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Ask HN: What collaborative whiteboard are you using?
313 points by simonmales 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments
I feel my team was way more productive when we all were whiteboarding together when designing new solutions.

Recently I have been day dreaming about VR whiteboards and tablet assisted whiteboards as I feel the tactile sense of a pen would help.

What are you using today?






Here's the best set up I've used so far:

1) Get the cheapest iPad that supports the Apple Pencil. The 2018 non-Pro was this for me last I looked.

2) Get the Google Jamboard app (not the Jamboard hardware, it is not at all worth it).

3) Share the "jam" with yourself on a different device (a nearby laptop)

4) Screenshare the laptop.

Things I think any virtual whiteboard scheme needs to have:

1) You need to be able to see people's faces! If you can't see the people in the video call, good luck having anything feel natural.

2) See #1 again. Having the laptop drive the video call is important so you can configure it to see everyone's face while you present.

3) being able to use a pen to write and a finger to erase (if you have to open a menu, fail. sadly the jamboard app also gets this wrong though their way overpriced hardware gets it right)

4) ideally you have the ability to have an infinitely scrolling whiteboard. Jamboard doesn't do this, but it's close.

The Jamboard app also works on phones so other people can fairly easily join in and contribute. This scheme has its problems, but holy crap, so many whiteboard apps focus way too much on fancy new widgets and shapes and text and whatever and not enough on getting out of the way.


Checkout doodledocs.com -- no account creation needed, front-end app only (it doesn't always work behind corporate wifi)

It's nowhere near perfect, but it's open source and I'm open to any collaboration on it for fun (even a complete rewrite, I'm not a fan of EmberJS. I explored EmberJS with it). I'm currently noticing an eraser bug when you are in draw mode and they are in eraser mode (d'oh).

I didn't know Jamboard existed when I made it. But I made it because I didn't find any app that applies pressure sensitivity and it's quite simple to do (TL;DR modern browsers support pressure sensitivity).

You can also annotate websites with it. Though, I didn't get the collaborative aspects of that working.

My focus was on the question "what if websites are like paper?" And I ran with it for a month, while exploring EmberJS. For that reason, I don't have an undo, but simply an eraser. It's also why the default style is pencil / pressure-sensitive based (you can have a more pen-like style though).

Its main use cases that I use it for are:

- Learning how to draw by tracing images.

- Brainstorming / whiteboarding (empty board)

- Brainstorming / whiteboarding (image loaded via URL)

- Draw over websites (mostly for annotation / having margins to write on)

I'm curious to know what you think of it.

People can also use an MS Surface or Wacom by the way.


It’s not exactly mobile friendly. You should direct mobile users to use this on their desktop with some kind of alert.

That is a really good tip! Thanks :)

Just curious, What’s not to like about ember?

It's not a framework optimized for canvas. Since this project is mostly based on HTML canvas, it doesn't jive well.

If you have a Mac, you can connect the iPad to it and share the contents of the screen directly (via QuickTime). The latency is lower and you can share drawings outside Jamboard.

https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/03/26/tip-record-your-i...


That might fix the finger erase issue but that makes collaborative whiteboarding harder maybe.

you no longer have to connect via wire. you can remote the ipad screen via quicktime, over LAN.

Really? I use QuickTime for screen recording all the time, I've never been able to do it over LAN. Just tried it now and the iPad only shows up as a video source when plugged in.

Are you sure you're not thinking of SideCar?


maybe we're both right.

i was wrong, you can't connect directly over LAN to an iPad. i was thinking of a different use case with ATV -- somewhere around 2018 you could install MDM profiles over LAN instead of USB.

but you can still do it wirelessly, if you have an ATV. use airplay to project the iPad screen to the ATV. pair your mac with the ATV. after pairing, your mac can record over LAN from the ATV, where you are projecting your iPad. tried it just now and it works with the slight deficit that you get a TV-sized image, with borders, instead of the iPad-sized image.

from Apple docs, it seems like any generation ATV will work, so if you're doing this just for iPad screen sharing, it may still be worth the effort if you pick up a 3rd gen ATV for $30 on ebay. some apple cables cost more than that!


OMG this is my exact setup. I bought an iPad Pro a year ago and figured might as well get the fancy pencil with it... it's by far the best tech purchase I've made in a long time. I use this device every day. The Jamboard app especially is great because I can join the same link from a laptop and present my drawing over HDMI.

Jamboard pro tip: if you open the "board switcher" drawer and press the three dots, you can change the background to grid or dot paper. Game changer for sketching diagrams.

