. The manufacturer also advertises that apps automatically “sleep” in the background if they are not used for a certain period of time, but browsers are now doing that too.
If you want to try Station, you can download the app here for Windows, Mac or Linux . And in contrast to most other providers, Station is completely free with all its features. The company wants to earn money with support for Enterprises starting in 2020, and individuals can continue to use the app free of charge.
The workspace tool with the pithy name Franz comes from Vienna and basically does the same thing as Station: It combines web services under one roof, allows you to log into several accounts of a provider at the same time and has a tidy interface. The library of supported services is much smaller, however, and in general Franz is aimed more at professionals and companies. In the free version, only three services can be installed and many helpful features are only available in the subscription model.
In the professional version, Franz costs 5.99 euros per month and user, but then offers the option of creating individual workspaces within the app. This has the advantage that you can, for example, create a workspace for each customer with exactly the apps that you use when working with them. This again increases the clarity and an integrated to-do list on the right edge of the screen is useful if you are not already using an external service or a Kanban board.
The integration of your own services, which are not supported by Franz out of the box, is also only available in the Professional package, but you also get a team management function and can add as many cloud-based services as you want. The enterprise version for 14.99 euros per month and user, on the other hand, is aimed more at companies that want to offer their employees a tailor-made version of Franz with a company logo and preinstalled services as well as Active Directory or LDAP. Here you can take a look at Franz and download it for Windows, Mac or Linux and here you can find information about the API to integrate your own services into Franz.
Shift scores with a very powerful library of apps and extensions * and makes “installation” very easy, just like the other workspace tools. Shift clearly focuses on companies and teams and is basically a demo limited to two accounts in the free basic package. In the advanced version for US $ 99.99 per year, however, you benefit from the integration of all services, a comprehensive search and a very special treat: the integration of Chrome extensions.
With these and the very large app support, Shift can be designed very individually, even if it has to be exotic CRM, HR services or e-learning platforms. The summary of all notifications under an icon at the top of the app in the generally very clean interface is also very helpful. So if you take your virtual workplace seriously and want to expand it with numerous expansion options without compromise, you will find it at Shift. Incidentally, team prices are only possible on request from customer support. You can try the app on all common operating systems here. *
In the pro version for four dollars a month or a one-off 144 dollars, Rambox becomes an individual tool with very interesting features. In addition to cosmetic changes, an ad blocker is then integrated and the cloud-based services can be displayed as a mobile version or with other user agents, i.e. browsers and devices. You can also set a focus working time during which you will not be disturbed by notifications. And if you want to run every single one of the more than 600 applications via its own proxy, then you can do that with Rambox Pro.
Visually, Rambox is a little less stylish than the other workspace tools, but it is a huge sandpit for experimentation. The app is definitely aimed at hobbyists, who can then assemble everything exactly as desired. Rambox is available for Windows, Mac and Linux at this link. The developers are still working on an enterprise version.
Which workspace tool is right for me?
There are numerous other apps that reproduce the basically simple principle of workspace tools similar to the ones presented here. Ultimately, it is important which features you need and whether you work alone on one or on several devices, equip a team or want the freedom to develop your own. In any case, workplace tools ensure more focus, productivity and overview. Just try out which one is best for you and which one supports your most important apps. And then decide whether simple, free apps are enough for you or you need more features and support in the subscription model.