How to use Apple’s new Freeform app

Freeform is used on iPhone, iPad and Mac

Freeform works across mobile and desktop devices.
picture: an Apple

Apple just got a whole new app, which doesn’t happen often: Freeform is now available for iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, or macOS Ventura 13.1 and It has been described As a “flexible canvas” you can pretty much use it any way you see fit. The focus is on sharing and collaboration, but you can use Freeform – essentially a blank digital whiteboard – on your own as well as in groups.

Here we’ll walk you through some of the basics of Freeform, to give you an idea of ​​what the app is capable of and the different ways you might be able to take advantage of it. The interface is designed a little differently on phones and tablets than on 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 using.

Freeform basics

Freeform screenshot

Freeform offers a library of shapes to take advantage of.
screenshot: free form

Open Freeform for the first time, and you’ll be met with a slightly intimidating mass of white space, just waiting for your input. A Freeform canvas can combine text, images, videos, audio clips, web links, shapes, sticky notes, map locations, documents, and more, organizing them just the way you like.

Freeform is impressively intuitive and versatile. You can just drag a file from Finder on macOS, for example, which can be quickly previewed with a double-click. Videos and audio play right inside the app, so you’re not flipping between different screens or waiting for something to load. Each object can be moved, resized, rotated, and layered on top of other objects.

Freeform screenshot

You can drop links, videos, photos, and more.
screenshot: free form

Apple has published built-in alignment guides (which appear onscreen as gray dots), so your panels don’t look so messy, and certain elements can be locked into place if needed (especially useful if you start inviting other people to share your freeform creations). Panels can expand to be as big as you want, so you’ll never run out of space, and there are handy tools for zooming in and out, is very.

If you are using an iPad or iPhone, Access more drawing tools: These free-form pens and brushes aren’t available on macOS, and you can either use your finger or the Apple Pencil to make your scribbles. It’s a shame these drawing options aren’t available on the Mac, though, since there’s no touch screen, Perhaps understandable – you can still, of course, see these graphics if you’re using the desktop app; You cannot create it.

Use free form to collaborate

Freeform screenshot

You can easily collaborate with other people.
screenshot: free form

Collaboration is one of Freeform’s strengths, and you can invite up to 99 other people to work with you on the board. This takes the app’s capabilities to a higher level – you can use it for anything, From deciding your corporate strategy over the next 12 months with dozens of colleagues, to planning a wedding with a few friends and relatives. Everyone gets the same features and the same tools, and you can tag each contributor in real time with color-coded indicators if you want.

To invite someone else to your Freeform board, you use the tried and trusted sharing option – then it’s just a matter of choosing the people you want to work with. Changes are synced and displayed in real time, and you can make changes to who has access to Freeform boards whenever you want. The navigation pane gives you access to your recent boards, your shared boards, your favorite boards, and a list of all your boards.

Freeform screenshot

You can associate FaceTime calls with collaborators on board.
screenshot: free form

As expected, Freeform works very well and neatly with other Apple software. For example, you can drag a freeform panel into a conversation in Messages to instantly invite everyone in that chat thread to collaborate. Activity updates will be posted to the board in the same conversation thread, so you can see who is doing what without necessarily switching between apps.

If you prefer some face-to-face interaction – Canvas might just have you covered Too chaotic and you need to impose some order – you can start a FaceTime call between all the collaborators on a board, with video boxes popping up in the corner of the screen so you can monitor your digital board at the same time. When it comes to exporting your boards, they can be saved as PDFs and sent to other apps when needed.

Free form possibilities

Freeform screenshot

Freeform already offers a lot of functionality.
screenshot: free form

We like the flexibility and ease of use Freeform offers: it’s not the most innovative app (much of the functionality is replicated in Apple Notes, for example) but its appeal lies in how unrestricted it is. Most of the time, It just works, as do most Apple appsand it can perform an amazing number of tasks (such as playing media) without any additional assistance.

All that said, it’s a work in progress. It’s not always obvious how to do something — like rotate or layer — and macOS is currently more difficult to implement than the mobile versions. Freeform works best with the iPad and Apple Pencil, which we suspect most people will use. There is clearly room for improvement and if you are really happy with a different A digital whiteboard app, Freeform may not have enough for to convince you to switch.

Freeform screenshot

Freeform currently works best on the iPad.
picture: an Apple

The ways you can use Freeform are endless, whether it’s planning a video game structure to work on, Just trying to remember what you need to buy at the grocery store, working out for the basketball team’s criminal play, Or simply mess around with creative ideas and hope that inspiration will eventually come.

What you may not know is that Google offers something similar in the form of Google Jamboard, one of the company’s lesser-known products. Much of the same features are included, plus a few extras: you can combine text, images, and sticky notes, For example, there is a virtual laser pointer. It fits in perfectly with other Google products (such as Google Meet), but for now the Apple product seems to be more advanced and more useful as a whiteboard tool.

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