Another great app for drawing is Procreate, which gives me layers, and has better drawing tools, like morphing my crooked lines into straight lines and perfect circles. Nice for sketching interfaces.


i spent a long time researching various writing devices, such as the reMarkable, the microsoft surface, the ipads, wacom, etc., and the ipad (in my case, the non-pro) at the time at least really had the best ratio of pixel latency to price. it really wasn't even a competition. writing on an android with slow pixel latency or something is really jarring, but yeah, the apple pencil setup is truly great.

What makes an ipad with the pen better than a microsoft surface book or surface pro? I'm looking at buying pro 7 or book 3 for taking notes in onenote and whiteboarding.. so these is definitely a relevant post to me.

I haven't looked into it recently but yeah, like I said I was trying to find the sweet spot with pen latency and price. The iPad was cheap (~$350) and had great pen latency, whereas the reMarkable was not cheap or as full featured, and the Surface was also not as cheap and had reports of bad pen latency (e.g., see https://www.reddit.com/r/Surface/comments/e8kho9/if_there_is... for an example)

Update: It appears the situation has improved across the board. https://www.tomsguide.com/news/the-remarkable-2-is-an-ipad-p... says 20-21ms is pretty standard now.


I agree that the non-pro iPad delivers the best pen experience for price. Surface Pro’s pen is pretty good, but IMO it is slightly worse than the iPad, while being more expensive.

Software wise, the iPad has way more pen focused productivity apps than Windows. On Windows, you are mostly limited to OneNote. Although Drawboard is pretty good for annotating PDF’s.


If using Google Meet (we do internally):

1) ditto

2) join meeting from ipad (in addition to camera/mic device)

3) present screen from ipad

Then you can use any pencil app you like. I use one called "Coloring" that my kid uses. It's really simple and doesn't get in the way.

I presume the same would work for any other videoconf tool, eg zoom.

The benefit over your method is that you still have the additional headshot view, since you're joined to the meeting twice. Can the jam app not join a google meet "natively"?

It's not collaborative, in that any other participant can edit the drawing, so it doesn't answer the originally posed question. But I've found that for the most part, even in person, just one person really "drives" the whiteboard. With the tiny screen size afforded over video, you aren't really going to benefit much from having multiple people be able to edit anyway. For that kind of collaboration you really need 2-3 6' wide whiteboards in a large room.

I feel the benefit of having a second, independently presenting device for the whiteboard, while still being able to participate with your talking head view, outweighs (by far) the downside of only one editor.


the jam app used to be able to join google meets natively but when i checked most recently it appears they removed that feature :(

strong agree on having an independent device for whiteboarding so you can see heads is more important than the collaborative part, if you had to pick one. so much context is provided in seeing if heads are nodding or looking confused


just looked into this and can confirm, jam cannot join a meet "natively".

but it is close enough. just use the google meet app from the iPad, and share the iPad screen from within Meet. it's the method i outlined, just with the jam app instead of 'Coloring'.

even without google meet on the iPad, the share-to-yourself and then share screen is unnecessary. create a new jam, join that jam from laptop and iPad, and share the jam from your laptop. this seems easier to me, but ymmv. https://allthings.how/how-to-use-jamboard-in-google-meet/

should also work with any other videoconf app. i assume they all allow screen share.

i really enjoy this method much better, because now in Catalina the screen recording permission is a distinct capability. I only enable that for Chrome when I explicitly need to share the screen. Setting those kinds of capabilities is not automatable, so it's a self-imposed annoyance, but worth it for the security gain. People really underappreciate the improved security of Catalina, perhaps justifiably so due to the other craptasticness of it. When you enable this in prefs, it says you have to restart chrome for it to take effect. However, you don't. The permission takes effect dynamically. Probably because each tab is a new process in Chrome, so it is in effect "restarting".

for vc apps that have their own app, this is great compartmentalization for the screen recording permission. for vc that runs in the browser, the tradeoff is you have to give the entire browser screen recording permission. this is too vast of a permission. of course with a native app you then have the zoom-malware problem. sigh.


One thing apple pencil is missing is hover. In a collaborative whiteboard you want to be able to quickly point to things without marking (can solve with a button for it, but it isn't as natural).

huh, i didn't realize i was missing this and now i miss it.

that said, it's usually not too bad to underline and then click "undo" (which is what i have been doing since i didn't know what i was missing)


If you're on a collaborative whiteboard does undo undo the last collective edit or just your own edits?

