Microsoft has added the ability to collaborate in real time over the internet to a number of their apps and services. Last week, Microsoft released Whiteboard in preview which allows users to ink on a digital whiteboard with multiple users from different devices. We took a hands-on look of the app earlier this year before it was available to the public and now have some more thoughts after using it some more in its public preview release.
Since the app is in preview it wouldn't be fair to do a complete review, but here's what stands out and what we hope to see in the future. The app is free but to use multi-party collaboration at least one person needs to have an Office 365 personal, work, or school account.
A natural evolution
The concept of Whiteboard just works. Sure, there are some performance hiccups but the app is in preview so that isn't an issue. Being able to draw on a virtual whiteboard and have others join in with very little delay seems like something that should have been a key feature on tablets years ago.
Whiteboard supports multiple ink colors, tools that help you draw shapes and charts, and the ability to type notes. These options make it easy to work together on math problems or any type of handwritten work or just play tic-tac-toe with a friend. Whiteboard will fit in very well in classrooms, workplaces, and could even be used for games and doodling with friends.
The app also lets you insert photos and galleries which help it be more versatile. Whiteboard combines the standard inking tools from many other Microsoft apps such as OneNote and brings in real-time collaboration. Eventually, it might even work as a baked-in part of other Microsoft apps.
A wish list
Whiteboard already has a good set of features in its preview form. Over time it's certain to grab some more. There are a few specific features we'd love to see added in the future as the app comes out of preview and is developed over time. First up is releasing the app on other platforms. Whiteboard feels handmade for tablets and the reality is that while tablets powered by Windows 10 are popular, the iPad is still a major player in the tablet space. Being able to collaborate in real time using a Surface Pro, an iPad, and a Surface Hub would be a very attractive option for schools and businesses using a number of devices. Microsoft has a plethora of apps on iOS and Android so it's certainly a possibility that Whiteboard will come as well.
Another feature that would help would be some orientation markers. When drawing on my device and sharing it with my friend, it opened to a different part of the same digital whiteboard. This could be a bug of being in preview but even if it that's the case, having some markers to make sure you can find an area on the page would be nice. A potential solution would be the option to have the whiteboard be marked with rows and columns. For example, you could tell your coworker to jump to C7 on the grid.
Whiteboard feels very natural and makes working with other people easier. It supports some nice inking features and the delay between you writing on your device and a friend seeing it is very low.
It's a very promising preview and it'll be exciting to see what Microsoft does with it in the future.
- Makes collaboration easy.
- Very little delay between devices.
- Has a good collection of inking tools.
- It's in preview — so this could come in the future — but being available on other platforms would be a plus.
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