The Yahoos of the world may be eliminating telecommuting, but the fact is, working from home is easier than ever. I work from home myself, so I'm clearly biased, but many companies find that home-based workers are more productive than their office-based brethren. Here are the Mac apps and web-based tools I use to make working from home work.
You need a question answered quickly, but aren't sure who to ask. You're working with a group under the gun, and need to have a rapid back and forth about who's doing what. These are the times when group chat comes in handy. From Altassian, HipChat is an app for group chat. It's free for teams of five or fewer; after that, the cost is $2 per user per month. Its closest competitor is Campfire from 37Signals (pricing varies).
Macworld picked HipChat in part because the service has a couple of options Basecamp lacks: Besides chatting in various rooms with your coworkers, you can also initiate direct one-to-one conversations within HipChat.
As a remote worker, I aim to be highly responsive. I know that when I worked in an office, and a telecommuter didn't reply to an IM within seconds, visions of my colleague eating potato chips and watching television immediately leapt to mind. HipChat helps mitigate the risk of nonresponse for workers regardless of their locales: If you receive a message in chat (one that uses your name in a group, or any one-to-one message) and you're idle, the service shoots you an email to let you know.
Though HipChat previously relied on an Adobe Air app, a beta Mac app is now available, and it's miles better. The free HipChat iOS app is very good too, though I occasionally need to force-quit the app and relaunch it to get it to show messages in a given chatroom.
Though HipChat's good for group chats, and passable for one-on-one conversations, I still rely on instant messages for a lot of direct correspondences with my coworkers and bosses. In fact, this very story was assigned to me via instant message.
Though some can hang with Apple's Messages (née iChat), I just can't. I feel like the free Adium app is actually the more Mac-like of the two. Adium combines AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo IM, Google Talk, Facebook, MSN, ICQ, and a bunch of other chatting services no one really uses anymore.
Adium's very customizable: I get a beep when a colleague initiates a conversation with me, and a blinking indicator in the Dock when unread messages stack up in existing chats. I leave Messages open for iMessage conversations only, and rely on Adium for everything else.
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