I suppose Google Docs has trained me to be surprised if my ctrl-Z undoes someone else's edit. I haven't noticed wondering about this before though so perhaps I just haven't hit this case? It's a great question.

The way we handle it in Browserboard is to only undo your own edits. We version each individual shape, and filter events out of the undo stack for shapes that have been touched by other users.

To elaborate on my last sentence more, whiteboarding is about trying to think! I'm trying to diagram thoughts out for people. The last thing I want to do in the middle of my thoughts is have to stop the thought to futz around with menus or keyboard shortcuts to remember how to open a box or a widget or some shape or whatever. That's a guaranteed interruption every few seconds. Computers are great and can do new things, but for whiteboarding specifically it's unclear to me why so few whiteboard apps seem to get it that their primary goal is to be invisible and get out of the way.

If you're a trainer this is the go to flipchart solution for remote. It's also great for facilitating group activities during class.

I love this type of practical solution that gets most of the benefit for a tiny fraction of the cost.

I love https://excalidraw.com

Christopher Chedeau did a recent talk on nice challenges they had building it in the open https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fix2-SynPGE

I want to build a plugin for Figma to embed Excalidraw inside Figma as I use Figma for all my design work already.


I like the look and UX of this, but I can't seem to draw on Safari. Anyone know a workaround?

Can you open an issue on github? It should work on both mobile and desktop Safari.

That would be great.

(Also great--if I could chat with simultaneous collaborators in figma when we do not want to or cannot be in videoconf simultaneously (I do a lot of parallel design))


Excalidraw looks great. Sadly the Firefox support for Tablets is very poor. However, after switching to Chrome, everything worked as expected.

It never ocurred to me that Excalidraw worked with tablets.

Looks great! The UI is intuitive and so well laid out.

Our team's have been using Miro for this kind of collaboration. I was surprised that it felt better than using a whiteboard in person, because the cost of changing the already drawn boxes and arrows went way down.

For more technical whiteboards, I've been using excalidraw. I like presenting the "drawn" look to help imply that this is an unfinished idea and we're sketching the concepts out.


Miro works great for us as well.

It's particularly good that multiple people can edit at the same time. It's pretty fast and we reuse the notes across sessions.


https://miro.com/ (previously realtimeboard.com)

We use Miro for backlog grooming and idea visualization. The Jira sync is very helpful for us.

I've never used that feature. Can you describe your workflow for backlog grooming of Jira issues in Miro?

So what we do is importing Jira issues to a Miro board using the Miro Card for Jira plug-in. The development team orders them by difficulty/size horizontally. PO orders them by value vertically. We use that every couple sprints to visualize the overall shape of the backlog. Stories are updated from Miro directly, if necessary.

We are currently thinking about keeping Jira issues permanently on a board and then update them, rather than pulling them in just for ordering


We're using Miro for our Scrum of Scrums and it's working out quite well for us

An engineer has a problem. So he says to himself, "I'll use a remote-enabled auto-capturing whiteboard."

Now he has two problems.


Now his team has a problem :)

Now N people have N+1 problems.

This seems very good: https://awwapp.com/

Thanks!

Cofounder here, happy to answer any questions.

While AWW has been around for some time we've seen a big surge (~6x) in the past two months due to current situation (as did most online/collaborative tools).

While AWW can be used directly on site, we also have an embeddable version, for example some interviewing startups use us as part of their web-based interviewing workflows.

Edit to add: AWW was launched here almost 10 years ago as a hobby project: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2886353 It grew steadily over time and now profitably employs several people and is used by millions of people worldwide.


Your story is very motivating and the website is very fast.

Thank you! Seriously AWW is an awesome app.

Second, awwapp is awesome

The second I'm presented with a pop-up as the first thing on a website, I close out.

Same here.

I don't understand where people get the idea it is a good pattern. It feels like a designer meme, or more like cargo cult, that people add just because everybody else does.


What hardware do you use it with?

Figma. It's not all that useful for actually mimicking a whiteboard, in the sense of drawing arbitrary shapes with a pen. It has a pencil tool, but it's not great. Fortunately, most of what we do is drawing rectangles with text in them and lines between them, and it's pretty good at that. Plus, it supports undo with cmd-z, which most whiteboard apps don't seem to.

+1 here. Figma's collaboration features are also just incredible so many people can participate simultaneously, and make copies w/ their own versions.

We've got ours also well setup with a big library of assets like buttons, and illustrations we've had made, and different example charts, so if what you're discussing is a new feature or landing page it's really easy to drag in a bunch of ready-made components to express your idea.


