How To Use Apple’s Brand New Freeform App

Freeform is used on iPhone, iPad and Mac

Freeform works on mobile and desktop.
photo: Apple

Apple has released a brand new app, which doesn’t happen often: Freeform is now available for iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2 or macOS Ventura 13.1 is described as a “flexible canvas” that you can use in pretty much any way you see fit. The emphasis is on sharing and collaboration, but you can use Freeform—essentially a blank digital whiteboard—both alone and 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 can use it. Phones and tablets have a slightly different user interface than 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.

The basics of freeform

Freeform screenshot

Freeform provides a library of shapes that can be used.
screenshot: freeform

Open Freeform for the first time and you’ll be presented with a somewhat discouraging amount of white space just waiting for your input. On the freeform canvas, you can combine and organize text, images, videos, audio clips, web links, shapes, sticky notes, map locations, documents and more the way you prefer, and of course you can create as many pages as you like. there is no paper to run out of.

Freeform is impressively intuitive and versatile. For example, on macOS, you can simply drag in a file from the Finder, which can then be quickly previewed with a double-click. Videos and audio play directly in the app, so you don’t have to switch between different screens or wait for something to load. Each element can be moved, resized, rotated and layered over other objects.

Freeform screenshot

You can insert links, videos, images and more.
screenshot: freeform

Apple has provided built-in alignment guides (shown as gray dots on screen) to keep your boards from looking too messy and to pin certain elements where necessary (especially helpful when you start inviting other people to share your Freeform creations). Boards can be as big as you like so you’ll never run out of space, and easy-to-use zoom and selection tools are included. also.

If you are using an iPad or iPhone, You get access to more drawing tools: These free-form pens and brushes aren’t available on macOS, and you can use either your finger or an Apple Pencil to create your doodles. It’s a shame these sketching options aren’t available on the Mac, despite the lack of a touchscreen. It’s understandable – you can of course still see these drawings if you’re using the desktop app; You just can’t create them.

Using Freeform to collaborate

Freeform screenshot

You can easily collaborate with other people.
screenshot: freeform

Collaboration is one of Freeform’s strengths, and you can invite up to 99 other people to work with you on a board. This ups the app’s potential by a notch – you can use it for anything from deciding your business strategy over the next 12 months with dozens of colleagues to planning a wedding with a few close friends and family. Everyone gets access to the same features and tools, and you can highlight any contributor in real-time with color-coded cursors if you like.

To invite someone to your Freeform board, use the tried-and-true sharing option—then all you have to do is select the people you want to collaborate with. Changes are synced and displayed in real-time, and you can change who has access to your Freeform boards at any time. The navigation pane gives you access to your recently used boards, your shared boards, your favorite boards, and a list of all your boards.

Freeform screenshot

You can link FaceTime calls to board staff.
screenshot: freeform

As you might expect, Freeform works very well and cleanly with other Apple software. For example, you can drag a freeform board into a conversation in Messages to instantly invite everyone in that chat thread to collaborate. Activity updates on the board are posted in the same conversation thread, so you can see who’s doing what without necessarily having to switch apps.

If you prefer face-to-face interaction, the canvas may have just become too chaotic and you need some tidiness – you can start a FaceTime call between all employees on a board, with video boxes appearing in the corner of the screen so you can keep an eye on your digital canvas at the same time. If you export your boards, they can be saved as PDFs and sent to other apps when needed.

The possibilities of Freeform

Freeform screenshot

Freeform already offers many features.
screenshot: freeform

We like the flexibility and ease of use that Freeform offers: it’s hardly the most innovative app (many features are duplicated in Apple Notes, for example), but its appeal lies in how unrestricted it is. Usually, it just works like most Apple appsand it can handle an impressive number of tasks (like media playback) without additional help.

All in all it’s a work in progress. It’s not always obvious how to do something – like rotation or layering – and the macOS app is currently clunkier than the mobile versions. Freeform works best with an iPad and an Apple Pencil, which is how we suspect most people will use it. There’s clearly room for improvement, and if you’re already happy with another digital whiteboard app, Freeform may not have enough it to convince you to switch.

Freeform screenshot

Freeform currently works best on an iPad.
picture: Apple

The ways you could 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 a basketball team, or just doodle and play around with creative ideas in hopes that inspiration eventually strikes.

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. Many of the same features are included, plus some extras: you can combine text, images and sticky notes, for example, and there’s even a virtual laser pointer. It goes well with other Google products (like Google Meet), but for now Apple’s product seems a bit more advanced and useful as a whiteboarding tool. How To Use Apple’s Brand New Freeform App

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