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Apple’s Freeform Is a Digital Whiteboard for Total Focus

If you’ve been using iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS Ventura, you’ve probably noticed that Apple wants you to collaborate on everything with your friends and family. You can now have multiple people looking at the same exact tab as you on Safari, share photo albums via iCloud, as well as projects in productivity apps like Keynote and Numbers. Adding to the growing list of collaboration tools is Freeform, Apple’s brand-new digital whiteboard app.

You can access this virtual whiteboard on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. What starts as a blank canvas can quickly turn into a storyboard for a film project, an inspiration board for a wedding, an itinerary for an upcoming vacation, or an interior design board for a new home. You can draw sketches, add objects, and import files or web links; keep it all to yourself or share them with fellow Apple users. It’s stored in iCloud, so any changes you make sync across all your devices in real time.

Freeform isn’t the first of its kind—there are a number of whiteboard apps out there—but it’s one of the few (if not the only one) that only works with Apple devices; there’s no cross-platform support. It’s free to use, and while its features aren’t revolutionary, it’s a potentially handy tool for anyone with an Apple gadget. 

How Does Freeform Work?

Photograph: Apple

To access Freeform, you’ll need to make sure you’re running the latest version of your respective operating system: iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, and macOS Ventura 13.1. On your iPad and iPhone, you’ll have to go to Settings > General > Software Update, where you should see the option to download the new versions. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Software Update > Update Now (or Upgrade Now). The Freeform app will automatically appear on your device after the update is complete.

When you start a board, you’re greeted with a blank canvas. Apple refers to it as “flexible,” which means you can tweak the size of the board whenever you want—as far out as 10 percent and as close up as 400 percent. This makes it easy to see everything from a bird’s-eye view the larger your board becomes. I like that you don’t need to tap through or scroll multiple pages; it’s more natural.

At the top of each board are five tools. There’s Markup, for access to various writing tools like pen, pencil, or marker; the self-explanatory sticky notes tool; and the shapes tool, which lets you add a variety of shapes ranging from a circle to animals, foods, and plants. You also get a text box icon to type out text instead of scribbling it, and a media tool to easily import content from your photo albums or the Files app (or scan documents and insert web links).

The process of sharing boards for collaboration should be simple. Technically, all you have to do is tap on the Share button within Freeform and send an invitation through Apple’s Messages app or via email. If you send the link to a group chat, everyone within that chat will be added to the board automatically. You’ll be able to see who is currently working within the board in real-time—with everyone’s respective icons appearing wherever they are on the board, similar to collaboration in Google Docs. You can also start a FaceTime call while directly on a shared board.

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