+1 find us using figma more and more for general collaborative work and not just design

+1

We use Figma for collaborative whiteboard if too

It’s the best collaborative canvas you will find in 2020 IMO

I would even go so far as to say it’s the first digital whiteboard I have used in 20+ years that’s actually better than a real whiteboard


I recommend WBO : https://wbo.ophir.dev/

I am the main developer, and I have been maintaining and using it for several years now. Some of its advantages :

- It is fully open-source, free, and without advertisement. You can easily deploy it to your own server.

- All the whiteboards have an infinite size.

- It is fully web-based, you can use it without installing anything, even on relatively old browsers.

- It's translated in several languages.

- It's actively developed. In-development features include image upload, element resizing, new tools, and others...


Thanks for sharing, looks interesting.

By the way, for some reason I have problems scrolling with the trackpad as it scrolls very slowly, while scrolling with the arrow keys works just fine.


You're welcome. Yes, scroll amounts are not consistent between browsers, and we haven't implemented anything yet to work around that. I've opened a github issue to track the problem.

That's really cool :D

OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) - Provides the screens/windows to the conf call as well as your camera shot.

Gromit-MPX - Allows drawing overtop whatever screen/window you'd like.

Wacom Intuous - Much nicer to draw with than a mouse or finger.

https://obsproject.com/

https://github.com/bk138/gromit-mpx

https://www.wacom.com/en-us/products/pen-tablets/wacom-intuo...


Osmo "base + reflector" for iPad, a document camera "whiteboard" for video conference.

>> I don’t want to look like promotional, but recently a professor used an Osmo reflector (https://twitter.com/romps/status/1237617042338897921?s=12) to project class notes and it caught on with teachers.

>> A team worked through the weekend and released a free app to make this super easy (https://twitter.com/PlayOsmo/status/1241152565083090947).

>> While the base + reflector is not free, if you already have an Osmo game at home, you can reuse that.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22660301


oh this is actually really good and it's just a $10 mirror! you can see the people you're presenting to, and while they can't see your face, they can see what you're writing. what a neat idea

Google Jamboard + Wacom Intuos tablet with stylus [1]

[1] https://www.wacom.com/en-us/products/pen-tablets/wacom-intuo...


Years ago, a team I was on decided to get wacom tablets to try to do some remote brainstorming. We quickly found that nobody liked it enough to actually continue, because none of us found it natural at all to cope with writing motions on a blank desk surface with results appearing dislocated on a screen. Those devices all found their way into dusty drawers, never to see electrons in their USB cables again.

I suppose somebody must find this interface satisfactory, since the product category has existed so long. But for the most part, we found the human factors part to be too awkward. I realized then that I would not try this again unless I had a stylus+touchscreen device so I could have a more natural writing experience. Even then, I have experienced enough terrible stylus interfaces on point-of-sale equipment to realize that I need quite low latency before it feels natural rather than tortured to write on a screen.

But, for us to buy such a thing for many team members, knowing it will probably only see infrequent use, it would have to be at an entry-level Android phone price level, not at iPad price levels. However, I'd be concerned that something like a phone will not provide an appliance/peripheral-like experience. I want something that works consistently with any software over a matter of years/decades, not something tied heavily to a specific app and platform which may evaporate long before the hardware wears out.


Which hardware are you using exactly? There are a lot of different price points; I’d love to find the cheapest that is still good enough to be useful.

Any of the low-end Wacom tablets would do the trick, and you don't need the current model. Previous to the move to "everything is an Intuos now (and the Intuos all become Intuos Pro because 'Pro')", that would have been the Bamboo Creative, and before that the Graphire. All of them are well more than good enough for the task at hand, and if you can pick up old stock (or used) cheaply, go for it. Note, though, that if you've never used a tablet before, it'll take a bit before your movements coordinate - I've always suggested trying to live as much as possible using the tablet in lieu of mouse or trackpad for about a week. Once you've got the knack, it's pretty much with you for life, but it's easy to give up in frustration when you're not used to absolute positioning that's remote from the screen until the moment it all just sort of clicks.

Thank you!

While not the cheapest, we use it on iPad Pros with styluses - works pretty well.

I’m using the one with Bluetooth support. You can go even cheaper by picking the USB only model.

Mural.co - other than miro, it allows unlimited anonymous co-editing without a need to sihn on. Since we use it only occasionally, we just have a single facilitator account for the team

Mural's MS Teams integration looks pretty good too. I imagine they will get a fair amount of sales based on that.

