Apple has released a brand new app that doesn’t happen often. Freeform is available now for iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2 or macOS Ventura 13.1 and is described as a “flexible canvas” that you can use in almost any way you see fit. The emphasis is on sharing and collaboration, but you can use Freeform, basically a blank digital whiteboard, either on your own or in groups.
Here, we’ll walk you through some Freeform basics to give you an idea of what the app is capable of and the different ways you can use it. The interface on phones and tablets is laid out a little differently in comparison desktop, and there are extras like Apple Pencil support, but Apple has worked hard to make the Freeform experience very similar no matter what device you’re on.
Open Freeform for the first time, and you’re met with a slightly terrifying mass of white space just waiting for your input. The Freeform canvas can combine text, images, videos, audio clips, web links, shapes, sticky notes, map locations, documents, and more, organized in any way you want, and you can of course create as many pages as you want. there is no paper to run out of.
Freeform is impressively intuitive and versatile. You can simply drag the file in from the Finder on macOS, which can then be quickly viewed with a double click. Videos and audio play right inside the app, so you’re not jumping between different screens and waiting for something to load. Each element can be moved, resized and rotated and layered over other objects.
Apple has included built-in alignment guides (shown as gray dots on the screen) so your boards don’t look too chaotic, and some elements can be locked into place if needed (especially useful if you start inviting other people to share your Freeform). who. works). Boards can be expanded as large as you want, so you’ll never run out of room, and there are easy-to-use zooming and selection tools. too.
If you’re on an iPad or iPhone, You can access more drawing tools. these freeform pens and brushes are not available on macOS, and you can either use your finger or the Apple Pencil to make your doodles. It’s a shame these sketching options aren’t available on the Mac, though, due to the lack of a touchscreen. perhaps understandably, of course you can still see these images if you’re using the desktop app; you just can’t make them up.
Using Freeform to collaborate
Collaboration is one of Freeform’s strengths, and you can invite up to 99 other people to work on the board with you. This increases the app’s potential, you can use it for anything from deciding on your company’s strategy for the next 12 months with dozens of colleagues to planning a wedding with a few close friends and relatives. Everyone has access to the same features and the same tools, and if you want, you can highlight each participant in real time with color-coded cursors.
You use the tried and trusted sharing option to invite someone to your Freeform board, then it’s just a matter of choosing the people you’d like to work with. Changes are synced and displayed in real-time, and you can make changes to who can access your Freeform boards whenever you want. The navigation panel gives you access to your recent boards, your shared boards, your favorite boards, and a list of all your boards.
As you’d expect, Freeform works very well and neatly with other Apple programs. For example, you can drag a Freeform board into a conversation in Messages to instantly invite everyone in that conversation thread to collaborate. Updates to activity on the board will be posted to the same conversation thread, so you’ll be able to see who’s doing what without having to switch between apps.
If you prefer some face-to-face interaction, maybe the canvas has just arrived It’s too chaotic and you need to impose some order. you can start a FaceTime call between all the collaborators on the board, with video boxes appearing in the corner of the screen so you can simultaneously monitor your digital canvas. When it comes to exporting your boards, they can be saved as PDF files and sent to other applications as needed.
Features of Freeform
We love the flexibility and ease of use that Freeform offers; it’s hardly the most innovative of apps (a lot of features are duplicated in Apple Notes, for example), but its appeal lies in how limitless it is. most of the time it just works like most Apple appsand it can handle an impressive number of tasks (like media playback) without any extra help.
All this is already in progress. It’s not always clear how to do things like rotation or layering, and the macOS app is currently clumsier than the mobile versions. Freeform works best with the iPad and Apple Pencil, which is how we suspect many people are going to use it. There’s obviously room for improvement, and if you’re already happy with another option digital whiteboard app, Freeform may not be enough to convince you to change it.
The ways you can use Freeform are almost endless, whether it’s planning the structure of a video game you’re working on, just trying to remember what to buy at the grocery store, working on offensive plays for the basketball team, or simply scribble and play with creative ideas, hoping that inspiration will eventually strike.
What you may not know is that Google offers something similar in form Google Jamboard, one of the less known products of the company. Many of the same features are included, plus some additions. You can combine text, images and sticky notes, for example, and there’s even a virtual laser pointer. It sits well with other Google products (such as Google Meet), but right now it feels like Apple’s product is a bit more advanced and more useful as a whiteboard tool.