I've used Mural.co quite successfully as well. I think we probably bought an enterprise license. Collaborative, full-featured, almost as good as a whiteboard/butcher paper and a tall stack of stickie notes.

I experienced two longer outages though in the last momth, both times during workshops. I'm keeping screenshpts on a google slides deck as a backup for the more important events at least until the growth pains have subsided.

Freehand by InVision is great! Very simple and intuitive.

http://freehand.new


Seconding Freehand.

Hands down Miro has been a great tool for.What I really liked about Miro is that it has a desktop app which makes it really snappy, its simple and intuitive to use and has great collaboration features (stickies, comments, notes etc.)

hope that helps


+1 for Miro. It's truly an impressive piece of work.

I love excalidraw.com A quick shoutout to our service, we embedded excalidraw in our pair programming solution that helps you do system design interviews effectively: https://www.hackerrank.com/products/codepair/

Indeed. Excalidraw is really good... has an end-to-end encrypted collaboration mode... and is MIT-licensed.

https://github.com/excalidraw/excalidraw


I heard about it from the React community on Twitter and I've been using it exclusively for system design interviews. I love the look of 'whoa cool' when candidates see my cursor moving around the screen :)

Its still very much in development, but we're building https://whiteboard.systems/

Its based on the idea that for most system diagrams, you just need boxes, text and arrows. everything else is superfluous. Its collaborative by default so you can invite someone to join you with the URL. The tools aren't discoverable yet, so to use it:

- option(⌥) + click to create a box

- option(⌥) + drag to create a grouping box

- select a box and option(⌥) + click another to draw an arrow

- select a box and type to edit text

would very much appreciate feedback! (email in profile)


As you requested feedback, it's dead simple and I like that. Speed and low friction is super useful in a lot of situations.

I have just some "bugs" I guess (Windows Chrome):

- Can only add text to a box immediately after selecting it. Move it first, then cannot add text. Probably should be a blinking insert symbol to indicate when you can edit text or not, as this would at minimum make the state "discoverable". Personally I feel a lot of people will try to double click to edit text.

- Backspace deletes boxes but "delete" does not.


appreciate the feedback.

we fixed a bug so text should always be editable if the box is selected. and the "delete" key should also work now.

agree the blinking cursor is the standard for indicating if something is text editable. Its proven a bit tricky to get right, but hopefully, we'll have it working soon.


There is a bug where the box will be drawn offset a bit to the right and down of my cursor. The interface is mostly good. I wonder how the whiteboards are persisted. Are they autosaved? So they expire? Can they be exported (to some data format, to SVG, to PNG)?

Thanks for the bug report -- it should be fixed now. We were saving a stale state.

The whiteboards are autosaved, so you can return to the URL and see the same board. Planning to add export support soon, but for now, screenshots are the only way to save a copy locally.


Looks like we built a similar tool for the same purpose, designing system diagrams (https://collabuml.com).

Other than that, looks cool.


For anyone wondering how to input that funny symbol which does not exist on the overwhelming majority of keyboards: You have to press Ctrl + Alt at once.

Very minor, but it would be great if it changed "option" to "alt" for users that aren't on macOS. Otherwise, looks cool!

Looks and feels pretty solid. I would recommend changing the document title, as it still reads "React App"

I’d love to hear what hardware people are using. I’m looking at buying hardware for some of our team, but obviously woild like to find the right cost/quality ratio.

I’ve been using a Wacom Intuos S combined with Microsoft Whiteboard. The Intuos wasn’t outrageously expensive and has been working really well for my needs (mostly just process and class diagrams during online architecture discussions).

Thank you!

If you have an Apple Pencil, I made https://whiteboard.zjm.me/ as a collaborative whiteboard tool. (It also supports mouse, but a stylus is way better.)

Seems to be the only one here with real stylus support - pressure sensitivity and draw with pen, pan with finger. Very nice!

We've been trying different tools, and we've found Excalidraw (https://excalidraw.com/) to be satisfying our needs. It's relatively new and albeit it's lacking a few features, it has proven really good for drawing diagrams and designing new solutions like ui mockups and stuff like that.

I've been following the progress of https://room.sh and it looks really promising. Haven't used it much yet though.

We use room. Love it and the founders are super helpful if you run into issues

room.sh co-founder here. Thanks! :) We've got loads of cool stuff on the horizon so stay tuned.

That being said, happy to answer any questions if anyone has any.


As a suggestion, the website allows you to type a room name, which opens a new tab and asks you for the room name again, certainly the second step could be avoided.

The second step is asking for your name, not the room name, so that you can be identified by others in the room. But noted, there might be room to make that clearer!

why should i create an account if i have mural ? ( no trolling, just observing the space)

Great question. Room's main differentiator between a lot of the other suggested products on this thread is that it's not just a collaborative whiteboard. It also includes collaborative document and code editors (and potentially more types of modules in the future).

Room also has video chat built in, where the videos of the folks you're collaborating with hover around the workspace.

Ultimately these attributes combine to make room.sh a cleaner and easier alternative to cobbling together some combination of Zoom, Google Docs, and Figma (to use some prominent examples) for your team.

Also, you don't even need to create an account to try it out! We'd love if you gave it a whirl and left us some feedback in the box in our navbar :)


For whiteboarding, I prefer Whimsical (whimical.co) over Figma or Mural. It's focused on digramming, wireframing, and mind-mapping; it's an absolute joy to use. Blazing fast, simple, and stays out of your way.

For context, I spend much of my day designing in Figma, which I love as well, but not for whiteboard-style collaboration.


I have a team using IdeaBoardz (https://ideaboardz.com). Our Scrum of Scrums is using Miro (https://miro.com). Miro is more full-featured, but IdeaBoardz is easier to use.

I use MSFT whiteboard with my surface pro 7 and share it over teams. (teams also has a whiteboard tool, but for some reason it is very clunky)

If it doesn't have to be collaborative, then I use Onenote, because the scribbles can be saved as meeting notes.

It helps that I work at MSFT and everyone uses Windows + has whiteboard installed.


OneNote can be collaborative. It also runs reasonably well on an iPad with Apple Pencil. I used this combo for a remote meeting recently while we were all on teams for audio. Some people were using OneNote on Windows and drawing with a mouse. There was occasional sync/lag issues, but I will certainly try it again.

The Teams Whiteboard is pretty bad, and clunky to get to in the middle of a meeting. Most Teams users don't even know it's there.

As others have mentioned the ideal solution would have an easy way to point at things on the whiteboard. The lack of a hover state on touch based systems makes this more tricky, but there can, of course, be a pointer tool.


> OneNote can be collaborative

I have moved to it last week. Let's see how it goes. I love how convenient it is that my natural brainstorming serves as detailed meeting notes.

> easy way to point at things on the whiteboard

I use whiteboard on my surface, and then project my screen instead of starting whiteboard from team. That way I can point at stuff, but it is harder to be collaborative.


We use MIRO and it has changed the entire company culture. We have 5 international offices, and with micro, it allows everyone to have full transparency with what other offices and teams are working. It is now the 2nd most important tool beside Slack. (400+ Employees)

Shared whiteboards and a good audio connection are FAR more important than most videoconferencing solutions. Microsoft's Surface line kicks Apple's iPads around the block here, at least partly because the Surface "pen" has a built-in "eraser", but Apple's "pencil" doesn't. Windows Whiteboard is a pretty decent starter solution here, and runs on both Windows and iOS. Run in conjunction with Zoom or Teams, it's a pretty darn usable setup.

Prior HN on shared whiteboards: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22675247

I started building my own with a friend because nothing else had what I wanted (great freehand drawing and text tools) and was cheap. We've only just finished the MVP, so feedback would be very helpful!

https://browserboard.com/

I have no idea if it'll hold up under load, I guess let's see. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ You can share the URL to collaborate with someone else.


Neat; simple but I like it. One concrete thing that jumps out at me as I play around with it: I keep instinctively trying to hit Ctrl+Z to undo, which doesn't work (and then I remember there's a button). Might be nice to make that shortcut work.

Also: I enjoyed this:

> No BS

> Browserboard is written by two people in their spare time who aren’t thirsty for advertising dollars. We have no reason to spam you or violate your privacy.

A thought: any interest in porting to Sandstorm? It seems like the app would be a perfect fit, and giving people an easy way to run it themselves gives you an out if it gets too popular for you to keep running it for free. If you're not familiar:

https://sandstorm.io

Relevant blog post: https://sandstorm.io/news/2014-07-21-open-source-web-apps-re...

(Disclosure: I am one of the more active contributors to Sandstorm)


> I keep instinctively trying to hit Ctrl+Z to undo, which doesn't work

I've only tested on Mac, and Cmd+Z works. What platform are you on?

Sandstorm is a maybe, but we're doing great on a $7/mo Heroku instance. :-)


> What platform are you on?

Firefox on Linux.


Figured it out: I was using 'meta' instead of 'mod'. Should be fixed, thanks for the report!

Worth noting a few updates ago Excalidraw included in freehand drawing with the Freedraw tool (X or 7, as of writing).

As a suggestion, it would be nice to be able to try it without registering an account.

That's on the immediate roadmap: some way to jump into a board immediately and convert to login only if you want to save or collaborate.

On the bright side, we don't even ask you for an email address (yet).


We noticed that most whiteboarding apps out there over-focused on perfect diagrams, so a lot of time in meetings is lost due to rearranging boxes and arrows. Hence, we built https://letsboard.co - a very simple collaborative whiteboarding tool and are using it daily now.

Miro.com is great. It is so much more than a whiteboard. We use it for brainstorm sessions, retros and all sort of things.

InVision's Freehand has developed leaps and bounds over the last month - it integrates with our MS Teams so it was easy to use and jump into.

Also comes with a presentation mode so you can walk through designs and have others on it follow along.

Compatible with iPad and Apple Pencil, which I recommend over the browser for markups.


We've been LOVING Sprink (trysprink.com) and it's free! Compared to Miro which we previously used, the interface was much easier for our team. Plus there's no setup required which is a huge bonus when you want to quickly share a board and still video/audio call.

Microsoft Whiteboard is pretty phenomenal for collaborative white boarding

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/microsoft-whit...


I wished they made PC version on par with the school's edition though :( .

It would be much more usefull for event-storming.


I have tried few of them, but what I find most infuriating is the lack of keyboard shortcuts.

Usually they support only C+z for undo.

Switching between pen and eraser by having to actually click an icon is fine on iPad but it drives me up the wall when I am using wacom tablet and keyboard.

Does anyone know application that supports keyboard shortcuts?


Any video conferencing tool + cheap wacom + Figma is quite powerful. Works on MacOS/Linux/Windows.

There are some things Figma isn't intended (and as such very good fit) for though, like diagramming/flowcharts, or marking up PDF's - haven't found great multiplayer web apps for those.

Feels like concurrent multiuser editing is something that a lot of software would benefit from - maybe something we will look back in 5 years as being weird it didn't exist and we had to send files back and forth to work on something together. Would make working together on almost anything easier remotely.

Miro and Mural are also quite nice collab tools, more limited than Figma but some nice things out of the box.


Remote training

I've found Google Jamboard has the right mix of features and ease of use for collaborative exercises during training.

Everything else

I've introduced a few enterprise clients to Miro and they're running with it. I've been impressed with how they've employed it.


I've been using MURAL, Miro and Figma. MURAL and Miro are pretty close, and each has it's strengths, but I prefer MURAL. For a team that doesn't need the bells and whistles, Figma is a great choice.

While I don't use it daily, I built https://collabuml.com (launched on HN a month ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22955971) which has been helpful for me, I made it this way as lots of time you mostly care about writing system diagrams instead of freestyle whiteboard.

Miro! Its a company changing tool!

One of the main criteria for a whiteboard is to use it with a stylus - so I purchased https://air.bar/ to turn my non-touch-screen laptop into a touch-screen-one. However, its latency is not low enough to provide a smooth experience. Does anyone know of a good digital pen that plays well with Win 10. I suspect our company policies won't allow me to share screen via an iPad.

I use a real whiteboard on my wall in shot of the camera

I'm surprised I had to scroll down so far to see this. You could distribute individual whiteboards to every engineer, and even have a dedicated webcam/tripod setup, for next to nothing.

It's not "collaborative" in the sense that remote people can erase stuff on your board, but, I don't think that's a big deal. The "erase API" just becomes "Hey, @iso1631, why don't we get rid of X and replace it with Y?"

I suppose if you wanted to try and automate it, you could do so pretty easily with some custom software that just overlays photos of all the boards. The amount of image processing would be pretty trivial.


Normally when we whiteboard we just have one person at the controls anyway

Recently I've been using Openboard (http://openboard.ch/) while screensharing. Yes its not a team board, but at least it's local. It helps me explain concepts to others easily.

Our company was stuggling to conduct remote interviews, so I made a shared whiteboard tool to help out. Great for team collaboration as well.

You can generate as many unique boards for free as you want here: https://interviewboard.io


I feel you, I created another tool which has helped me on system design interviews: https://collabuml.com, hopefully you will find it helpful.

If you're into Obeya and/or Agile:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obeya

Then check out Iobeya:

https://www.iobeya.com/

Does one thing and does it very well.


Google Slides and share desktop on Zoom. No need to complicate it with yet another piece of software.

Powerpoint and Slides are perfectly capable for drawing diagrams, or whiteboarding. Zoom screen share is low enough latency and you're already using it for voice comm.


We recently moved from Miro to https://beta.plectica.com and have been loving it.

So much better than anything else we tried at handling hierarchy (nested lists, sections, etc)


I use a Wacom tablet (the cheapest one works well). I can use sketchbook (came with the Wacom tablet) when I want to diagram spontaneously in meetings. But having people edit my sketches is a challenge since no one has the same setup.

https://app.scratchwork.io/ is a simple collaborative dashboard and support writing math equations by hand or with latex. Nice for researchers or engineers.

https://www.ideaflip.com - it's nice and simple compared to e.g. Miro, and nicely recreates the offline collaboration feeling of working around a whiteboard

I've added shared whiteboarding to my handwriting app: http://styluslabs.com/share It is possible to deploy your own server.

One by Wacom, with Autodesk sketch express. You can zoom share screen into the app, and it's much better than Zoom's native whiteboard function. Pressure sensitivity and functional pen buttons are so key.

Very honorable mention to this topic would be https://www.ryeboard.com/.

They're moving quite fast and seemingly in the right direction.


I am using small (A4) physical whiteboards with an Ipevo v4k camera pointing at them. Its not quite the same, but I do like having a physical board. And its cheap compared to an ipad+pencil.

Lucidchart is amazing - love the simultaneous editing. Its the best thing that I have come across for collaborative whiteboarding. It also has great integration with Confluence.

Among the free ones there’s https://drawpile.net/ but I haven’t tried it yet…

Which whiteboard apps have the best integrations? I've been trying to find one that can 2-way sync with fields in airtable so that i can build a dynamic org chart.

I heard about a whiteboard app that has fading gestures that were highly reviewed. Does anyone know which app has these?


Not when it hijacks your browser's back button in an unethical manner.

Agreed. Instant deal breaker.

Another +1 for Miro. Super simple & intuitive. For my needs, I can get by on the free version which is great.

Wacom tablet and any shared canvas, usually Zoom’s. A colleague uses an ipad pro with a stylus.

Mural, jam board and lucid charts

Didn't know there were so many options!

I've been using excalidraw.com

Mural

My mom is a retired teacher, and she's been doing remote preK for my 5yo and my niece for a couple of hours a day so the grownups can get work done. Evaluating whiteboards for a 60-year-old and two 5-year-olds to use together with video chat was.... not super fun.

What we've settled on:

We do the video chat on an old fullscreen iMac we had lying around. My mom and each kid all have their own iPads. For the first couple of weeks we used a webwhiteboard, but the littles were having a LOT of trouble with it. It's not optimized for iPads. It's easy to click on links in the nav. Different size screens see different regions of the whiteboard. My niece and son kept clearing each other's work and causing fights.

I ended up building a little prototype for them with rails/websockets that tried to solve all the dumb stuff that makes it hard to use it on iPads. Apple really doesn't make it easy, though. You can bookmark a page to your homescreen to get rid of the Safari chrome (URL bar is the worst for 5yos), but then you can't have cookies and regular usage (maybe just while fullscreen?) will prompt you that the webpage is trying to steal your passwords (fake keyboard warning). Guided access gets rid of most of the obnoxious gestures they were triggering by accident. I disabled most of the multi-touch events in javascript.

I fixed the board size with selectable orientation (portrait/landscape) and set it to scale + aspect-fits to everyone's device. I added a simple host/guest permission model so my mom has a few teacher permissions that the kids don't have. She can either be in teacher mode (she can draw/clear, they can't), class mode (anyone can draw/clear), or student mode where each kid gets their own private board that she can swap between (she can still draw/clear on student boards).

I was starting to work on more teaching features -- the ability for her to save/load sketches so she could do lesson plans ahead of time, the ability for her to "broadcast" saved boards to the student boards so she could make assignments for each 5yo to fill out. We had kind of a rough stretch where one of the kids or the other would forget their tablet for about a week, though, and my mom got fed up and just ordered them workbooks for all 3 of them that they could do together.

It's still running on Heroku, but I haven't been working on it much lately.

http://yiayiaboard.herokuapp.com/rooms/sLZqbw2KHWi

I think this is the right model for small-class whiteboards, but I think you'd have to build a native solution to make it usable for kids that small.

When it worked, it was pretty magical!


+1 for Miro



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